Norway's Finance Minister Siv Jensen of the Progress Party admitted that the decline of the oil industry has caused major problems for Norway, yet expressed cautious optimism.
"It was demanding, primarily for companies, as well as individuals who lost their jobs," Siv Jensen told Swedish Radio. According to Jensen, the main challenge for the Norwegian economy was the greatly reduced contribution from the oil industry.
"According to all industry barometers, now it seems like the bottom has been reached for the Norwegian economy," Siv Jensen told Swedish Radio, lauding Sweden's capacity for starting new businesses and promising to catch up with its neighbors.
"Although I do not want to hoist the flag prematurely, such a thorough report is very important for the Norwegian economy," Jensen earlier told the Norwegian newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad.
Earlier this week, the Finance Minister said at a seminar at Bergen's National Research University Higher School of Economics that oil prices are unlikely to return to their previous record levels. Nevertheless, she stressed the fact that the Norwegian economy is prepared for decades of huge revenues from oil and gas. According to Jensen, the Norwegian economy is set to pick up already next year.
Of late, Statoil has been pressurizing the Norwegian government to allow more offshore oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. So far, Norway's conservative coalition government has been sympathetic, whereas environmentalists are firmly opposed. Fredric Hauge of the environmental watchdog Bellona expressed skepticism, since only around 300 new jobs may be generated in northern Norway, whereas the environmental damage may prove enormous, Stavanger Aftenblad reported.