Optimism returns to ‘all’ of Norway

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Finans Norge, Norway’s national trade association for the banking and finance industry, released a survey on Tuesday showing that economic optimism has now returned even to areas hardest-hit by the oil price collapse. That should boost the country’s conservative government parties in the upcoming election, for having led the nation through an economic crisis, but those public opinion polls are still running way too close to call.

Norwegians are not only generally happy but now also much more optimistic, at least about their household economy and the nation’s, than they were just a year ago. It’s not clear, though, whether that will usher the incumbent government into office for four more years. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

“All of Norway has faith in the future,” claimed Finans Norge in its account of the “Expectations Barometer” it commissioned during the third quarer of 2017. The organization’s survey had fallen dramatically after the price of the oil that has fueled Norway’s economy for decades plummeted in 2014. Now it appears that Norwegians’ expectatins are back at “normal” levels, with far more optimists than pessimists.

The barometer’s numbers, which measure Norwegian households’ expectations for their own financial status and the country’s, started turning positive last year with its main indicator doubling from the first quarter to the third quarter. Households are also asked about whether they’ve made any large purchases, how they assess their own household economy over the past year and their predictions for the year to come.

All categories were positive in the latest barometer, which was compiled in cooperation between Finans Norge and Kantar TNS. “It was especially interesting to see strong growth and improvements in Trøndelag and Northern Norway,” said Idar Kreutzer, the former CEO of large insurance company Storebrand who now heads Finans Norge. There continues to be rising optimism for seafood exports, while concerns are rising over whether Norway is attracting too many tourists. Higher oil prices and renewed investment are raising hopes for more job creation from north to south, while more Norwegians are saving money and paying down debt, according to the barometer’s survey results.

Kreutzer specifically linked the renewed economic optimism to “financial and monetary policy” that “has contributed with a good grip suited to the situation.2 He also noted that labour and business organizations “behaved responsibly” in wage negotiations that stressed moderatin, while Norway’s weaker krone has continued to boost the export sector and made Norwegian products and services more competitive abroad. The weaker krone has also made Norway “considerably cheaper” as a tourism destination, he said.

It could be expected that the renewed optimism will have postive consequences for the government parties, especially the Progress Party that has had political responsibility for the Finance Ministry since the last parliamentary election in 2013. Commentators were quick to note on Tuesday they may not get the credit from critical voters. Polls continue to be close, with neither the Conservatives- nor Labour-led coalitions holding a clear majority at present.

A poll over the weekend, for example, showed Conservatives-leader Erna Solberg favoured by more voters to continue as prime minister. On Tuesday, a new poll conducted by research firm Infact for newspaper VG showed that 46.1 percent of those questioned wanted Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre to become prime minister, compared to 42.5 percent in favour of Solberg. Fully 11.4 percent said they were unsure.

Solberg’s coalition, which collectively rose in polls led by the Progress Party last week, has claimed that voters haven’t agreed with Støre’s pessimistic views on the economy in Norway. The optimism reflected in Finans Norges new study would support that, as both Solberg and Støre launch into the last three weeks of the election campaign.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund