15:58 GMT02 July 2020
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    Scandinavia's richest country may need to withdraw money from its sovereign wealth fund to plug its budget gap if the price of oil remains below $50 a barrel.

    While many developed countries rejoice at falling energy prices, one of Europe's wealthiest countries is reeling. The ill effects of low oil prices will hit Norway harder than the 2008 global financial crisis did, with official data showing that Scandinavia's richest economy is not being spared the burden of low oil prices.

    Norway's resource-rich economy escaped the worst of the 2008 financial crisis, with high oil prices ensuring robust growth. However, with Norway's oil and gas exports accounting for more than half of the country's exports in 2014, worth around 500 billion kronor [$57 billion], the country may be forced to dip into its vaunted $900 billion sovereign wealth fund unless spending is cut.

    According to figures from Statistics Norway, the percentage of unemployed in Norway reached 4.3 percent in May, the latest month for which figures are available. The figures represent the highest level since December 2005, and capped a steady increase since November 2014, when the rate of unemployment was 3.8 percent. 

    Norwegian Central Bank Governor Oystein Olsen in March acknowledged the challenges facing the Norwegian economy, where about a quarter of GDP is related to oil and gas extraction, three months before the Central Bank cut interest rates by 25 basis points to a record low of one percent.

    "Since last summer, oil prices have fallen. Activity in the petroleum sector has probably passed the peak. So far, the impact on the real economy has been modest. At the same time, the Norwegian economy is facing new challenges. Vulnerabilities established during the golden years must be addressed. From being in a unique economic position, Norway is now headed for a period of restructuring."

    The fall in the oil price coincided with a decline in investments, explained Joachim Bernhardsen, an economist at Nordea Bank in Oslo.

    "The 15% decline we expect in oil investments was expected before the price of oil fell,” said Bernhardsen. “It has much to do with not finding new fields to invest in and the vacuum that creates."

    In addition to not finding new North Sea oil fields, as a result of which GDP from the oil sector has been falling for over a decade, the analyst says that "the high wage growth we have had here has resulted in a high cost of production."

    "We need a period of moderate wage growth, otherwise we will just make things worse for ourselves,” said Bernhardsen, who explained that there is a consensus on both sides of the labor market that wages in Norway, where the typical worker earns a higher salary than anywhere in the world, need to become more competitive than those of Norway's trading partners.


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    natural resources, resources, gas, oil, oil production, economic growth, economy, Norway
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