Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Norway in the Lead?

Norway's Dirty Little Secret

Norway, a small rich country in northern Europe has once again topped the United Nations charts for Human Development. (http://hdr.undp.org/hdr2006/statistics/) which means that they are,simply, the best of the best of the best. Judging by the United Nations' standards, Norway is nation to follow.

Their primacy is probably made easier by the fact that there are not a lot of them, only about 4.5 million and they are ranked 7th in the world in oil production and 3rd in oil exports. But let's give them credit, oil production alone will certainly not put a nation in the top rankings for human development, a number baded on statitisitics of income, longevity, literacy, standard of living, and child welfare.

Like me, you may become even more enamoured of Norway as you learn more. It is an odd mixture of socialism and capitalism. They have a 50% tax on oil production and use the bulk of it to fund their government pension plan, which is administered by the Central Bank and invested in the global stock market with heavy socially conscious monitors. Walmart's is ineligible. They have a 10-12 month government funded maternity and one month paternity leave. If fathers don't take their leave, both parents risk losing all their leave. They have state sponsered day care centers, government health insurance.

Norway is generous, ranking fourth in the world in its commitment to foreign development.

So what is wrong with the picture? Well, yes, they still hunt whales. But more devasting than that are their agricultural subsidies. Both the Right (Nicholas Kristol, The Cato Institute) and the Left (Oxfam, Common Dreams) agree that the agricultural subsidies in the industrialized world which amount to $350 billion a year are almost 7 times higher than the foreign aid given to poor countries

In an article in Forign Policy on "Ranking the Rich" in terms of thier generosity to the developing world, Norway piles up an embarrassing 1101.24 in agricutural subsidies, per person, per year. These are on cattle, sheep, pigs, and chickens. In comparison,its contributionof foreign aid per person in the developing world is $.83


So, how about it Norway? Care to really show the world some High Human Development and cut those subsides?




Yeah, we should all be like Norway and we should all have oil...or tourism. What would happen if 50% of all tourism profit is used for development? In this country tourism's profits goes somewhere...but it's hard to see how it impacts the welfare of the people even within the very geographical area where the tourist activity takes place. When tourism (or any industry) does not lead to the bettering of people's lives it ends up as exploitation. And that's what we have.

Babette said...

Apologies to Norway for this one as the stats in Foreign Policy are wildly skewed to prove a point. I am working on decoding the "Washington Consensus" ---