Not only are the French smarter, so are the Norwegians

Earlier this week I wrote about the incorporation of $132 million a year for the next four years for the restoration of historic buildings in France. That was a specific part of President Sarkozy’s economic stimulus plan for France. Like the US, France is suffering its most severe recession since the end of World War II.

This morning I get an email from my friend Terje Nypan who is in the Culture Ministry of Norway. Much of the national budget in Norway is dependent on oil. So when the oil price drops from $140 per barrel to $40, it obviously has a big impact.So the Norwegian government has adopted what they call their “Crisis Package” in the amount of about $685 million dollars. (If that number seems low compared to the $780 Billion stimulus package here, remember that the population of Norway is around 4.6 million versus 304 million for the US. )

But unlike the United States where the only criteria to make the bill seems to be having a friend on the House Appropriations Committee, in Norway they actually had a set of principles upon which their decisions were based. And here they are:

  • The measures must have a speedy effect on the labor market
  • The measures must have specific target objectives
  • The measures must be limited in time
  • The measures shall strengthen the Government in its policies for the environment and income distribution.

I happen to think this is an excellent set of principles. But others could have a different list. The trouble in the US is that there is no set of principles upon which we are encumbering 3 generations to repay.
And how did Norway commit their stimulus money to be consistent with these principles?

  • Measures for increased energy efficiency $183,529,000
  • Repair and development of railway system $198,976,000
  • CO2 cleaning $147,129,000
  • Footpaths/sidewalks and bicycle roads $ 76,471,000
  • Nature management and Cultural Heritage $ 52,000,000
  • Environment research on sea wind turbines $ 11,471,000
  • Charging stations for electric cars $ 7,647,000
  • Bio Energy $ 7,647,000

The Cultural Heritage portion of that was around $34,000,000 and was divided as follows:

  • Rehabilitation and maintenance of privately owned, protected property $11.6 Million
  • Technical and industrial heritage, vessels and centers $6.9 Million
  • Rock art, archeology, and universal access $3.8 Million
  • Fire safety for historic wood buildings, medieval and important churches $11.8 Million
Why did they do this? Because they learned in the last recession that: a) it worked putting people back to work and training workers for the future; and b) it met the principles they established.
Virtually all the line items in the Norwegian stimulus package are long term investments. Almost none in the US stimulus package are.
One more blog about the stimulus package then I’ll let it go. What the hell, I’ll never live long enough to have to repay any of it.