On Tuesday, July 10th, the Calgary Herald published a column by Matthew Fisher entitled “Norwegians pay a price for saving oil revenues,” found here. Below is my response.
I believe Herald readers can be forgiven if they were confused after reading Matthew Fisher's Tuesday column, for the title promised one thing and the column delivered something quite different.
The headline reads that Norway's determination to sock away vast sums of its oil wealth is less than ideal -- that such a policy comes with a “price.”
The column, however, is largely a description of how the country boasts both a $600 billion savings account and the world's highest living standards.
It would appear that, in Fisher’s view, the hitch with such a remarkable achievement is that Norwegians choose to collectively fund it through taxes. But it's hard to see such a decision as anything other than wise financial planning, since in addition to preventing their economy from overheating and protecting themselves from “dutch disease,” Norwegians have established an inheritance capable of ensuring that the benefits of their finite, fossil-fuelled fortune continues for generations to come. Robust savings, high living standards, and an assured future? Surely this is a “price” most Albertans would be happy to “pay.”
Perhaps Fisher should have mentioned that Norway has a state-owned oil company that returns all oil profits to its citizens, whereas the royalties for Alberta's privately-developed oil, gas, and bitumen resources last year delivered only 9% of the revenue back to Albertans. As this province rapidly burns through its natural wealth, Albertans can only look on with envy as Norwegians enjoy the benefits of wise financial planning.
What the Progressive Conservative government is saying is that they are dedicated to getting the worst possible return for Albertans on their non-renewable resources.