Thursday, October 27, 2005

Revolutionaries to control Socialist Left?

According to Labour Union controlled paper Dagsavisen, Audun Lysbakken and Ingrid Fiskaa are likely to be elected vice chair and secretary general of Socialist Left. Both candidates, who are in their late twenties, have a background from the even more leftie youth organisation of the party. Both Mr. Lysbakken and Ms. Fiskaa are experienced campaigners in every pretentious "anti-capitalist" organisation you might imagine, and their views are well-placed on the far left side within their party.

So government party Socialist Left might choose leaders who advocate:

  • To abandon poverty, compromises must be replaced by class war
  • Private property must be abolished
  • Capitalist property must be confiscated and handed over to society
  • In a socialist society, no one can benefit from another man's work
Not exactly your average social democrat, but at least they have specified that "our strategy to break capitalism is a peaceful revolusion". Good to hear.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Socialist government befriends dictators

The new government's program states that "Norwegian aid shall not be available to programs that demands liberalisation and privatisation. [...] There shall be no demands for privatisation to erase debt." According to Morgenbladet this is full support to evil oppressors in poor countries, where human rights or civil liberties are not high up on the agenda.

Thanks to Gili T for this one.

Mother Minister

Minister of health Sylvia Brustad was accused of being a bad mother last week, when she accepted a heavy ministry while caring for a 7 months old daughter. Old and old-fashioned doctor Fridtjof Andersen said children should stay with their mother until the age of three, and the fact that Ms. Brustad's husband cares for the child didn't matter to him. I never bothered to report this "glossy-paper" story to my dear readers, until Ms. Brustad hit back in the newspapers today.

To prove her skills as a mother, Ms. Brustad assures the readers she is home by 5pm every day. If only the other ministers could follow her lead...

Friday, October 21, 2005

- Oil? What's that?

The most left winged party in the new government is Socialist Left. They've never really grasped the concept of oil production and the impact on the Norwegian society, however they have plenty of opinions about the industry. When they need extra money to fund the excessive spending in their budgets, they reduce the state part of investments in the North Sea, while at the same time they may increase the expected long-term oil income and dividend from state-owned oil companies.

Minister of Environment Helen Bjornoy, a priest that has never worked in a profit-run company, spent less than a week in her new job before she decided to screw the industry that pays Norway's pensions. After a complaint from a group of 18 year old hippies she cancelled an existing exploration license that had a window only until Jan 15th. The biggest loser this time is not the explorer, Italian state-owned company ENI, but young Norwegians who will get a smaller pension.

Update: Government sponsor, labour union LO uses its owned newspaper Dagsavisen to warn Ms. Bjornoy not to stop the exploration. Oil production in the Barent Sea is one of the main controversies within the coalition, with Labour party in favour and Socialist Left in fierce opposition.

Minister of Trondelag


The new Minister of Culture Trond Giske is well-known within culture to benefit his own region. When he was in the committee of culture, and gnorhat was a lowly regional jazz lobbyist, he was labeled part of the "Tronder-Mafia" in the parliament, that tried to place every public Krone in that region.

As a minister you're supposed to fight for the country as a whole, but Giske's first move as a minister was placing the new Museum of Rock in Trondheim, capital of Trondelag.

Surprised? Not really.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

- Kindergarden teachers are the best leaders

The appointment of Heidi Grande Roys as "minister of renewal of public sector", has attracted criticism for leading business leaders. This blog doesn't find it very surprising at all, after all the socialist government only promise is not to renew public sector over the next 4 years. Under the chapter "Renewing and modernising public sector" they promise to remove freedom to choose, give labour unions more influence and cementing old structures. This is probably the reason why they changed the department's name from Department of modernisation, too....

The teachers' union is mad at the business leaders for laughing at Ms. Roys' appointment. Not very surprising, being leftwinged and supporting a fellow teacher. Labour union leader Mr. Folkestad claims that "People working with kids all day are the best leaders, and certainly know how to work in a rapidly changing environment". If that is the case, why hasn't the teacher's union came up with a new idea for decades?

Nationalist expansion?

Party veterans J.J.Jakobsen (Farmers) and S. Ornhoi (Socialist Left) demands stronger military presence in the Artic areas. Although it is unique that socialists want to strengthen anything that has to do with the army, it is more worrying that they want to "place cannons on Spitsbergen". The area is administered by Norway, but regulated by an international treaty. Farmers party tried to occupy Greenland in the 30's, and landed Norwegian sources on the autonomous Danish island. Hopefully they won't try to pursue ancient history through the army again.

Russia also has interests on Svalbard, and it's not excactly good timing to piss them off over three boats while Norway negotiates major oil interests in the Barent Sea area.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Halvorsen gets a sweet welcome

On her first full day in the job, Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen from the Socialist Left party was welcomed to the job by a young man with a cake. Realising he was unwrapping the cake in front of her, she started to run but was hit in the back of her head with the cake.

What a waste of good cake.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Government of don't-knows (to be updated)

New prime minister Jens Stoltenberg presented his new cabinet today, and what struck most people seem to be the lack of education and relevant background. Most of these people would only be attractive for a company because of their contacts within a political party, and lack any useful skills when running a part of a country. On the positive side there are fewer teachers than expected (only 2!), and the prime minister, minister of foreign affairs and minister of regional issues are well-educated and knowledgeable. They could have a tough guiding this gang though.



Would you invest in a company with this management board?

Oystein Djupedal (Socialist Left)
Minister of Education
Responsible for doing what the socialists mistrust parents to do: Raise children. No higher education, only 2-3 years worth of real work experience. He's got 20 years in politics, but still doesn't understand basic principles about market economy.

Helga Pedersen (Labour)
Minister of Fisheries
Knowledge of Russian could be useful, except ministers are not supposed to negotiate directly. Likely to defend her regional interests rather than national, but at least she's got some education.

Sylvia Brustad (Labour)
Minister of Health
Finished high school, never had a job outside of politics.

Karita Bekkemellem (Labour)
Minister of equality and consumers (mainly family issues)
No education after high school, a couple of years in a junior public job.

Odd Eriksen (Labour)
Minister of business
No education.

Terje Riis-Johansen(Farmers Party)
Minister of agriculture
No education, farmer.

Kristing Halvorsen (Socialist Left)
Minister of finance
As mentioned earlier, no relevant education or experience.

Bjarne Hakon Hansen (Labour)
Minister of labour and social issues
A teacher.

Liv Signe Lavarsete (Farmers Party)
Minister of transport and communication


And the most obvious one:
Heidi Grande Roys (Socialist Left)
Minister of "renewal " (of public sector)
Leadership experience from running a kindergarten, no relevant education or experience. But after all she's just placed there because it would look bad if the socialists shut down the previous Ministry of modernisation, so someone's got to sit there and pretend to be working. Perhaps a good place to recruit people from the labour unions into?


Updates:
Another observation is that LO, Norway's largest labour union and sponsor of the new government, was given the chance to veto the ministers of business, labour and environment, as well as given guarantees on certain areas. Did anyone say independent government?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Sociologist to become minister of finance

Newspaper VG reports that Kristin Halvorsen, leader of Socialist Left party, is to become new minister of finance in Norway. Ultimately in charge of the state's economy, central bank and a NOK1,200bn fund, one might expect the new socialist government to choose someone well-qualified, as Labour Party and the centre-right coalitians have done in the past, but not so.

Kristin Halvorsen has never cared about finance, money or anything but raising taxes. She doesn't know the first thing about economics, or accept the general principle of supply and demand. Ms. Halvorsen thinks reducing oil investments (and thereby extraction) is a smart way to raise more money over the budget, and that inflation and interest rate is better controlled by a politician than a central bank.

Norwegian Socialism Exposed presents the CV of Kristin Halvorsen:

Personal
Name: Kristin Halvorsen
Age: 45
Address: Politically correct address, East Oslo

Education
Sociology (1 year)
Criminology (1 year)

Work Experience
Two gap years to be hippie
Secretary in a law office for two years

Other relevant experience
Member of parliament since 1989

The secret socialist document

Several news stations have reported that the three socialist parties have agreed on a platform and the members of cabinet for the new government, taking over the positions firstcoming Monday. The program platform is expected today, although the parties reportedly told press that they have a "secret document" with the things they don't want to tell the public about.

One sarcastic observer stated to this blog that he already had seen this secret paper, and the document is as follows:
"Do you make money? Where can we come and get them?"

Monday, October 10, 2005

- More money on the dole than from working

Socialist Left has long advocated a sharp increase in social security to "reduce poverty". Labour Party newspaper Dagsavisen reports that the suggested new level of social security would give a single mom-of-two NOK300k/year, which is more than 40% of the working population is earning.

The socialists have never cared much about labour policies except protecting workers and increasing benefits. I'm not sure if they've ever looked into the correlations between high benefits and less supply in the labour market, but I'm quite sure they don't really care. If this proposal had gone through, you'd get NOK5k/month less from working in a shop than claiming benefits. Guess once what some people would do...

On the other hand, it's likely that Dagsavisen wrote this story after Labour Party tipped them off, to make it harder for the Socialists to argue their case in the ongoing negotiations.

Friday, October 07, 2005

WTO exploding in the new government's face?

Norway is in the G10 group (also called "we don't care if you're poor"-countries) in the ongoing agricultural negotiations in WTO. According to at least two newspapers, the group is about to make massive concessions to food-exporting countries. Sources have been speculating about a 50% cut on all tarrifs above 90%, something that would make imported food cheaper than Norwegian food. Obviously the effect on the Norwegian agriculture, which is small-scale and inefficient, would be massive.

Foreign minster Jan Petersen and Minister of Agriculture Lars Sponheim have summoned the party leaders of all parties to a special meeting in the parliament, apparantly to sum up the current situation on the WTO trade negotiations.

Although most of us wouldn't mind cheaper food and actual development in Africa, Norwegian farmers are terrified of this situation. The new socialist goverment probably is as well, since they take over government two days before Norway has to flag sides. Farmers Party, although normally quite pacifistic, will want to nuke the WTO headquarter, and the Socialist Left is likely to believe that more people in Africa would starve if they started food exports (after all, supply is constant and there is already lack of food, oh wait, they don't really know what supply is...).

If the WTO succeeds, Norwegians will have the benefit of buying cheaper beef instead of a 25 years old cow, while helping developing nations at the same time. At the same time, if all Norwegian farmers went bust tomorrow, we'd face a negible increase in unemployment, and would save the money spent on benefits by not paying any subsidies.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Socialists want to control businesses

Karl Erik Schott-Pedersen, who is likely to become head of the Labour Party's parliamentary group, stated yesterday that the new government will reinstate a law to control companies' mergers, acquisitions and layoffs. The announcement was made during a televised debate.

specifically, the new government wants to reinstate "ervervsloven", or loosely translated Acquisitions Act. The law states that companies buying property or another company have to report to this to the government, which can block any purchase of any Norwegian company.

The law was first in place from 1995 to 2001, at an estimated cost to businesses of NOK200m. Of the 2000 acquisition cases considered by the government, none were blocked.

Friday, September 30, 2005

Norwegian farmes: - We don't care about Africa

Not excactly what they said, but it sure is what they advocate. The Farmers Union stated today that they completely disagree with the African Union, that recently made a statement urging rich countries to stop subsidising the agricultural sector. It is commonly claimed that direct subsidies and export subsidies forces African farmers out of both their own and the European markets.

"This is about the poor farmer, not what government beureaucrats think. We have contact with agricultural organisations in Africa, and they are more concerned with export subsidies than direct subsidies", claimed Bjarne Undheim, leader of the Farmers Union.

The new government is likely to take the Farmers Union view, given the Farmers Party close relationship with the organisation and the socialists' fear of market mechanisms. They seem to prefer building a high wall, throwing some crumbles over whenever there is a famine on the telly.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Negotiations started today

The three parties Labour Party, Socialist Left and Farmers Party started negotiating for a joint platform today. They have booked the hotel for the next two weeks, and despite a daily press conference, no "real" news are likely to emerge until then. Given that they succeed, the new cabinet will take over two-three days after the current government has announced next year's budget.

Could have saved NOK20m

If the leaders of the new coalition had bothered checking before buying the private house for 30m last week, they would have found that the ongoing process to acquire it was already ongoing. Newspaper Aftenposten reports that the conservative Oslo city council was about to buy the seaside of the property for 10m, which would save the taxpayers 20m kroner. A representative for the city council stated today that the house cannot be used for anything else, due to its age and heritage.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

- Have to increase taxes

To finance increased government spending, the new socialist will have to increase taxes, according to professor at the Norwegian School of Economics, Guttorm Schelderup. He claims that "Taxing the rich", as Labour and Socialist Left has named their source of income, will not raise enough money.

The top tax bracket i Norway is 65% tax on all income above NOK800,000 (US$124k). Decreasing the limit and increasing the tax would bring in NOK0.5bn, compared to the NOK6bn the new government wants to increase the taxes by.

Most likely, the government will have to add more taxpayers to the top tax bracket, which is currently 49.5% on all income above NOK400,000 (US$62k). By decreasing the amount where the tax starts, the new government will add 70,000 new taxpayers to the tax bracket.

35% of all Norwegian taxpayers already hit the 49.5% tax level, intended to punish the richest.

Friday, September 23, 2005

NOK 30m for 100 meters


Although this sounds too crazy to be true, both NRK and Aftenposten report that the leaders of the three socialist parties have negotiated directly with one of Norway's richest individuals, and agreed that the government buys his house for his asking price, NOK 30m. The house in central Oslo has a 100 meters long beach that shall be open to the public.

They didn't exactly go through normal channels but negotiated directly with the buyer. It is outside all normal practises for government acquisitions, and a very bad presedence if you want to eliminate all possibilities for corruption. And at NOK 300,000 per meter it's just an incredibly populist move from the new government. The opposition is going to feast on this, I'm quite sure. If this is a signal of what will come with the new government, it is scary.

More to follow later...

Update: The whole area is 54*54 meters, and includes a large classical house. The house needs a full refurbishment. Seller Sven Erik Bakke has been trying to seel this house for at least 6 months, which may indicate that the price is too high.

Update: - This is not an expense, just an investment, said Socialist Left leader Kristin Halvorsen during the press conference.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

- Labour unions the jewel of a democracy

Labour Party's powerful General Secretary, Martin Kolberg, stated on a labour union meeting that "We stand at the era of a new and very important social democratic era of Norwegian politics, where the labour unions will play an important role. Labour unions are the jewel of a democracy."

Socalist Left's Oystein Djupedal, who also attended the meeting, added that "it used to be Labour Party and Labour Union that acted as the Siamese twins. Now the twins are all labour unions and the broad political left. Many people will feel this confortable". Mr. Djupedal probably didn't include the tax payers in his concern.

King names USA as friend and closest ally

Norway's King Harald voiced support to the United States during a ceremony in the US yesterday. "USA is Norway's closest ally. Our armed forces participate in international operations side by side with the American and other allied forced. We share a common goal to help other nations to achieve piece, prosperity and security", he said. Socialist Left, which is against the monarchy and has named "US the largest threat against world peace", chose to ignore the King's comments. "He speaks for the current government", was all Oystein Djupedal would say.

The membership in NATO and relationship with USA is one of the most controversial diversions between Labour Party and Farmers Party on one side, and Socialist Left on the other.

Monday, September 19, 2005

No news from the Socialists

Although few doubt the socialists have started preparing negotiations, no news have been reported this weekend or Monday. Social Democrats gloat over the Conservatives, while Socialist Left has taken a humble stance prior to the three-party negotiations.

The Social Democrats have given leader and coming Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg a free mandate in the negotiations, while Socialist Left has tied leader Kristin Halvorsen to a comittee with members from the far-left of the party. This move has been been seen as distrust from the more left wing parts of Socialist Left.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Election promises will cost NOK20bn

The organisation for munincipalities, Kommunenes Sentralforbund (KS), has estimated the price for the government's most central promises to NOK20bn. At the same time the government has promised only to raise taxes by 4bn, and not decrease the budget surplus. So Mr. Stoltenberg, how will you finance your promises? By breaking your promises, or printing money?

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Business leaders fear new government

A survey among 530 directors, and sales and marketing executives shows widespread fear of the new socialist government. Over 75% expect businesses in Norway to face tougher regulation. And there is more:
  • 58% think it will be harder to do business
  • 70% think competitiveness will worsen
  • 45% expect profits to detoriate
Labour Party's Olav Akselsen, who was Minister of Trade and Industry in the previous Labour government, said businesses leaders "can sleep safely at night", and should have nothing to fear. We'll see about that.

Who won the election?

When Labour Union leader Ms Valla was asked who "really won the election", she replied:
"We started the long election campaign in February 2003. We set our targets then, and met them. We shall have a government that is with usu, not against us. Our issues shall be on the agenda, so our members can see that it was important to change government."

And she wants a position in cabinet:
"It would be strange if a government from the labour movement didn't include a minister that really knows workers' issues."

It seems Ms Valla has forgotten that she didn't stand in any election, that she didn't get any votes. Time will tell how much influence her money can buy with the new government, though.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Promise not to affect interest rate

Economics spokesperson for the Socialist Left, Oystein Djupedal, is commonly mentioned in the media as a hot candidate for the Finance Minister position. In an interview today he promised that "our politics won't affect the interest rate".

Earlier, Mr Djupedal's party has stated that it wants to control the interest rate politically, and this might one reason why he sounds so confident two days after the election. After all, the socialist coalition has promised to raise taxes by only NOK4bn in four years, and at the same time increase public spending massively.

Oystein Djupedal is probably one of the most colourful politicians in Norway. Being extreme left he usually struggles to explain how the market works, and sometimes offers his own theories on what's going on. Two weeks ago, when a Norwegian company fell on the stock exchange following an acquisition in Asia, Mr. Djupedal said this proved the shareholders opposed a layoff in Norway. In 2003, he claimed that taking out dividend from your company increased your wealth.

Socialist Left promises no change in interest rate. Has Mr. Djupedal ever heard about inflation?

Best Country for Business in Europe

The International Finance Corporation (IFC), a commercial arm of the World Bank, has ranked Norway 5th in the world and 1st in Europe for doing business. IFC's director Michael Klein stated that Norway has reformed over the past decade, and this has greatly improved business evironment. The German Klein added that "to make life easy for business does not mean that you have to be like the USA with regards to public services."

Making life easier for business is not excactly a top priority for the new government, which is more concerned about the mood of Labour Unionleader Gerd-Liv Valla. I wonder where we are on this list in 4 years...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Bildt Comments: New Scene in Norway

http://bildt.blogspot.com/2005/09/new-scene-in-norway.html

Carl Bildt is the former Prime Minister for Sweden, representing the Swedish Conservative Party, Moderatorna. He is currently active in various businesses, as well as policy related think-tanks.

Centre-right won more votes

After 99.2% of the votes are counted, the centre-right has 1,271,903 votes against the socialists' 1,250,888. Yet the socialists will control the Parliament with 87 MPs, while the centre-right will have by 82. This is caused by a system in which votes in rural areas give more mandates for the parliament than the urban areas, which favours the left. Contrary to many other countries, centre-right parties are broadly speaking more urban and liberal (as defined by the European term) than the socialists.

Labour Union demands

Labour Union LO, which was the new socialist government's sponsor in the election, has made urgent demands to the parties forming the coalition.
  • Employees who get sacked should have the right to stay in their position while challenging the decision in court
  • Reverse legislative change in overtime work
  • Higher unemployment benefits, including holiday pay
  • A law guaranteeing everyone under 25 a job
  • Develop CO2-"free" power plants fuelled on natural gas
  • Labour union leaders should have access to view everyone's salary
  • Double the subsidies to the labour unions (from $300/member/year)
The guaranteed work or education to everyone under 25 is likely to be the most controversial of these, although the demands have clearly been tailor-made to unite the three coalition parties. It would come as a surprise if the demands are not met.

By making these demands before the current government has officially resigned, Labour Union leader Gerd-Liv Valla (left) has shown her intentions to influence the day-to-day business of the new government, and use her influence to change its policy.

The socialists have won

(0100am)

With 79% of the votes counted, it seems inevitable that the socialists will take a majority of the Members of Parliament (MPs) , with 88 of 169 members. Current prime minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik (left) from the Christian Democratic party has promised his resignation tomorrow if the result holds.

The leader of the Labour Party, Jens Stoltenberg (right), will now try to form a new government with his two coalition parties, Socialist Left and the Farmers Party. The latter has been in coalitions with the centre-right parties and Conservative party previously, while Labour and Socialist Left have never been in coalition before. In fact, Socialist Left has never had power at all! Negotiations over a cabinet program will start at the end of this week, and the question that naturally arises, is: How will they be able to agree on the many unsolved and controversial differences between the parties?

Monday, September 12, 2005

Election night Sep 12th, 2005

Socialists ahead in the vote count

This night, Norway is about to lose its centre-right government and get the most left-winged socialist government for decades. Right now we're looking at a coalition government with a majority in the parliament, a coalition consisting of special-interest Farmers Party (Senterpartiet), anti-US/anti-NATO/anti-capitalism Socialist Left (Sosialistisk Venstreparti) and the slightly more sensible Labour Party (Arbeiderpartiet). If they win, they will be elected because of the financial support from the largest labour union (LO), which has been promised considerable influence over the cabinet.

This honestly scares me. Norway is a rich country, and we can probably afford a socialist government. But I fear the devastating long-term consequences such a government can have on our economy and society. I've decided to start blogging about the new government (if they do indeed win), their politics and the consequences. It won't be a neutral blog, but I will tell you what happens, good and bad.