Norwegian Language Blog

Oljefondet-Norway’s Government Pension Fund Posted by on Mar 10, 2010 in Norway and the world

Oljefondet is Europe’s largest pension fund and the world’s fourth largest.  It is a giant, we’re talking over 2.6 trillion dollars and that figure was taken as of year-end 2009, which, if you haven’t forgotten, was in the middle of a huge financial crisis that we are still recovering from!  So what exactly, you might ask, is Oljefondet?  Contrary to it’s name, it is not actually a pension fund since it’s wealth is not derived from pension contributions.  Nevertheless, the fund derives it’s financial backing from oil profits; it is a place to deposit surplus wealth from Norwegian petroleum.  About 15% of the fund is then invested, typically in the form of en obligasjon (an obligation, a debt), et gjeldsbrev (a written acknowledgement of debt, a promissory note) either to a foreign selskap (company) or et land (a country).  When Oljefondet owns other countries’ debt, technically Norway has loaned money to other governments.

Geography can mean a lot, can’t it?  Like the difference between a hop across the ocean to Iceland, a country lacking natural resources (except for abundant geothermal and hydroelectric power), at least compared to it’s Scandinavian neighbor Norway.  Norway and Iceland, geographically close to each other, culturally, historically, and linguistically similar, are drastically different in terms of wealth.  Norway’s natural resources are the source of her wealth. 

So why am I writing about Oljefondet at this particular time?  I just saw an article in Aftenposten online which reveals something interesting about the fund.  There are strenge etiske retningslinjer (strict ethical guidelines ) that are to be followed concerning the fund’s investments.  There are certain companies, for example Walmart, Phillip Morris, and Lockhead & Martin, that the fund will not invest in. Actually, there is quite a long list of excluded companies based on the nature of the companies.  Put simply, Norway does not want to invest money into companies that produce weapons or tobacco (namely, the 2 examples named above). 

In 2004, the Fund established “The Petroleum Fund’s Advisory Council on Ethics” to provide ethical guidance and oversee investments through an ethical lens.  So back to my question about why I am writing about this right now is because the Norwegian newspapers are starting to write articles about talk that there are completely betingelsesløse lån til stater (unconditional loans to countries), which becomes a problem when a country violates human rights ethics.  Therefore, there is much controversy right now about which countries and which companies the fund should and should not invest in.  Definitely a tough ethical challenge.  What do you think?  I encourage you to do a little research, check out the companies that are excluded from the fund’s investments and which companies the fund does invest in and then voice your opinion?  Should the investment of the fund become a politcal issue?

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Logan:

    what resources does Norway not have?

  2. BM:



  3. Moridin:

    2.6 trillion (american trillion, not european) kroner, not USD, so you can divide the number by 5 or 6 to get the dollar amount. Still a lot (about 1% of the worlds publicly traded stocks)