Addressing the long-term challenges

Despite substantial income from petroleum wealth, Norway is nevertheless confronted with fiscal challenges in the long term. The number of older persons (aged 67 and above) is projected to almost double by 2060, making this age group as large as 40% of the working-age population. Because the bulk of net public transfers goes to older people, government expenditures will increase sharply in the absence of reform. On this basis, the Norwegian authorities currently estimate a long-term fiscal gap, defined as the difference between the structural non-oil deficit and the expected return on the Government Pension Fund Global, of about 6% of mainland GDP in 2060. In other words, by 2060, fiscal measures to increase revenues or reduce expenditures in the amount of 6% of GDP are needed to secure the sustainability of public finances. These estimates are surrounded with uncertainty and rely on a number of stylized assumptions, but taken at face value they imply that major policy changes are required, so as to avoid an undesirable increase in the tax pressure. Completing the pension reform and reforming the disability and sickness leave schemes, which are both crucial for achieving strong labour participation in the future, would make important contributions. In addition, this chapter argues that there is a large unexploited potential for providing effective public services at lower costs, notably in the areas of municipal services, such as education, health but also in tax expenditures.

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