Though plagued with flu and taking place largely in darkness, the recent visit to Norway by Members of the Legislative Assembly and senior government officials appears to have produced encouraging results and shone some light on possible developments in the Falkland Islands, according to MLA Dick Sawle.
MLA Sawle said that the Norway visit had “two strands”. One of these was to study the Norwegian approach to the regulation and development of the oil industry, which was the particular focus of fellow MLA Dr Barry Elsby, and the other, which was of particular relevance to his own portfolio responsibilities was to do with port infrastructure.
Besides MLAs Sawle and Elsby, the Falkland Islands Government delegation consisted of the Director of Mineral Resources Stephen Luxton, Chief Executive Keith Padgett, Financial Secretary Nicola Granger and Director of Central Services Simon Fletcher.
Head of Policy, Jamie Fotheringham, was to have accompanied the group, but was prevented by illness. According to MLA Sawle, nearly every other member of the delegation suffered from flu at some time during the visit.
MLA Sawle told Penguin News that much of the delegation’s time was spent talking to the Norwegian Department of Petroleum and Energy. The aim was to learn how the Norwegian Government had managed oil exploration and oil development and the type of relationships with oil companies that this had demanded.
Also of interest was how the Norwegian Government had managed the wealth which had proceeded from their natural resource. There were, said MLA Sawle, some “very key messages” that emerged from the Norwegian experience; “they had made a few mistakes in the early years and had learned from those. It was important that we got the most we could out of their experience.”
According to MLA Sawle, one of the key things learned was the need for clarity on the part of government in its dealings with oil companies, particularly in the sense of clear legislation, so that the oil companies could know precisely what was required of them, thus avoiding the need for excessive negotiation.
With regard to his Trade and Industry portfolio, MLA Sawle said that it was interesting to observe in Norway how the oil industry had created a ripple effect throughout the economy, with the growth of subsidiary companies. This had already been seen in the Falklands to some extent, but would increase hugely when the phase of oil development arrives.
Referring to the way Norway had managed oil wealth, MLA Sawle said that they realised that any natural resource such as oil was finite therefore it was very important from a budgetary point of view that all those nonrecurring revenues arising from it, should not be spent as they arrived.
The Norwegians had created a Sovereign Wealth Fund, from which a certain percentage each year could be allocated to whatever projects might be considered desirable.
With regard to the particular focus of his own visit, MLA Sawle said that his visit to Hammerfest, which at 70° North is perpetually dark at this time of year, during the Norwegian Winter, had shown that the Norwegians were able to carry on building port infrastructure all year round.
In Stavanger and Hammerfest, MLA Sawle was encouraged to find that the Norwegians were employing similar port construction techniques to those envisaged for the Falklands.
Conversations with the port authorities were interesting, said MLA Sawle, because although Norway is a very expensive country, the costs of building their ports were a lot lower than some of the “vague” estimates given for port construction in the Falklands.
Finally MLA Sawle said that one lesson from Norway was the need to maintain clear and open communications between government and the community.
To this end, a full report on the Norway visit is being prepared by Stephen Luxton and will be made public. (PN)