More money to help ease the pain of unemployment was the single biggest result after top politicians spent the weekend revising the state budget. Mid-year negotiations between the government and its two support parties in Parliament ended up in the reallocation of just under NOK 400 million (USD 47 million).
The Christian Democrats and the Liberals came to terms with the two parties forming Norway’s minority coalition government Monday afternoon, the Conservatives and the Progress Party. They met their negotiating deadline and then could reveal that under the terms of their settlement, there will be no cut in the amount of oil revenues being used. While opposition parties including Labour think it’s excessive, and that taxes should be raise instead, the Christian Democrats, the Progress Party and the Conservatives formed a majority that deemed the government’s proposal to spend more oil money than ever before acceptable.
The government had proposed spending an extra NOK 900 million, meanwhile, on measures to bring down Norway’s unemployment rate. It has risen since oil prices fell, and at the urging of the Christian Democrats and Liberals, that will be boosted to more than NOK 1 billion. Hans Olav Syversen of the Christian Democrats said that had been the most important issue for his party, especially in areas of Southern and Western Norway where the most oil-related jobs have been lost.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that local municipalities in the area will receive another NOK 400 million to fund maintenance projects aimed to create jobs. Railroad maintenance will rise by NOK 20 million, young workers employed as company interns may receive another NOK 2,500 per contract and 400 new study slots will be created, 200 within information technology and health care programs and another 200 in Southern and Western Norway alone.
All four parties had placed employment incentives highest on their list of priorities. The extra billion kroner devoted to measures for battling unemployment have not been universally well-received, though. Several politicians, prominent among them the City of Oslo’s finance director from the Labour Party, have complained that Southern and Western Norway are getting too much of the aid, while unemployment has risen in several other area as well.
“Is an unemployed person in east Oslo worth less than an unemployed person in Stavanger?” questioned Robert Steen, the Oslo government official charge of budget issues. Even the Conservatives’ mayor of Moss, faced with job losses when the airport at Rygge closes, has complained that his own state government is overlooking unemployment problems around Oslo, too.
There didn’t appear to be much relief for the Oslo area, though, with most of the extra money earmarked for communities in Sørlandet and Vestlandet. “Extraordinary maintenance projects in the townships have a quick effect, provide jobs in the private sector and spare us for expenses in the future,” Syversen said at a press conference after the revised budget settlement. “That’s why we think this is the right medicine.”
The revised national budget will still be up for debate in Parliament but the government is now assured its altered proposal will win approval. The pact also means Norway’s much-disputed new airline seat tax will also be imposed as expected from June 1.