From the Financial Times:
Today, al-Kasim is well known and liked within the older generation of Norway’s oil community (for whom his impromptu visit to the Ministry in May 1968 has entered the folklore). Beyond that limited circle, however, he is virtually unknown. The big newspapers have not profiled him; an internet search reveals little. I first learned of his story by coincidence, when a Norwegian development official mentioned him in an off-hand remark. The government has an ambitious aid programme (now called “Oil for Development”) to help poor, oil-rich states manage their natural resources. The official pointed out the irony in this, given that “it was an Iraqi guy who helped us set everything up in the first place. Without him we would just have let the American oil companies decide how to do things.” What a great story, I thought, almost too good to be true. But if it was true, how come so few people in Norway knew about it?
Time for people to learn about the Iraqi who saved Norway from the misery of other oil states, Farouk al-Kasim. As the article notes, “Farouk is perhaps the greatest value creator Norway has had.”
For the most part, you wouldn’t know an economic crisis is going on across the world. Sure, Statoil’s profits are way down, but unemployment and wage growth still look great compared to the rest of the world:
OSLO, Feb 16 (Reuters) – Norwegian wage growth is seen moderating in 2009 after years of brisk increases as the labour market weakens, economists said on Monday following a state commission’s estimate of the impact on 2009 wages from pay hikes last year.
Unemployment is rising in Norway because of the global economic downturn, but remains low by international standards. Registered joblessness rose to 2.6 percent of the workforce in January from 2.0 percent in December.
While I have heard people mention the economic crisis, it certainly hasn’t impacted the lives of most Norwegians. Although, perhaps there is a bit more to come if law firms are giving talks like this one.
With oil prices in free fall, OPEC has urged Norway to cut production. Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said that ain’t happening.
“Norway makes its own evaluations on an independent basis,” Støre said. He said Norwegian officials “of course” consult others, “but it’s Norway alone that makes these kinds of decisions.”
Translation: our state sovereignty is more important than trying to prop up oil prices.
(Coincidentally?) StatoilHydro announced new oil discoveries in its Visund field in the North Sea.
While Norwegians do not believe that everyone is honest and pure of heart, they certainly do trust people in positions of power much more than Americans. As a result of this, two things happen whenever an event happens that challenges this trust:
- Norwegians seem surprised that it occurred and wish to find out how the individuals went astray.
- I smile. Both for reasons that a teacher smiles when a student gives an amusing but naive answer and for reasons of schadenfreude.
I should add, however, that I’m not claiming to be an expert in corruption. This comparison to naivety is more like a hazing ritual in a fraternity. A “welcome to club” so to speak from a maybe-still-a-superpower familiar with corruption to a small ally.
With that in mind, from the International Herald Tribune:
2 StatoilHydro executives resign in Libya case
OSLO, Norway: Executive vice presidents Tore Torvund and Morten Ruud resigned from Norwegian state-controlled oil company StatoilHydro ASA’s top management Tuesday as a result of a probe into possible corruption in Libyan oil contracts.
Concern about the contracts arose a year ago, when Statoil ASA took over the oil and gas unit of Norwegian rival Norsk Hydro ASA to form StatoilHydro. Both companies ordered separate investigations into millions of dollars worth of questionable payments.
Torvund, who was StatoilHydro’s vice president for Norwegian exploration and production, and Ruud, who was vice president for projects, both came from Norsk Hydro. The reports did not detail their involvement in the contracts.
They were being assigned other jobs in StatoilHydro, a news release said.
This comes on the heels of one of the more humorous doping accounts from the Beijing Olympics.