There’s an old adage that says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Norway seems to disagree.
The country’s highly prosperous record under eight years of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s Labour Party has come to an end as a result of its most recent election, and Stoltenberg will be succeeded by “Iron Erna” Solberg, whose right-center Conservative Party promises change in everything from management of Norway’s sovereign wealth fund—the largest in the world—to oil exploration, from education and health care to immigration policies. Which way those changes take the country, however, could depend on other influences.
To rule, the Conservatives must form a coalition government with other parties. One member of that coalition is likely to be the populist and anti-immigrant Progress Party, which gained unfortunate notoriety when former member Anders Breivik killed a total of 77 people two years ago. Others include the Liberals and the Christian Democrats, known to be more moderate than either of the other two. Depending on how it plays out, one or another of those parties will influence the way the Conservative Party keeps its campaign promises—or not, as the case may be.
Norway is one of the most prosperous countries in the world, thanks in large part to its massive sovereign wealth fund. State revenues from the petroleum sector are set aside in the fund against the day when the country’s fossil fuels play out and there is no more oil money. Money from the fund—no more than 4% per year—pays for a chunk of the country’s expenses, such as health care and education.
But Solberg’s party sees that fund, cited variously as $750 billion to $1 trillion in size, as too big, favoring a breakup into two or three smaller funds. The Progress Party says that perhaps it should be broken up even further, and that some of the petroleum money—$1 billion a week in profits and taxes—should be withheld from the fund to invest in infrastructure projects at home.