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Rash of new regulations takes effect

Every Norwegian government over the past decade has vowed to simplify the country’s highly regulated society, but nearly 200 new rules and changes in the law went into effect on January 1. Some are actually aimed at streamlining the regulatory framework, but a top government official admits the sheer number of changes is rather large.

“It’s completely natural that changes are made,” Hans-Jørgen Blomseth, appointed by Trade Minister Trond Giske to be in charge of regulatory simplification, told newspaper Aftenposten. “But we haven’t entirely had our hand on the brakes in relation to the number of new regulations and laws.”

Norwegians planning to build a new house, move, apply for jobs, study, pay tax or start a business, among other activities, will face new rules that must be followed. The government and parliament approved 34 changes in various laws that took effect from January 1, 2013, while 154 new regulations went into effect as well. They apply to everything from welfare entitlement to day care eligibility to homeowners’ associations to rules involving energy and health care.

“Norway is over-administered,” claims Jan Tore Sanner of the Conservative Party, the largest single party in opposition. “We’re in a situation where dealing with the bureaucracy isn’t just a challenge for businesses and normal folks, but where even the bureaucrats complain over the system.”

The Conservatives, though, have contributed to the growth in rules and regulations when they’ve held government power and likely will again, if they win national elections in September. Sanner claims his party wants “a string of reforms” to simply regulations for both property owners, businesses and others. He also advocates more transfer of power from the state to local government, to avoid “state over-administration.”

‘Steering too much’
Giske’s Labour Party has also championed the need for simplification, hence the appointment of Blomseth, and the Labour-led government coalition has reduced the number of new laws and regulations introduced in a given year, from a high of 58 in 2006, for example, to 23 in 2012. The low level of new regulations and laws introduced from January 1 last year, however, has also been attributed to dramatic interruption in work routines after most government ministries were bombed out of their offices during the terrorist attacks in 2011.

Ketil Solvik-Olsen of the opposition Progress Party said the Labour government’s efforts to simplify are too slow. “Politicians want to steer much too much,” Solvik-Olsen told Aftenposten. He admitted the opposition parties also propose new rules and law changes all the time.

“But I venture to claim that they also most often involve efforts to make things simpler for most folks,” Solvik-Olsen said.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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