Speech/statement | Date: 02/10/2014 | Office of the Prime Minister
The Storting, October 2 2014
Mr President, Representatives of the People,
I greet the Storting as it takes up its solemn responsibilities with the wish that the fulfilment of these duties will be of benefit to our country.
Norway is changing.
Our population is growing, and getting older. We can no longer rely on the oil industry to drive economic growth. We must make changes and adapt if we are to reduce carbon emissions to a level that the Earth can sustain.
Each of these changes will demand a lot from us as a society. Together they will shape Norway today, tomorrow and in the decades to come.
We have faced major changes before. And have managed to seize the opportunities they have presented. We must do so this time too.
Our country is blessed with abundant natural resources. In this, we are fortunate. But just having the resources is not enough.
By means of cutting-edge knowledge and hard work, we have managed to harvest our resources effectively.
Through good judgement and careful management, we have made sure that the wealth we generate benefits the whole population, as well as future generations.
In this way, we have built a country that is good to live in for the vast majority of people.
As we approach change, we must stay true to our values and protect the best aspects of the society we have created:
Trust in the individual, respect for the fact that people are different, respect for equal rights, and a responsibility to our fellow human beings. This is the basic starting point for the Government’s work.
The Government attaches great importance to ensuring that ours is a society where all citizens feel secure. Where those who fall behind in society are given a second chance. Where people who are ill or in need of care get the help they need in time, and have clearly defined rights. Where children who grow up in poor families have the same opportunities as other children. Where the elderly are able to live out their lives in dignity.
The Government will create opportunities for all by means of an effective education policy. The aim is a society where social and economic disparities do not prevent individuals from shaping their own future based on their abilities, efforts and interests.
The Government will give freedom and leeway to those who innovate and seek to develop our society further. Whether through work, through voluntary activities, or by establishing new companies.
The changes we are facing will require us to make adjustments in many areas.
It may feel safer to stick to what we know.
But, failure to adapt in time will itself be the greatest threat to our social model. We have no time to lose.
The Government has identified three key areas for its work in the coming period.
Firstly, we need to ensure that the public sector and our welfare state are able to meet tomorrow’s, not yesterday’s, needs.
Large cohorts of people are becoming pensioners. New generations will place new demands on our welfare state.
The Government will work to improve quality and increase diversity and freedom of choice in the welfare state, and will seek to ensure a more effective use of resources.
The Government will therefore put forward a number of proposals for reforms designed to revitalise, simplify and improve the current system.
The Government will present a bill on allowing patients free choice of healthcare provider. The aim is to reduce waiting time, give patients greater freedom of choice and improve the efficiency of public hospitals, and for fewer people to experience the uncertainty of having to wait for an unnecessarily long time to receive the treatment they need.
The Government will also present a national health and hospitals plan, centred on patient needs. The Storting will be invited to consider what health services should look like in the future.
The Government will facilitate the implementation of a pilot scheme on state financing for care for the elderly.
Our infrastructure must be adapted to take account of the growing population and increasing business activity. The Government will revitalise the transport system. A company will be established to speed up progress in this area and ensure more and better roads for each krone spent.
Road toll reforms will reduce costs and inconvenience for road users.
The Government will reform the railway sector. The aim is to improve services for both passengers and companies. We need to make it more attractive to use public transport, especially in our cities.
The Government will continue its work on local government reform.
A key aim is to provide effective welfare services of an equal standard throughout the country. Children who experience neglect have the same right to receive help from society whether they live in a small or a large municipality. Today, specialist help is limited in many municipalities. Changing the municipal structure to reflect today’s challenges would enable us to develop a fairer system, provide better services for the most vulnerable, and give people access to the same services irrespective of where they grow up.
Larger municipalities can take on responsibility for a wider range of tasks. This will strengthen local democracy. Larger municipalities will be better able to manage the growing need for housing and infrastructure in certain areas.
The Government will submit a proposal to the Storting on reforming the structure of the police force. The crime situation and threats to our society are changing. We need to strengthen preparedness, improve crime prevention and step up efforts to combat crime. The Government will also work to prevent young people from becoming radicalised and being recruited to violent extremism. Security in day-to-day life is a vital aspect of Norwegian society and one that we must protect.
The Government will seek to increase the efficiency of the asylum process. The aim is to reduce the number of asylum seekers in Norway who are not in need of protection, and to facilitate the faster return of people who are obliged to leave the country. Those who have been granted legal residence must be settled and integrated more rapidly into Norwegian society.
The second priority area for the Government is value creation. We need to ensure that we have a solid basis for financing the welfare state and that people have secure jobs to go to.
We have higher costs than many of our trading partners, a situation that has developed over the course of many years. Productivity growth has been weak for some time. There is too little investment in mainland industries.
The Government will seek to ensure that Norway’s economy and welfare state become less dependent on petroleum revenues.
The Government will pursue an economic policy based on the fiscal rule. This strengthens the basis for private sector growth. The Government will invest more in infrastructure, knowledge, research and innovation.
The Government will present a long-term plan for research and higher education, and a white paper on the quality and structure of higher education. We need to raise our level of ambition and strive harder to meet the major challenges our society is facing.
It is vital that Norwegian pupils learn more at school. Good teachers are key to ensuring effective learning in the classroom and increasing pupils’ chances of completing upper secondary education. The Government has confidence in Norway’s teachers as professionals. It will therefore further enhance efforts to improve teaching skills and seek to make the teaching profession more attractive.
The Government will also work to improve the quality of vocational training. The aim is to ensure that more young people complete their training, and to align training more closely to the need for skills in Norway.
The Government will simplify business legislation and further develop digital solutions that enable companies to spend less time on red tape and more time on wealth creation.
The Government intends to establish an independent committee to assess all proposals for new business legislation.
The Government will reduce taxes. Today’s system favours foreign owners. We must make it more profitable to invest in Norwegian enterprises.
The Government will scale up investment in infrastructure in order to increase the competitiveness of Norwegian companies.
International issues such as climate change, poverty, war and conflict are the third key area of the Government’s work.
We are facing a new security situation in Europe. Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine threaten European security. Confidence-building and people-to-people cooperation in the High North continue to be important.
The situation in Syria and Iraq is particularly serious. The conflicts in these countries directly affect Europe’s and Norway’s security.
War, terrorism, natural disasters and outbreaks of diseases such as Ebola are undermining development in several countries.
In our globalised world, it is a mistake to think that crises and conflicts taking place far away do not affect us.
As fellow human beings, it is impossible to remain indifferent. It is the people who are living in the affected areas who are hardest hit by conflict, disease and poverty. Norway must provide humanitarian assistance to these countries.
Recent developments have reaffirmed the importance of NATO as a defender of common values and as the mainstay of Norway’s security policy.
Peace and secure borders are essential to growth and prosperity.
The Government will strengthen the operational capacity of the Norwegian Armed Forces. The first new F-35 fighter jets to be used for training purposes are due to be delivered in 2015.
Climate change and poverty are among the greatest challenges of our time. We need to transform our consumption and production patterns to reduce carbon emissions to sustainable levels.
The year 2015 will be an important year for climate efforts. The Government will push hard to secure an ambitious global climate agreement. The Government will present Norway’s climate action commitments to the UN in the first quarter of 2015.
We also need to take steps to address climate change at the national level. The Government will follow up and strengthen the cross-party agreement on climate policy. Knowledge and renewable energy must form the basis of our economy in the future.
We are facing change in many areas.
In the Government’s view, our future can best be secured by meeting these changes head-on.
We have a good starting point. We have a highly educated population. And we have abundant natural resources.
A long coastline and an unspoiled natural environment provide a good basis for further exploiting our natural advantages, for example in the marine sector. At the same time, we need to develop new industries for the future.
The aim of the Government’s proposals is to ensure better welfare for all, strengthen the social safety net, create secure jobs and improve the environment.
The Government looks forward to cooperating closely with the Storting in addressing these important tasks.
I pray that God will bless the deliberations of this Storting, and I hereby declare the 159th session of the Storting to be open.