Norwegian MPs See 'Democracy Problems' as NATO Boss Stoltenberg Enters Race to Lead Central Bank
Jens Stoltenberg's long-standing ties to the ruling Labour Party, which led for an entire decade before embarking on a NATO career, are seen as particularly problematic, as Norway's Central Bank has so far steered clear of partisan bias.
NATO Secretary General and former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has polarised fellow countrymen as he confirmed the speculations that he would apply for the head of Norway's Central Bank, adding that he was "very motivated" to do so.
The fiscal policy spokesperson for the Socialist Left, Kari Elisabeth Kaski, emphasised the importance of a real recruitment process where formal qualifications are considered. She saw the "obvious bond" between Stoltenberg, a long-time Labour leader, and the current Labour-led government as problematic.
"It will be possible to sow doubt and ask many questions on that basis. It is also unfortunate that the country's most important positions go to the same bunch of people", Kaski told national broadcaster NRK.
The Liberals deputy leader Sveinung Rotevatn is likewise sceptical.
"We don't have a tradition for partisan politicians to enter this important position. It is very important that everyone can have confidence that the Central Bank operates independently of the day-to-day policy in everything from issues of interest rate setting to the Oil Fund's investments", Rotevatn told NRK.
Rotevatn also ventured that the former Labour leader's "exceptionally close ties to the government", both personally and partywise, could create a perceived uncertainty. He additionally said that the Finance Ministry, which appoints the head of the Central Bank, will "think twice" before hiring Stoltenberg.
Greens MP Rasmus Hansson argued that it is necessary to swear in a Central Bank governor with a vision for a green economy, a point that the Socialist Left also made.
"Stoltenberg has spent his entire career inside the oil bubble, and now we have to get someone who is outside the bubble. We don't need an old-fashioned two-legged calculator", Hansson said.
Hansson also stressed a "democracy problem" with few other qualified applicants on the list.
"No one dares to apply because it is believed that Jens Stoltenberg and Ida Wolden Bache will run. There must be many qualified people, but here there are none other than the absolute insiders. It's scary", he said.
Norwegian Business School researcher Espen Henriksen agreed that a possible Stoltenberg appointment violates an important "custom" that the job should go to a skilled professional without strong political party ties and would undermine independence and set a "dangerous precedent".
By contrast, Kjell Ingolf Ropstad of the Christian Democrats has no objections to Stoltenberg as Central Bank governor, calling him "a very skilled economist and a leader with unique experience nationally and internationally".
At the same time, DNB Markets chief economist Kjersti Haugland argued that it is telling the Finance Ministry itself contacted Stoltenberg and asked him to apply. Haugland believes this indicates that the ministry ignored the arguments about the problem such a nomination would entail.
"Independence from politics has been seen as an important part of the Central Bank as an institution. The fact that the Finance Ministry encourages to apply, clearly shows that it doesn't see this as a problem. Ergo, I think Stoltenberg will get the position", Haugland predicted.
According to pundits, the main competition in the race between 22 applicants to lead the institution that also manages Norway's gigantic Oil Fund, the largest sovereign fund in the world, will unfold between Stoltenberg and Deputy Governor Ida Wolden Bache (48), who also happens to be the only woman on the list.
11 November 2021, 06:59 GMT
Jens Stoltenberg has led NATO since 2014. He is a member of the prominent and extremely well-connected Stoltenberg family that includes his father Thorvald, a well-known Labour politician who also served as an ambassador, defence minister, and foreign minister, and his mother Karin who served as a state secretary in multiple governments during the 1980s,
Before his terms in NATO, he served as Norway's prime minister between 2005 and 2013 and led the Labour Party, currently in power again after a seven-year Conservative stint, for an entire decade between 2004 and 2014.