The Christmas and New Year holidays are supposed to be a time for thoughtful assessments of the year that’s passed and the one that’s about to begin. New statistics show that Norwegians have more reasons to wave their flag and cheer their good fortune as they head into 2018.
Despite all the news about political conflicts, shocking tales of sexual harassment, crisis in the Labour Party and confrontations within Norway’s statistics bureau itself, a rush of the numbers that tell Norway’s story make for some uplifting reading. Newspaper Aftenposten summed up much of it, even before the Oslo Stock Exchange (OSE) reported Friday on its own remarkable year, with 50 cases of historic stock market highs and a main index that’s up 19.1 percent from the same time last year.
“We have to go back to 2005 to find a year with more record trading days,” crowed the stock exchange in its year-end press release. “And the upturn in share prices is the highest since 2013.” OSE officials noted that the exchange’s main index “normally” rises 10 percent in a given year, while it was nearly double that in 2017.
Never have companies listed on the OSE raised more capital either, with state statistics bureau SSB confirming that Norway’s economy continues to improve since oil prices collapsed three years ago. They’ve since revived and now unemployment keeps falling, expected to sink to 3.7 percent next year. Interest rates remain at record lows, purchasing power is rising and Norway’s welfare state remains intact. Not even the chief of the central bank can explain why the Norwegian krone remains weak, apart from housing market concerns, but export industries are thriving on the weak krone, as is the tourism market.
Aftenposten, meanwhile, could report that Norwegians are healthier and living longer than ever before. Even the state highway department could report on Friday that traffic deaths fell to new lows in 2017, thanks largely to better roads, more multi-lane highways, better cars and better drivers.
On the social side of life, Norwegians are more positive towards immigration and integration has improved, while women are finally speaking up about harassment and all but forcing men into better behaviour. Studies also show that even teenagers are better educated, better behaved and less involved in drugs and crime than earlier generations, despite the occasional wild party and challenges of social media.
As the monarch and prime minister prepared their traditional annual addresses to the nation, with King Harald speaking on New Year’s Eve and Prime Minister Erna Solberg speaking on New Year’s Day, both can rest assured that they preside over a country that still ranks as among the best in the world in which to live. Maybe there’s a reason new US President Donald J Trump has invited Solberg to the White House for a meeting a week later.