Budget talks start with uncertainty

Bookmark and Share

Prime Minister Erna Solberg has gathered all her government coalition’s ministers this week for the first major round of negotiations over next year’s state budget. The process, she said, is beginning with more uncertainty than normal.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg (front left) gathered with her government ministers in the chilly weather at Hurdal on Monday. The temperature among them was due to rise markedly as they started hashing out next year's state budget. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Prime Minister Erna Solberg (front left) gathered with her government ministers in the chilly weather at Hurdal on Monday. The temperature among them was due to rise markedly as they started hashing out next year’s state budget. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

“There’s always uncertainty around the March budget conference,” Solberg, the leader of the Conservative Party, told reporters as she headed into the hotel at Hurdal, just north of Gardermoen, for the opening sessions. “But there’s greater uncertainty this year.”

Both she and Finance Minister Siv Jensen of the Progress Party said the uncertainty tied to Norway’s economic outlook at present means that the ministers will need to set clear priorities, and probably make cuts in some areas. “Some of the things we want to do will need to wait,” Solberg said.

She denied, however, that the budget will be characterized by cuts when it’s finally presented in Parliament in October. That won’t happen until all the coalition ministers have agreed on a budget, and then also obtained agreement from the coalition’s two support parties in Parliament, the Christian Democrats and the Liberals.

Solberg and Jensen conceded that there’s not as much room for new initiatives or increases given the much lower prices for Norway’s largest commodity and export product, oil. The government also faces unforeseen expenses in having to take care of the 35,000 refugees who have arrived in Norway since the last state budget was presented, with more asylum seekers likely to arrive this year. Meanwhile, the lower oil prices have led to many companies cutting staff and unemployment has been rising, especially in southern and western Norway.

“We’re going to have to set very hard priorities,” Solberg said, with job creation the most important motivating factor. “We’ll need to give priority to things that will create growth and value in the Norwegian economy. Creating more jobs and hindering rising unemployment are most important in this budget.”

The ministers were jovial and appeared to be the best of colleagues as they headed into what Solberg warned would be some tough sessions. “I’m expecting that everyone will be fighting for money for their sectors, there’s always tension,” Jensen said, “but I think the most important thing we can deliverer is security.”

The budget talks started Monday and were due to run for three days at Hurdal.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund

  • frenk

    Classy photograph….government ministers in jeans…how professional?