Prime Min­is­ter Erna Sol­berg opens the sum­mit and dis­cusses Nor­way’s place in the Asian cen­tury

Norway-Asia Business Review - - Contents -

“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.

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