Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Need cash? Apply for a Norwegian government grant

"VG", a large Norwegian tabloid newspaper commenced a project a few months ago to put together an overview of all grants by the various departments of the Norwegian government (see here - not available in english, sorry). This followed revelations that some ministers had granted funds to some closely associated people and organisations leading quickly to suspicions of conflicts of interest leading to Audun Lysebakken of the Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion (and yes, it's actually called that) having to resign his post.

The findings of VG so far (for the period 2008 to 2011 I believe, but not that important really) which also includes some subsidies and also some items included in appropriation bills are as follows:
  • 9,000 transactions have been authorised and paid
  • The cash sum is so far NOK 470 billion or USD 77.5 billion (there are only about 5 million people living in Norway - so the cash sum per head is NOK 94,000 or USD 15,486).
VG's focus though is on how fair the grants really are (have not got a total figure for this, but its large). But they are missing the point as that is not really the issue with this policy as you cannot expect anyone with this power to allocate huge sums of taxpayer's hard earned money "fairly" at all times (what is fair for some is discrimination to others etc). The issue which is yet to be seriously debated in the mainstream media in Norway is really if anybody should have such power at all. Why should government officials make these choices for us?

The answer is of course that the government should not have such power to give out cash grants, or be limited at most, as it will often lead to misallocation of funds (many organisations are kept artificially solvent) and a reduction in the wealth of the average taxpayer. And last but not least, it reduces individuals' choice (and the funds available!) for what they can support.

There are a lot of fascinating (to be modest) purposes these funds have been handed out to and I could highlight some that would seriously amuse you. But that would mean I would have to make a choice on which ones, at the risk of sounding unfair towards the recipients and of discriminating against them. I will not put myself in that position. And neither should the government!

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