Norway was named the happiest country in the world according to the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a global initiative launched by the United Nations in 2012. Is it a coincidence that it also has the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund?
I want Western Australia to be the happiest State in the world. I live here, my children live here. Why not?
Indeed, Western Australia has a compatible resource base, our natural resource sales are similar, we have good education, unique nature and people with great attitude. The only point of difference I can find is State books. Norway has a net asset position of about US$128bn, i.e. the government’s total financial assets exceed the total debt. They borrow cheap to then re-invest. Australia, on the other hand, is US$392bn in debt, with Western Australia contributing US$31bn.
The only reason I see is a difference in what we pay attention to. Norway pays a lot of attention to what they want as a society and equality plays a large role in their values.
One glance at Western Australian press and it’s clear that we live in a constant stress over global corporations taking away jobs, fighting on tax, needing more support from government in terms of infrastructure, etc. The whole emphasis is on how can we make our State more convenient for corporations to operate in. Considering a number of mining projects, the EPA fines are low compare with the USA, for example, for the comparable states.
Norway seems to pay a lot of attention to what investors and companies can do for the society. They value financial independence over short-term resource sales. Hence, they have a very successful sovereign wealth fund. I bet this is a big factor in their happiness.