A tighter budget for turbulent times

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Norway’s left-center government presented what it calls a tighter state budget for 2012 with a large surplus, amidst warnings that even the strong Norwegian economy won’t be unaffected by turbulent financial markets abroad. The budget, though, didn’t appear quite as tight as government leaders have claimed.

It amounted to NOK 1,006 billion and includes large funding increases for the police, defense and new measures for anti-terror efforts. The government also had already signaled an extraordinary allocation of more than NOK 1 billion to cover immediate costs in the aftermath of the July 22 attacks in Oslo and the island of Utøya.

The police and defense ministry were viewed as this year’s biggest budget winners, with NOK 183 million extra for the army and an 11 percent increase for the Oslo Police District alone. Higher allocations for the police will also fund more spots for students at the police academy, more police positions to ensure jobs for academy graduates, extra funding to cover the costs of the investigation into the terrorist attacks and a second police helicopter, to ensure preparedness around the clock. The police have been heavily criticized for feeling they had to take the existing lone helicopter out of service during the July summer holiday season, to save money.

The government will also set up a new office in Oslo to handle support and compensation claims for victims of the terrorist attacks and their families.

Other areas viewed as winners in the annual fight for funding are health care, with more money for Oslo hospitals that remain caught in conflict over a difficult reorganization, and more money for elder care and hospitals in outlying areas that also are undergoing controversial reorganization.

Budget losers include municipal governments, which will get around NOK 1 billion less than they’d hoped for, and Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen conceded that others will be disappointed as well. But he said it was “important to maintain order in our own house,” and stressed the need “to save for our children.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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