Policy Performance


Economic Policies

Despite concerns related to falling oil prices, Norway’s economic policies are ranked among the best internationally (rank 4). Its score on this measure has declined by 0.4 points since 2014.

Declining petroleum and gas prices have hit Norway hard. Investments in the offshore industry have fallen, growth rates are slowing, and unemployment rates are increasing. While public finances remain solid, a self-imposed constraint on using oil revenues to cover current spending has been relaxed.

A proactive and fairly flexible labor-market policy has kept unemployment minimal and employment rates high, in part due to women’s high participation rates. Income and consumption taxes are high, though corporate rates are moderate.

The effects of declining resource income have rippled through the economy, increasing budgetary dependence on the oil revenues. The petroleum fund remains an international model, although its value has fallen considerably. R&D is a comparative weakness.

Social Policies

With a wide-ranging social safety net, Norway takes the SGI 2016’s top rank (rank 1) with regard to social policies. Its score on this measure has improved by 0.2 points since 2014.

Educational attainment is very high, though PISA scores are below average in some areas. Broad and generous social-insurance programs keep poverty rates very low. The universally available health care system is of high quality.

Generous family benefits and gender-equality programs enable a high employment rate for women as well as a high birth rate. Resource income ensures the sustainability of the pension system, and new incentives for delaying retirement are in place.

Integration policy is well funded, but immigrants face discrimination in labor and housing markets. The increase in immigration is also fueling debate over welfare-benefit access policy. Crime rates are quite low.

Environmental Policies

With a strong focus on renewable-energy production, Norway’s environmental policies are deemed among the best worldwide (rank 3). Its score on this measure has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Sensitive to environmental concerns, the country has a well-developed regulatory system on the issue. The rate of renewable-resource use is among the world’s highest, aided by a low population density and strong utilization of hydroelectric power. Air and water quality are very good.

As an oil and gas producer, Norway contributes both directly and indirectly to global CO2 emissions. Plans to offset emissions by buying international CO2 quotas have been criticized as an evasion of domestic obligations.

The country has invested strongly in carbon-capture technologies, but practical positive results have yet to appear.



Quality of Democracy

With strong outcomes in nearly every category, Norway falls into the top group worldwide (rank 3) with regard to the quality of democracy. Its score on this measure has declined by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

The country’s electoral processes are free and fair. Political-party financing is mostly public, with strong reporting requirements. The media are independent, showing considerable plurality of opinion, but digital competition and other market changes have increased financial pressures, potentially undermining the ability to produce high-quality reporting. Access to government information is broad.

Civil rights and political liberties receive strong protections, and gender-equality provisions are robust. Some labor-market discrimination against immigrants persists, despite being illegal. The legal system is transparent, predictable and respected, but can be very slow.

Corruption is rare, with considerable social stigma attached. However, the incidence of corruption related to overseas Norwegian business activities has increased in recent years.



Executive Capacity

Reflecting a broadly consensual society, Norway’s scores for executive capacity are in the top ranks (rank 5) worldwide. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to 2014.

Careful strategic planning, with participation by experts, guides decision-making. The Ministry of Finance is a key actor in long-term planning, while the Office of the Prime Minister coordinates rather than evaluates policies, working closely with line ministries. Cabinet cohesion is strong.

RIAs are frequently performed but not mandatory. Stakeholders are integrated in the legislative process, with societal consensus the goal, though increasingly tight deadlines can limit external influence. Implementation efficiency is good, although the government has depended upon occasionally tense relationships with smaller parties to pass its agenda.

Regional and local governments are generally adequately funded. Policy is becoming increasingly centralized at the state level. While not an EU member, Norway adopts much of that body’s legislation.

Executive Accountability

With a wide and effective range of oversight mechanisms, Norway takes the SGI 2016’s top position (rank 1) in terms of executive accountability. Its score in this area has improved by 0.1 point relative to 2014.

Parliamentarians have access to party-based support staff, and have broad executive-oversight powers. Governments strongly respect the legislative right to access information. The audit and ombuds offices, both parliamentary bodies, act independently and are widely respected.

The population is well-informed about policy, thanks to a media that provides accurate and comprehensive policy information. Political parties show considerable internal democracy, while economic and other civil-society organizations are both sophisticated and influential.
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