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Norway Travel Guide
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Export revenues from oil and gas have risen to 45% of total exports and constitute more than 20% of the GDP. Only Russia and OPEC member Saudi Arabia export more oil than Norway, which is not an OPEC member. To reduce over-heating from oil money and the uncertainty from the oil income volatility, and to save money for an aging population, the Norwegian state started in 1995 to save petroleum income in a sovereign wealth fund. This also reduces the boom and bust cycle associated with raw material production and the marginalization of non-oil industry.

The control mechanisms over petroleum resources are a combination of state ownership in major operators in the Norwegian oil fields and the fully state-owned Petoro (market value of about twice Statoil) and SDFI. Finally the government controls licensing of exploration and production of fields. The fund invests in developed financial markets outside Norway. The budgetary rule is to spend no more than 4% of the fund each year.

By January 2006, the Government Pension Fund of Norway fund had reached a value of USD 200 billion. During the first half of 2007, the pension fund became the largest fund in Europe, with assets of about USD 300 billion. The savings equal the Norwegian GDP and are the largest capital reserve per capita of any nation as of April 2007. Projections indicate that the Norwegian pension fund may become the largest capital fund in the world. Currently it is the second-largest state-owned sovereign wealth fund, second only to the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority; Conservative estimates tell that the fund may reach USD 800-900 billion by 2017.

Other natural resource-based economies, such as Russia, are trying to learn from Norway by establishing similar funds. The investment choices of the Norwegian fund are directed by ethical guidelines; for example, the fund is not allowed to invest in companies that produce parts for nuclear weapons. The highly transparent investment scheme is lauded by the international community.

The future size of the fund is of course closely linked to the price of oil and to developments in international financial markets. At an average oil price of USD 100 per barrel, the trade surplus for 2008 is expected to reach USD 80 billion. At June 2008 oil prices, the trade surplus for 2008 is expected to reach USD 90 billion.

In 2000, the government sold one-third of the then 100% state-owned oil company Statoil in an IPO. The next year, the main telecom supplier, Telenor, was listed on Oslo Stock Exchange. The state also owns significant shares of Norway's largest bank, DnB NOR and the airline SAS. Since 2000, economic growth has been rapid, pushing unemployment down to levels not seen since the early 1980s (unemployment: 1.3%).

Norway is also the world's second largest exporter of fish (in value, after China). Hydroelectric plants generate roughly 98-99% of Norways electric power.

Source: Wikipedia Encyclopedia

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