Norway is one of the world's richest countries in per capita terms. It has an important stake in promoting a liberal environment for foreign trade. Its large shipping fleet is one of the most modern among maritime nations. Metals, pulp and paper products, chemicals, shipbuilding, and fishing are the most significant traditional industries.
Norway's emergence as a major oil and gas producer in the mid-1970s transformed the economy. Large sums of investment capital poured into the offshore oil sector, leading to greater increases in Norwegian production costs and wages than in the rest of western Europe up to the time of the global recovery of the mid-1980s. The influx of oil revenue also permitted Norway to expand an already extensive social welfare system. Norway has established a state Petroleum Fund[?] which reached $67 billion at the end of 2001. The fund primarily will be used to help finance government programs once oil and gas resources become depleted. Norway is currently enjoying large foreign trade surpluses thanks to high oil prices. Unemployment remains currently low (3%-4% range), and the prospects for economic growth are encouraging thanks to the government's stimulative fiscal policy and economic recovery in the United States and Europe.
Norway voted against joining the European Union (EU) in a 1994 referendum. With the exception of the agricultural and fisheries sectors, however, Norway enjoys free trade with the EU under the framework of the European Economic Area. This agreement aims to apply the four freedoms of the EU's internal market (goods, persons, services, and capital) to Norway. As a result, Norway normally adopts and implements most EU directives. Norwegian monetary policy is aimed at maintaining a stable exchange rate for the krone against European currencies, of which the "Euro" is a key operating parameter. Norway is not a member of the EU's Economic and Monetary Union and does not have a fixed exchange rate. Its principle trading partners are in the EU; the United States ranks sixth.
Offshore hydrocarbon deposits were discovered in the 1960s, and development began in the 1970s. The growth of the petroleum sector has contributed significantly to Norwegian economic vitality. Current petroleum production capacity is more than 3 million barrels per day. Production has increased rapidly during the past several years as new fields are opened. Total production in 2001 was about 251 million cubic meters of oil equivalents, nearly 79% of which was crude oil. Hydropower provides nearly all of Norway's electricity, and all of the gas and most of the oil produced is exported. Production increased significantly in the 1990s as new fields come onstream.
Norway is the world's third-largest oil exporter and provides much of western Europe's crude oil and gas requirements. In 2001, Norwegian oil and gas exports accounted for 57% of total merchandise exports. In addition, offshore exploration and production have stimulated onshore economic activities. Foreign companies, including many American ones, participate actively in the petroleum sector.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $143 billion (2002 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 1.6% (2002 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $31,800 (2002 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
services: 67% (2000)
Population below poverty line: NA%
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 4.1%
highest 10%: 21.2% (1991)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 2.8% (1999 est.)
Labor force: 2.7 million (1999 est.)
Labor force - by occupation: services 74%, industry 22%, agriculture, forestry, and fishing 4% (1995)
Unemployment rate: 3.9% (2002 est.)
revenues: $71.7 billion
expenditures: $57.6 billion, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
Industrial production growth rate: 0.7% (1999 est.)
Electricity - production: 115.485 billion kWh (1998)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 0.58%
other: 0.26% (1998)
Electricity - exports: 4.4 TWh (1998)
Electricity - imports: 8 TWh (1998)
Exports: $47.3 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.)
Imports: $38.6 billion (f.o.b., 1999 est.)
Debt - external: $0 (Norway is a net external creditor)
Economic aid - donor: ODA, $1.4 billion (1998)
Exchange rates: Norwegian kroner (NKr) per US$1 - 8.0129 (January 2000), 7.7992 (1999), 7.5451 (1998), 7.0734 (1997), 6.4498 (1996), 6.3352 (1995)
Fiscal year: calendar year