Speech/statement | Date: 11/10/2021 | Office of the Prime Minister
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.
After a year and a half, the coronavirus has loosened its grip on our everyday lives.
Norway has weathered the pandemic better than most other countries.
The restrictions have placed a heavy burden on many people.
But fewer people have lost their lives and more have been in employment in Norway than in other countries.
Rapid and effective measures have limited the spread of the virus. A high level of compliance with and support for the measures has been essential. Our cooperation with the EU on the procurement of vaccines has given us a path out of the pandemic.
The Government has established contingency stocks of personal protective equipment and medicines. Work is already under way to increase our intensive care capacity.
The Government will maintain a high level of preparedness in case of the emergence of new virus variants.
In the coming period, the Government will give particular priority to two major challenges Norway is facing: the need to limit greenhouse gas emissions and ensuring the inclusion of more people in working life.
Dangerous climate change is the greatest threat of our time. Norway will reduce its own greenhouse gas emissions in line with its international commitments. We will also support poor countries in their efforts to address climate change.
Norway’s emissions are decreasing. In the previous parliamentary period, the Government presented a plan for further reducing emissions in the period up to 2030.
This plan will now be implemented.
The most important measure is to increase the cost of emitting greenhouse gases.
This is essential in order to create a market for new, climate-friendly solutions and technologies.
The Government will therefore put forward a proposal to impose a higher price on carbon emissions. Other taxes will be reduced to avoid an increase in the overall taxation level.
The Government will also present a proposal for a new and more neutral taxation system for the petroleum sector.
The Government will follow up the roadmap for hydrogen and will continue construction of facilities for carbon capture and storage.
And as soon as possible, companies will be able to apply for licences for offshore wind power projects in areas that have been opened. Coexistence between existing industries will be facilitated.
The Government will promote the further electrification of Norwegian industry and transport and will work to ensure that these sectors continue to have access to a reliable supply of electricity.
The Government will strengthen the Green Platform Initiative, which promotes increased value creation within a sustainable framework.
A new fund that will invest in renewable energy in developing countries will be developed over the next five years.
The second major challenge the Government will focus on is ensuring the inclusion of more people in working life.
Economic activity in Norway is rapidly regaining its momentum.
More people are now employed than before the pandemic. The number of people out of work is steadily declining. The number of job vacancies is rising.
The most recent white paper on long-term perspectives on the Norwegian economy shows that we will need to create more jobs in profitable industries and increase the employment rate in order to finance our welfare system as oil revenues decrease.
We are already experiencing a shortage of skilled labour in a number of areas.
This presents both a challenge and an opportunity.
A challenge because labour shortages result in less value creation and welfare.
An opportunity because there are many more people in Norway who can and want to work.
This is an opportunity the Government will seek to take advantage of.
The Government will implement a reform in upper secondary education aimed at ensuring that more people gain the qualifications they need to take part in working life or pursue further studies.
The initiative to boost education will be continued.
The Government will follow up the strategy for decentralised and flexible educational programmes at vocational technical colleges, university colleges and universities in order to increase access to necessary expertise both in urban areas and in outlying districts.
Jobs that are not dependent on a particular location make it possible for people to work from wherever they want.
The effort to promote inclusion in the labour market must be further strengthened.
The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration’s new strategy is intended to increase innovation and improve services in the labour and welfare sector.
The Government will make it easier for people to pursue an education while living on social security benefits.
The skills reform for lifelong learning is intended to ensure that no one becomes obsolete in the Norwegian labour market.
A higher rate of employment is the most important prerequisite for building a society with less poverty and inequality.
The pandemic has shown us that close international cooperation is a vital part of effective emergency preparedness.
Norway has been dependent on the EU for securing access to vaccines. The EEA Agreement made it easier to import personal protective equipment. Norway has also helped other countries that have been more severely affected than we have.
Many poor countries have been hit hard by the pandemic. The Government will continue to work to ensure equitable global access to COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and tests.
Norway will continue to actively promote the implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Both in Norway and at the international level.
Through our membership of the UN Security Council, Norway will work to foster close and effective international cooperation to promote global security and peace.
The Government’s policy will be based on its firm commitment to the EEA Agreement and NATO membership. Close Nordic cooperation will complement this.
These are agreements that reflect the community of shared values that unites Norway and its closest partners.
They are vital to safeguarding Norwegian jobs and our national security.
And they are a crucial part of Norway’s emergency preparedness.
The Government will continue its efforts to build a sustainable welfare-based society.
Changes to the taxation system will make it more profitable to work and more profitable to invest in Norwegian enterprises.
The Government will uphold its significant level of investment in transport.
The Government will follow up the new national strategy for social housing policy. The number of homeless people in Norway is declining, and this positive trend must be maintained.
Housing allowance will be increased, and the Government will give priority to funding for housing loans in outlying districts.
The Government will enhance competence in the child welfare sector in order to improve the child welfare services and prepare the municipalities for increased responsibilities in this area.
A proposal will be put forward to remove the activity requirements associated with the paternal quota, so that all fathers who have earned parental benefit rights can make use of their quota.
The Government will increase the provision of health and care assessments for children who are to be removed from their homes by the child welfare services. The aim is to identify children who need help at an earlier stage.
The Government will expand the leisure card scheme to reduce financial barriers to recreational activities in order to enable more children and young people to participate in them.
Services for children and young people with mental health issues will be further strengthened, and more mental health professionals will be trained.
The Government will appoint a committee consisting of employer and employee representatives tasked with encouraging a culture of full-time working in the health and care services.
The Government will initiate a pilot project on the provision of investment grants for adapted housing for elderly people in outlying districts. The aim is to enable more elderly people who wish to do so to live independently.
The Government will continue the work to reform and improve efficiency in the public sector.
Over time, our room for manoeuvre in drawing up budgets will be significantly reduced due to lower growth in the Government Pension Fund Global and an ageing population.
The Government will phase out the extraordinary use of oil revenues introduced in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.
More effective use of our common resources will help enable us to continue to address the challenges our country is facing.
Digitalisation, streamlining and modernisation initiatives can free up substantial resources that can be used for welfare purposes. The Government will maintain and strengthen efforts in this area.
The results of the parliamentary election have changed the political composition of the Storting. This may affect the basis for further work on some of the policies announced here.
I pray that God will bless the deliberations of this Storting, and I hereby declare the 166th session of the Storting to be open.
Given at the Royal Palace in Oslo on 1 October 2021
Under Our Hand and the Seal of the Realm