For Norway, the future may already be here.
The nation could as soon as next year start making withdrawals from its massive $830 billion sovereign wealth fund, which it has built over the past two decades as a nest egg for “future generations.” The minority government will reveal its budget plans on Wednesday and has flagged new spending measures and tax cuts.
Prime Minister Erna Solberg is trying to avoid a recession as a slump in the nation’s key commodity takes its toll on the $500 billion oil-reliant economy. Norway has already spent recent years using a growing chunk of its oil revenue to plug deficits while at the same time building the wealth fund. Now, with tax revenue from petroleum extraction down 42 percent on last year, budget spending in 2016 will probably outstrip income.
“We have reached a point where we will from now on see that the oil-corrected balance will be above the cash flow — that’s based on oil prices increasing slowly in the future,” said Kyrre Aamdal, senior economist at DNB ASA in Oslo. Tapping the fund’s returns marks a turning point that wasn’t expected to come for “several more years,” he said.
The government said in May its non-oil budget deficit, or spending in real terms, would be a record 180.9 billion kroner ($21.6 billion). With its crude output waning and prices falling, the government saw petroleum income dropping to 251.6 billion kroner this year, almost 30 percent lower than its October projections. Those estimates assumed oil at about $69 a barrel. Brent crude has averaged $56 so far this year.
Brent crude traded at $49.13 per barrel as of 8:20 a.m. in London.
The decline in oil prices has sent the krone down 13 percent over the past 12 months. Only the Brazilian real has performed worse.
Taxes collected on petroleum extraction reached 138 billion kroner in the first three quarters of the year, down from 238.2 billion kroner in the same period a year earlier, according to Statistics Norway.