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Norway's Erna Solberg pledges stimulus to limit shock

Staff writer |
Norway is ready to tap its crude wealth to stop the economy haemorrhaging jobs amid the deepest slump in oil prices since the financial crisis.

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Prime Minister Erna Solberg is working on a budget proposal for next year backed by the country's 875bn sovereign wealth fund to help secure jobs and soften the downturn in western Europe's largest oil and gas producer.

"Next year's budget will be, even more than this year's budget, focused on the transformation of the Norwegian economy, the competitiveness issues and on fighting unemployment," Solberg said yesterday in an interview after speaking in Oslo.

While reiterating the government's view that Norway is "not in a crisis," Solberg faces a slowdown that threatens to destroy more jobs than were lost during the 2008 financial meltdown.

The country is now bracing itself for the biggest slowdown in oil and gas investments since 2000 and petroleum companies have cut more than 20,000 jobs. Though still lower than elsewhere in Europe, Norwegian unemployment has grown to the highest in at least 11 years.

Solberg's government already in May stepped up its record use of oil revenue. Back then, it predicted Norway's mainland economy, which excludes oil and gas output, will grow 1.3% this year and 2% next year. But Brent crude has dropped almost 30% since those forecasts were made.

Part of Solberg's budget proposal will be based on a planned "tax reform" to make Norway more "investment-friendly," Solberg said.

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