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Wall Street Journal Europe, 23 September 1997

Letters to the Editor

Norway Should Invest in Its People

Dear Sir! 

Regarding your Sept. 17 editorial “Norway's Paradox”:

 From an outside point of view it may, indeed, seem strange than a socialist government pursues a more austere policy than the opposition, comprised of bourgeois parties, intends to. This concerns, in particular, the populist-liberalist Progress party. One explaining factor is, of course, the difference between being a ("responsible") government and being an irresponsible opposition. However, the opposition may be sounder than it seems.

Ask the opposition what it intends to use the oil revenue for and the typical answers concern improving the minimum pensions, the health system, the educational and research system, and finally the material infrastructure. The first point concerns a moral issue: aiding the oldest and weakest in our community. The other issues concern investments long term economic growth for the sake of future productivity and lower costs for business and industry.

In contrast, the governing Labor party has even insisted that e.g. keeping up the present level of investments to improve the horrible road system would increase the pressure for inflation. The Labour party prefer to invest oil revenue in highly volatile stock markets abroad, thereby fuelling the international financial market inflation, or "bubble" as some prefer to call it. Additionally this does nothing to generate the productive forces at home that ought to be the lifeline of the nation after the oil has been depleted.

The difference between the Socialist government and the opposition parties is that the government has been confusing nominal wealth in financial assets with real wealth in the abilities of the people and their society. The opposition parties are showing signs of a sound reaction to decades of relative neglect of schools, libraries, basic research, health and infrastructure. Hopefully they will merge these signs into a coherent and thorough strategy for the improvement of the productive forces of the nation.

Arno Mong Daastol