fredag 22. februar 2008

Norway Without Oil?

Norway without oil eh?

Well it's just supposing, but it does come to bear on what Norge AS will be like after oil. So it's an interesting sideshow to discuss.

It would of course be a matter of "fish n' ships".

Firstly Norway's fisheries would have been far more important to sustain and to retain in norwegian ownership. Given a prevailing leftist political climate, licensing and quotas could have been a matter for state control and even ownership with a levvy being taken on (short term) licensing. Relative to Scotland for example, Norway has far larger stock areas but with a similar population.

The salmon farming industry would have no doubt taken off, and more investment may have been made into farming other species, and 'reef farming' or stocking identifiable nursery sea areas with larvæ or fry. Salmon and sea trout would no doubt be somewhat different than it is today. Starved of oil money as a source of mass investment, salmon would have developed in a more fragmented way and be more open to foriegn investment. This would mean that the product would most likely not be the commodity item it is today, being cheaper than many palageants and trawled fish. A more fragmented industry would have resulted in more product differentiation and sales to niche markets. It would no doubt be easier to buy local salmon, organic salmon, eik/einebær smoked salmon. Also perhaps "wild finished" salmon where it is exposed to natural conditions in lochans or some mini migratory pathways to be netted. The scots and irish industry could have taken the place as the budget commodity producer, driven by the EU's CAP. The national colour of ownership situation would perhaps be reversed! Certainly the price of salmon would be higher and quite likely norwegian production would be a fraction of it's 600Ktonnes per annum today.

Given the prominence of the fishing industry, and decline in stocks in oter EU waters prior to the oil period anyway, Norway would have kept itself out of the EU as at that time sweden was too. EAFTA ( EØS) would have sufficed to provide local markets for fish. With this in mind then norwegian farming would have quite possibly been similar to todays, but with fewer individual producers. Without oil subsidies, farms would need to be bigger and those in inaccessable areas would probably be muc the poorer for the lack of tunnels that seem to have been such a ready cremator for oil cash! There would probably be more regional producers or cooperatives and possibly more than the few brands that are to be found today. With poorer transport connections, regional production would be more important and be organised around an economically viable size, or at least "subsidy sustainable" structure which enjoyed at least some economies of scale in dairy, slaughter and up-working product. Once again more value added, regional or independent produce could become premium brands and the cosey tine/gilde -rema/rimi set up could be very different.

Engineering and Technology

Engineering based upon hydro power, shipping, bridging/tunneling and related design and construction would have a prominent role, relative to the smaller, non oil economy, and be largely taken up wit supplying norwegian owned shipping lines as well as globalising earlier. Welders' Wages in norway could well rival those in the far east and the paternal nature of norwegian capital may have come to the forefront and actually encouraged a supply chain with virtually gauranteed orders.

Technology would be focused into other marine and biological areas and those chemical production areas where, as today, supply of cheap electricity and water is determinant. These would however probably be areas far more open to either nationalisation or foriegn investment. The state may be far more interested in owning power and Hydro production whilst other technology areas would have to realistically go to international capital earlier- a situation which today "little norway" avoids with no good reason other than national pride and soft-capital handcuffing job numbers to development. The shipping line "old money" may or may not take a risk view on spread betting their investment versus minimal possible risk. Shipping is a risk business whatever.

Service & Tourism

In a non-oil economy, these two would be somewhat inseperable. Tourism would be a far more prominent part of the economy, if not potentially the largest service sector. It probably would in real terms or prescence be a larger industry than it is now. This would be because of the undoubted attractions coupled to: flights an ageing EU and US population, richer neighboring lands and an expanding middle class in EU. But above all, Norway would be more competitive on price in terms of hotels, eating out, experience-services, entertainment and trinkets.

Rather than being, as in scotland in the 80s and 90s, considered a second class industry, Norwegians would in the regions such as Hardanger, got their service act together and be far more motivated to be in this industry. In scotland there seems to be enough english house inflation money redirected into tourism and enough of an entrepreneurial economy to actually have made a visit to the highlands at least a rewarding cullinary and accomodatory experience if not as cheap as torremolenos!

Norway has a big advantage as with Sveits, Austria and n. Italy, it does have actually offer two tourist seasons with year round city break potential. Given the current global warming ( more oil found elswhere!) situation the ski tourism industry would be set to boom right now in fact! Brits, swedes and danes would have long been the target market and with less local interest/money for hytte complexes, the immediate to-piste locales would have probably sprouted hotels and self catering accomocdaton of varying grades. Hytteliv would be a langrenn oriented thing, not centred on the resorts. Infact the whole down hill thing may even be out of reach of most norwegians who today would enjoy two weeks in the winter/spring at such resorts.

Stavanger for example, may have become the key tourist arrival city for summer tours. Given the sea faring traditions in norway, and the 'redderi' i.e. shipping lines, like Fred Olsen, may well have invested in this type of fly-sail holiday. Norway would be a big retirement cruiser destination given more tourist support along the coast, at better prices, for those who do visit today (germans, dutch, danes, swedes, brits a plenty and lately poles and russians.)

Given the high value destination Norway has to offer, and i't current premium position for line like Cunard, giving a damn about tourism would be a recipie for success which the current wage and labour environment just doesn't really afford.

Immigration and Emmigration

Like Ireland, during the "fish famines" of the 19th and early 20th centuries drove norwegians to America. Norway had no empire other than antartica and spitzbergen, so emmigration was largely to the land of the free. This was quite a two way affair and persisted up and until oil time on grounds of poverty and of course thereafter on grounds of actually working in the oil industry.

Emmigration, as with Ireland, Scotland and Portugal would be a bigger state of affairs with economic to-and-froing as with the extended irish families being common.

Immigration on the other hand would be far rarer affair. It would be driven largely by academia and be miniscule. "Norway for norwegians" would permiate taxi driving and cleaning. Trades people would probably be a net export for the country!

Norway, basically would not have the resources, paternal ambition or goodwill amongst the public to take the world's refugees without them filling some labour or regional repopulation need.


Well this is the biggy as far as much of the economic speculation would consider. Road transport would be far less prominent than it is today. Norway as invested hugely in tunneling to secure year round connections between main cities and regions and to shorten or make practical thousands of journeys.

Coastal shipping would play more of a role, as indeed passenger and private traffic. A 20knt boat is today a leisure item which allows for progress between disparate tour destinations. Without all the tunneling, such boats would be as common as cars in some coastal areas and used as a serious form of transport. South of Stadt there are plenty of journeys accomplisable faster by light displacement boat than by car, even WITH nordhordalands bridge and various tunnels.

Rail would have been a bigger focus for what lesser national investment there would have been. A far north route, possible through or in cooperation with Sweden, would have probably been mooted and the main routes would I have no doubt be as fast as they are today. Electrification would probably have been even more comprehensive.

Air transport would have equally an important role as today, but perhaps with fewer runways and smaller planes. Cities with jet-strips would probably become more nodal to the expense of population outwith these such economic hubs.


This would have probably followed the post war scandinavian model and be at a higher level, more akin to sweden. The proportion of the population in public employ or subsidised would no doubt be even higher than it is today. I see no reason, short of economic collapse, that a non-oil Norway would opt for newzealand style free-marketism. The demands would be opposite, with socialist sweden's undoubted higher living standard being the benchmark and not the UK with the evident strife to modernise post industrial Britain ( which, along with the Falklands War, Trident, Canary wharf, gulf wars and the channel tunnel could not have been achieved without oil money in the UK)

Industrialists and capital would however have a very prominent lobbying position with both unions and politicians. In the abscence of STATOIL, they would control far more of the economic engine and despite a partisan public, would be able to secure a fairly liberal tax regime for both investment and profitability. The situation would be more akin to Ireland, where the brunt of taxation is taken by the employee whilst in the 80s and early 90s, investors enjoyed tax holidays and pund for pund investment matching.

Life Style and Standard of Living

For me, this is what would be quintisentially norwegian. It's my opinion that there would be very little difference in the norwegian lifestyle.

Nordmenn would still have their winter and easter Holidays up in the hills, and continue this spartan cabin life in the summers down by the sea in the other family or trade union cabin. They would still have rather bad choice in the supermarkets and expensive alcohol driven by the christian democracy and ytax thirsty leftist governments.

People would earn less, so houses and cabins would be cheaper. That a 60kvd meter house in stavanger centre is about 6 times average salary is a situation which would however be somewhat different. House prices would falter despite the post 80s low interest concensus. People would maybe rent longer and pay down more, I don't know but with no stream of oil a less certain economy with a constrained and contracting public sector ( as per other countries in the area) then people would not be so confident about house-price-growth earnings as a means of funding life! In fact people would live in exactly the same fabric standards of houses as they do today.In areas such as askøy or nøtterøy, now popular for even commuters, the small hytte would reign wit cheap land prices and marginal farmers forced to sell up.

True these houses would not be adorned with the latest flat screen but life would get along materialistically as it does in Ireland and portugal.

With cars and that great other norsk vehicle, the sail boat or motorlaunch? Cars would be much cheaper- the public wouldn't stand for such taxation on new cars. And it wouldn't be audis and mercedes it would be nissans and kias. Families would probably have fewer cars, maybe on average one per family. boat wise instead of 40 feet being the average in the larger marinas, 27 foot would maybe be the average and probably owned more by whole families- and actually get some even use in the season instead of the one week.

Foriegn holidays may be limited more but then again, perhaps skiing and frying on beaches and the associated beer drinking would still be cheaper than staying at karegrø and drinking Rignes.

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