Natural Resources

Two oil economies: Norway and Alberta – UPDATED

Norges Bank

Using the Bank of Canada’s average rate of exchange for 2014, the Norwegian oil fund had a value of more than $1.2 trillion CAN as of March 31. The Government Pension Fund Global returned 5.3 percent, or 401 billion kroner, in the first quarter of 2015, the highest rate of return in the fund’s history.

All Norway’s oil and gas revenues go into this sovereign wealth fund and only part of earnings from the fund are spent. The country has a progressive tax system with levels higher than in Canada. However, Norway provides one year of paid parental leave after birth of a child, very low cost kindergartens for children older than one year, after-school clubs and free education, including colleges and universities. The system enables low unemployment and high participation rates and Norway has among the highest percentages of intact families anywhere.

Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg noted,

The problem in Europe, with deficits and the debt crisis, is that many European countries spend money they don’t have, in Norway we don’t spend money we have.

Each one of the 5.166 million Nordmenn owns a share of the sovereign wealth fund worth $238,493.

In Alberta, the Heritage Fund had a net value of $17.2 billion as of December 2014, giving each one of 4,160,000 Albertans a share worth $4,135. In addition, the Alberta government is operating with a deficit or, as Stoltenberg would say, “They are spending money they don’t have.”

Worthwhile resources:

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway addressed the topic “Avoiding the Oil Curse: The Case of Norway” at the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Harvard Kennedy School. Stoltenberg discussed how the “Oil Curse” occurs in countries with natural resources, noting the negative relationship between countries with a large amount of natural resources and real GDP per capita. Stoltenberg focused on the Norwegian experience and how although oil and gas has a large impact on the economy it is balanced in a way to combat the common “curse.” Stoltenberg highlighted other elements of the Norwegian economy that make the country exemplary in social equality including high employment and the dual maternity, paternity leave granted to citizens.

Lifting the resource curse, George Soros (free registration required):

Countries that are rich in natural resources are often poor, because exploiting those resources has taken precedence over good government. Competing oil and mining companies, backed by their governments, are often willing to deal with anyone who can assure them of a concession. This has bred corrupt and repressive governments and armed conflict. In Africa, resource-rich countries like Congo, Angola, and Sudan have been devastated by civil wars. In the Middle East, democratic development has been lagging.

Curing this “resource curse” could make a major contribution to alleviating poverty and misery in the world, and there is an international movement afoot to do just that. The first step is transparency; the second is accountability.

The movement started a few years ago with the Publish What You Pay campaign, which urged oil and mining companies to disclose payments to governments. In response, the British government launched the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI)…


Categories: Natural Resources, Norway

15 replies »

  1. As usual, BC did it differently. The media initiated a Publish When You Pay Us campaign and the government launched a Transparency Extraction Industry Initiative.


  2. Bc and Alberta should become part of Norway .
    then we would get better resource and bridge management.not just better hockey.or more raw log export


  3. After watching the video of Prime Minister Stoltenberg, I conclude there is another major difference between Canada and Norway. Their government is not interested primarily in advancing the interests of corporate elites.

    Stoltenberg left office in late 2013 and was replaced by a more right wing Prime Minister. The new government is a minority coalition of people elected through a form of proportional representation so policy changes must be negotiated among various groups. That appears to be a more effective democracy than we have in Canada because here a party with less than 38% of the popular vote in 2011 (and even less in 2008) has been able to follow a radical path to restructure this country.


  4. Better include the State of Washington in order to make sure we can afford the commute. Wait a minute, Norway has a world class ferry system run on NG and batteries. Come to think, why would they want us?


  5. Gee, I can't wait until BC gets to cash in on our 100 billion $ LNG fund?? AND all those people we will steal back from Alberta to work here. The streets will be paved with gold.


  6. You know what the leaders of Norway do that our “leaders” do not. Their jobs. They serve the best interests of the people of Norway. Our “leaders” initiate and facilitate the corporate give away under the guise of job creation and economic activity. Tax race to the bottom with us competing against other provinces and states now under free trade and wage race to the bottom with temporary foreign workers. Oversight slashed so you have no idea how much of said resource has been extracted . Public wealth drained public debt compounded. That`s what you get when business runs government. When the interest rates rise as they must the province of BC will be in a bad way servicing our massive public and household debt. Or as the Neo Liberals put it. Debt free BC.


  7. “When the interest rates rise as they must the province of BC will be in a bad way servicing our massive public and household debt.”

    Yes but the Bank of Canada will never raise the interest rate, because of all the debt. The Ponzi will continue until it stops.


  8. “Countries that are rich in natural resources are often poor, because exploiting those resources has taken precedence over good government”

    Describes BC to a tee. In addition to giving most of the oil revenues it appears Alberta brain trust Cons ripped off Albertans with a counting the booty error as described in the Tyee.

    The Alberta government has failed to collect nearly $2.5 billion per year in resource royalties since 2009 due to a major calculation blunder, according to Jim Roy, a private royalty expert who advises governments around the world.

    As a consequence, the province has failed to collect $13 billion in the last five years, charges Roy, a former senior advisor on royalty policy for Alberta Energy.

    Is the same thing happening at the federal level, You bet.



  9. That transparency initiative looks quite interesting, although I can imagine the reluctance of many corporate extractors to admit to rampant bribery and kickback schemes which in turn have gone on to encourage murderous brutality from corrupt governments and private armies. It's like putting a number on it is virtually an admission to the most heinous of crimes.


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