Since the borders with Sweden were practically closed in mid-March, the debate about the effect of Swedish trade has been heated.
Both NHO and the trade organization Virke claim that the state earns billions from the increase in trade in Norway.
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– We do not have an exact figure, but it is certainly about between 10 and 20 billion kroner in increased revenue for the state. The increased VAT revenues on beer sales alone are around five billion, says the director of trade in Virke, Harald J. Andersen.
There has been a lot of uncertainty about the scope of the trade. On the basis of quarterly surveys, Statistics Norway has estimated that Norwegians trade in Swedish for NOK 16 billion over the course of a year.
At the same time, the Swedish trade organization Svensk Handel has estimated the sum at around NOK 25 billion, and that was in 2015.
Do not know the scope
The Ministry of Finance admits that the Norwegian authorities do not know the extent of Swedish trade.
– Now I will not make myself a judge of what the correct number here is, but we can hope that the corona situation can contribute to us getting a better overview of the total scope, says State Secretary Magnus Thue (H) in the Ministry of Finance.
In the autumn of 2018, the government announced that a border trade barometer would be in place, precisely to gain this knowledge. This is not currently the case, and the trade organization Virke reacts strongly to the fact that it has been so long.
– This information was actually promised to us in the White Paper on trade in the autumn of 2018, but it still shines with its absence. As far as we can understand, this is about a lack of willingness on the part of the government to set aside money and develop the barometer, says Andersen.
This is rejected by the Conservatives.
– I do not agree with that at all. Now we have completed a pilot, and then we will see if we will continue this on a permanent basis, says Thue.
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– The fees work against their purpose
Statistics Norway did a pilot project on a thorough border barometer for the month of September 2019. It showed that Norwegians traded for around NOK 2 billion in Sweden, this month alone, spread over 1.2 million trips across the border.
– More than half of the shopping basket was goods we want Ola and Kari to consume less of, such as alcohol, tobacco, snus, sweets and mineral water, points out the Virke director.
The high taxes on these goods in Norway are justified with regard to public health. Both Virke and NHO believe that the fees work against their purpose, if it is the case that Norwegians buy much more of it in Sweden than they would otherwise have done in Norway.
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– When we have sat in the car and driven to Sweden, we shop more than we otherwise would have done, and then we consume more of it. And then the tax level actually works against its purpose from a public health perspective, Andersen claims.
Do not know the consumption
The Ministry of Finance does not have an overview of the trading and consumption habits of Norwegians who shop in Sweden, but denies that the tax level works against its purpose.
– We do not have a figure for that, but higher taxes will probably lead to lower consumption. There are certainly those who hoard, but that overall it will lead to a higher consumption, I do not know anything that indicates, says Secretary of State Thue.
– Is it complicated or money-consuming to start such a border trade barometer?
– Of course it requires some money, but now we have to look at the surveys that have already been done and look at what added value such a limit barometer can provide.
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