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Fear boycott and exclusion of the Oil Fund

Ethical guidelines for Norwegian lending can mean trouble for the Norwegian Oil Fund.

(PS. This article is machine-translated from Norwegian)

In April, the Storting will again decide whether to set limits on which countries the Government Pension Fund (the Oil Fund) can borrow money for. Then comes the annual Storting report on the Oil Fund and its investments and operations. Parliamentary representative, businessman and fiscal spokesman for Frp Hans Andreas Limi are skeptical of such guidelines.

What do you think about Norway lending money to Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt – countries with poor human rights situations that are also participating in the war on attacks in Yemen?
"These are countries we still have diplomatic relations with, and some of them receive assistance from Norway. It is not that we have turned off all communication with these states. Frp believes it will be wrong to use the Oil Fund in such a foreign policy process. ”

"The FRP believes it will be wrong to use the Oil Fund in such a foreign policy process."
Hans Andreas Limi

What about the proposal for objectively measurable criteria and requirements for the countries to borrow?
“The most important thing is to follow international rules of the game. Facing countries that are not democratic or safeguarding the fundamental rights of their citizens – and may also act aggressively towards neighboring countries – it is the 'international community' that will impose sanctions through political decisions. In such a context, it is natural for the Oil Fund to re-evaluate its investments, but I do not see the need for its own guidelines alone, »Limi, adding:
"As long as these countries are not on an exclusion list, I don't think more restrictions should be placed on the Fund's investments. These countries have a financial need, and to the extent that they do not use the funds properly, we have international channels that can influence – for example, diplomacy. These channels can be just as effective as exactly the investments made by the Oil Fund. ”

"Being able to look at abuse should be completely unpolitical, which I fundamentally disagree with."
Snorre Valen

"Supporting abuse is also a political act." Storting colleague and SV deputy leader Snorre Valen disagrees with Frp and Limi. He believes it is imperative to establish ethical guidelines for state lending.
What about the point that the Oil Fund is seen as a foreign policy instrument?
“First, lending money to dictatorships and occupiers is as much a political act as it is to stop lending. I often reject the premise our opponents often come up with – namely, if you stop an abuse, da you run politics. Being able to look at abuse, on the other hand, should be completely unpolitical, which I fundamentally disagree with, ”says Valen.
“Second, there is no more policy in establishing ethical guidelines for government bonds than it is in establishing guidelines for where we invest our equity portfolio through the Oil Fund. And thirdly, the Oil Fund is not a neutral piggy bank. You can ask any politician and equity analyst abroad, and they will answer that the Oil Fund is used as a foreign policy instrument. We use it when it comes to coal, child labor, tobacco and landmine production. There is no reason why we should make an exception for states that commit abuse. ”
Some would then argue that if states are not allowed to borrow money from Norway, it could provoke outrage that in turn goes beyond Norwegian business interests. What do you say to that?
"To that I say 'buhu'. It is a junk way of arguing, and a rhetoric you can draw all the way: How serious human rights violations are we willing to accept on behalf of Norwegian business interests? This is a non-argument on my part, "says the SV deputy.

Fear exclusion and loss. Hans Andreas Limi and Frp, for their part, believe that the Oil Fund can be harmed if Valen gets his will.
What consequences do you fear if the Oil Fund is perceived as a foreign policy instrument?
“That the Oil Fund is closed based on important investments. It can happen if we mix business and politics. There will be doubts as to what agenda the Oil Fund really has. The Oil Fund is a purely financial fund aimed at ensuring the best possible return on capital, which will, among other things, secure our future pensions. We cannot get there that we discuss all the details of the Storting – then there will be too much policy in the investment strategy the Oil Fund follows. ”
Other parties believe that it is not okay to make money from money lending to governments that grossly violate human rights and oppress their own population. What is your comment on that?
“If we go back a few years in time, most people were positive that changes were taking place during the Arab Spring – precisely because there was a need to develop democracy. Then the situation has swung back and forth. If the Oil Fund were to make its investments based on who is in power in that region, it would be very short-term. Then, in reality, they had to have withdrawn from the whole region, "Limi says.
Today, the Labor Party, the Right and the Frp are opposed to ethical guidelines for loans to other states.

Øystein Windstad
Former journalist at Ny Tid.

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