May 15, 2009 12:23
Even amid the global financial crisis, Norway's economy quietly grew by approximately three percent last year and its governmental fiscal surplus reached 11 percent. The northern European nation also has no national debt. It is compared to the United States, with fiscal deficit representing 12.9 percent of the GDP this year and public debt reaching US$11 trillion.
According to the New York Times on Wednesday, Norway seems to be the only country that remains unaffected by this global financial crisis, which cast dark clouds on the economies of almost every country on Earth. "With a quirky contrariness as deeply etched in the national character, Norway has thrived by going its own way," it said. "When other countries splurged, Norway saved. When others sought to limit the role of government, Norway strengthened its cradle-to-grave welfare state."
The country with a population of 4.6 million is ranked second worldwide in GNP with $52,000, followed by Luxembourg. Since it found oil off the North Sea coast in the 1970s, it has become the world's third-largest oil exporter. It earned $68 billion from its oil exports last year, and put the profit into its sovereign wealth fund to invest around the world. The country has invested $60 billion of the $300-billion fund into the global stock market since last fall. As stocks started to rebound in March, it is expected to harvest massive profits. The NYT reported that Norway's fund has reached the world's highest level.
This is in stark contrast with the U.K., which also developed a North Sea oil field. London splurged with oil dollars and is now suffering a financial deficit. The country's national spending accounted for 47 percent of its GDP last year, up 42 percent from 2003.
"The U.S. and the U.K. have no sense of guilt," said Anders Aslund, an expert on Scandinavia at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington. "But in Norway, there is a sense of virtue. If you are given a lot, you have extra responsibility." This shows the Norwegians believe a spending spree is tantamount to stealing money from descendants.
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