Royals cost double their budget post

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Calls were going out again on Monday for more and improved financial disclosure around public expenditures tied to Norway’s royal family. New estimates show that Norwegian taxpayers are supporting the royals with a sum twice as high as what’s disclosed in the state budget item attached to Det kongelige hus (The Royal Household).

Dagbladet devoted most of its front page to its stories about "the hidden millions" that the royal family costs. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Dagbladet devoted most of its front page on Monday to its stories about “the hidden millions” that the royal family costs. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Just days before King Harald and Queen Sonja make a state visit later this week to Italy, newspaper Dagbladet published stories reporting that it had found annual royal costs amounting to NOK 117 million (USD 14 million) in posts other than the Royal Household post that’s set at NOK 232 million (USD 28 million) for 2016.

Total costs are even higher, wrote Dagbladet, because they’re “hidden” under other posts spread over the state budget. Yet when the newspaper called the Finance Ministry and asked for the figures tied to the Royal Palace, the answer was that “collective costs are 232 million, 229 hundred thousand kroner (NOK 232,229,000) for 2016.”

Not included in that figure, however, are the annual costs of maintaining and operating the royal yacht Norge (NOK 45 millon), the cost of personal military adjutants for royal family members (NOK 5.5 million), the costs of overseas travel (NOK 9.6 million) and the costs of maintaining the various royal properties around Norway (NOK 57 million). Instead of being consolidated under the post directly attached to the royal family, these costs are placed, for example, under budget posts for the Defense Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the ministry in charge of local governments (Kommunaldepartementet).

The costs of the royal family members’ body guards are also left out of the royal budget post and they’re believed to have increased dramatically in connection with travel and the new young members of the royal family who have guards, for example, at school. Those costs are kept under wraps by the police, but Dagbladet estimated them to amount to at least NOK 110 million every year, and that’s placed under the Justice Ministry’s budget.

Not included, for example, are the costs of maintaining the royal yacht Norge, estimated at NOK 45 million a year. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Not included in the state budget item for the Royal Household, for example, are the costs of maintaining the royal yacht Norge, estimated at NOK 45 million a year. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The costs of the King’s Guards, who hold ceremonial duty around the Royal Palace and other properties, were uncertain and left out, because the guards also are supposed to be part of the defense costs for the capital. The King’s Guards make up the largest single post in the Norwegian Army’s operative costs, at NOK 300 million, but given their other duties, Dagbladet opted to remove them from the accounts despite their distinctly royal functions.

All told, Dagbladet’s annual “pricetag” to fund the royals and their activities came to at least NOK 460 million without the cost of the King’s Guards, according to the newspaper, and they’re rising constantly, up 37 percent in the past six years.

“The Finance Ministry (in charge of the state budget) has a tradition of being extremely precise,” Jarle Møen, a professor of economics at the Norwegian business school Norges Handelshøyskole, told Dagbladet. “It shouldn’t happen that roughly half the amount (of costs tied to the royals) is lacking, when you ask what the royal cost is for the state.”

The King's Guards will continue to stand watch at the Royal Palace and other royal properties but otherwise be mostly a parade unit. PHOTO: Views and News

The costs of the King’s Guards aren’t included in the royal budget post either but are believed to cost the Army around NOK 300 million a year. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Dagbladet reported that since 2014, the increase in royal costs has been higher than those in the rest of the state budget. Payroll costs for those working in the palace and directly for members of the royal family have more than doubled since 2002, from NOK 52 million to NOK 119 million in 2014. The number of employees on the royal payroll also rose, from 136 to 153.

Since 2002, when Crown Prince Haakon finished his university studies, the state has tripled funding for the staff of Haakon and his wife, Crown Princess Mette-Marit, to NOK 18.8 million. The couple’s tax-free apanasje (annual financial grant) has also doubled, to NOK 9.3 million. All told, royal costs including those outside the specific budget post for the Royal Household have risen from NOK 336 million in 2010 to NOK 460 million this year.

Several Members of Parliament were asking for changes in the presentation of royal budget figures on Monday, in response to Dagbladet’s disclosures, so that members of the public can have easier access to the total cost of running the royal household and monarchy. The request comes after recent debate over deficient financial disclosure around the royals at a time when public sector is under increasing pressure to be more open. In line with recent controversy over the lack of financial accountability by athletic organizations despite all the public funding they receive, calls have gone out for more openness among the royals, both collectively and individually. Government minister Jan Tore Sanner of the Conservative Party, in charge of municipalities and modernization, said Monday he was willing to respond.

“We hadn’t seen a need to provide a collective (budget) overview, but when the question now comes up, we are of course inclined to offer one and publish it on the government’s website,” Sanner told Dagbladet. Snorre Valen of the Socialist Left party (SV), which put forth yet another unsuccessful proposal to do away with the monarchy just last week, was relieved.

“Especially at a time of rising unemployment and social differences, it’s important to make visible what we out priority on, and what the royal family actually costs,” Valen told Dagbladet. His comments came after a string of critical reports in recent months about the crown couple’s holiday on board a luxury yacht last summer, their decision to send their children to expensive private schools and pressure for more disclosure around gifts to the royals and sponsorships.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund