The drama around Norway’s state statistics bureau SSB entered a new act Friday morning when SSB’s leader Christine Meyer abruptly cancelled a meeting with Finance Minister Siv Jensen. Meyer also claimed she’s not finished in SSB yet.
Jensen, in her role as finance minister, serves as Meyer’s boss and had called Meyer in for a third meeting on Friday over Meyer’s highly controversial plans to reorganize SSB. It’s an extremely important institution in Norway, as its statisticians and researchers keep track of all aspects of the country’s economic and social history as it unfolds.
Meyer’s decision to transfer half the staff of researcher into the statistics division, including a high profile researcher who has tracked the costs of immigration in Norway, set off a storm of protests as did other aspects of her reorganization plans. Jensen reacted to the protests and concerns, voiced by everyone from politician to chief economists and labour organizations, by calling Meyer in for the meetings this week.
Jensen had refused earlier this week to say whether she still had confidence in the job Meyer is doing, to modernize SSB and guide it into the digital age. On Thursday night, newspaper Aftenposten and state broadcaster NRK reported that Meyer would be leaving, apparently because she no longer had Jensen’s confidence.
On Friday morning Meyer showed up at the finance ministry for the meeting with Jensen but emerged a short while later, telling reporters assembled outside that she “had chosen not to accept the invitation from the finance minister to have a meeting.” She referred to the two earlier meetings, stressing she had attended them alone, while Jensen had the ministry’s top administrative chief with her.
“I have read in the media today that I was resigning,” Meyer told reporters. “I have not delivered any letter of resignation nor received a notice of dismissal. So today I felt a need to have an adviser with me. The finance minister didn’t want that, so there was no meeting.”
Meyer then said she was now waiting for a press release from the finance ministry and in the meantime was heading back to SSB to attend meetings called with employees of an institution that’s now in chaos.
The ministry issued a press release shortly thereafter, stating that Meyer wanted to have her lawyer at the meeting with the finance minister. “It’s not usual to have a lawyer along in a meeting between the finance minister and leaders of state agencies (such as SSB),” the ministry wrote. There was thus no meeting between the two, and “the feedback the finance minister had planned to give (Meyer) at the meeting will be sent to Meyer in written form.”
“The finance minister is first and foremost concerned with restoring calm around the situation, not least out of consideration to SSB’s many employees, and to secure that SSB can carry out its assignments for society,” the press release stated. The ministry concluded by saying that more information would be released later.