Government accused of being ‘greedy’

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Knut Arild Hareide, head of the small Christian Democrats party, still wasn’t satisfied with the minority government’s latest state budget compromises on Monday. Hareide, desperately trying to wield major influence over the budget, accused the government of being “greedy” for failing to allot more funding for his party’s priorities.

Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats is driving a hard bargain to lend his party's support to the conservative government coalition's state budget.  PHOTO: Kristelig Folkeparti

Knut Arild Hareide of the Christian Democrats is driving a hard bargain to lend his party’s support to the conservative government coalition’s state budget. PHOTO: Kristelig Folkeparti

Hareide and Trine Schei Grande, leader of the Liberal Party, had agreed last year to be so-called “support parties” in Parliament for the conservative government coalition. Hareide’s Christian Democrats, however, ended up creating a huge headache for the coalition last winter when his party tried to alter Norway’s abortion laws. The Liberals, meanwhile, refused to follow through on campaign promises to reverse the protectionist tariff put in place by the former left-center government to block cheese and meat imports.

The two support parties have also been anything but supportive of the government’s first state budget proposed on October 8, lobbying hard for their own policies and priorities at the expense of government initiatives. They’ve been arguing ever since, especially in the past few weeks after formal budget negotiations got underway.

Faced with a looming deadline to get a budget before parliament, the four parties (including the government’s Conservative and Progress parties) huddled for another few hours over the weekend and again on Monday. Hareide, especially keen to earmark more money for such areas as foreign aid and asylum issues, told newspaper Aftenposten Sunday evening that talks were “going in the right direction” but on Monday he seemed dissatisfied again. Budget appropriations for things that the two support parties believe are important “are still under the level where both the Liberals and the Christian Democrats think they should be,” Hareide told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

The government parties claimed they put many new offers on the table Sunday evening and that they’d gone along with shuffling some priorities. None of the parties will reveal exactly how much money has been moved around in the budget, though. NRK reported that the government has “increased the pot” that the two small parties can use on their pet projects, but the Christian Democrats want more.

Without budget support from at least one of the two parties, the government’s budget won’t get through Parliament. All four party leaders predicted “lots of work and long days” ahead to reach agreement by the end of this week.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund