Prime Minister Erna Solberg opens the summit and discusses Norway’s place in the Asian century
“There are over 5,000 Norwegian companies in Asia employing some 60,000 people, and Singapore is by far the leading location for these firms,” she said. “One of the reasons why I think it’s important to attend this meeting is in a globalised world, we will continue to become more dependent on growth and development happening in Asia.”
The focus of her speech was how Asia will factor into the restructuring of the Norwegian economy.
“The rise of Asia is the most dramatic change in the world economy of the last 40 years,” said Mrs Solberg.
“In 2015, the global economies achieved one of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals of lifting 50% of the world’s poorest people out of poverty. Growth in Asia is the main reason that was accomplished.
“I come from Bergen with all its maritime roots, so it’s an impressive view to arrive in Singapore and see that immense amount of boats.
“Norway is the fifth-largest European investor in Singapore as Norwegian companies recognise the country’s status as a shipping hub.
“2015 was a year of disappointing economic growth globally. All countries with a large oil and gas sector suffered from the severe drop in the price of oil. Global growth was only 2.4%, which missed expectations. We need to have higher economic growth if we want to continue development to lift people out of poverty, especially here in Asia, including creating more new jobs.
“The drop in oil prices has consequences around the world, as thousands of people have lost their jobs globally. If you look at the Arab Spring, one of the reasons it happened was the young people there felt like they had no future prospects. Not only were they not able to express themselves, but they didn’t have any hope. We have to increase growth so we can create jobs for the disaffected because it increases stability.
“The Norwegian economy is at a turning point. Global demand for oil and gas is down and it will provide a test of our ability to adjust the economic structure. The current situation is not similar to the financial crisis of 2008, when our responsibility was to keep the banking sector strong until the financial issues were resolved.
“Today the challenge is structural because we need to change the industrial framework. In the short term, we have to meet the challenges that come with higher unemployment, and in the long term, Norway has to create new productive jobs to secure future welfare in our society.
“Norway still has its strengths, as half the economy still has low unemployment and many sectors that previously suffered because the krone was so strong now can gain market access with a weaker currency. And we have skilled workers and a flat, open work structure that leads to high productivity and innovation.
“My government’s goal is to stimulate the readjustment process and promote competitiveness. We give priority to education, industrial research and development, tax reduction and infrastructure projects.
“No one knows today where the jobs in the new Norwegian economy will come from, as it’s up to investors and access to new markets to determine that. But we know robotics, automation and digitalisation will affect our economy. We still will have to ship goods, but there are already changes in the global economy based on digital services.
“The role of industry in creating low-emission societies will play an important part in years to come. Industries in Norway are at the forefront of innovative environmental technology. In fact, many of the technologies we are using for oil and gas exploration now can be adapted to be more environmentally friendly.
“Investing in knowledge, innovation capabilities and technology is never a waste because you can always use that basic knowledge to transfer to other types of industries. Green industry and technology must continue to grow to meet our ambitious environmental policies.