Quick look back

The new media year begins as always with a scattering of studies and surveys to help put the recent past into perspective and numbers. Named the world’s best place to live and best place to visit in 2009, Norway also tends to compete in the ‘most expensive’ category.

The 2009 winner of the most expensive capital city in the world for foreigners to visit came as a surprise to me at least. Information bureau ECA International’s annual list had Angola’s capital Luanda on top, displacing a Moscow far cheaper last year thanks to a weakening ruble.

The next spots were more predictable, with Tokyo in second and Oslo third, so Norway can at least claim the most expensive capital city in Europe.

Looking back on the decade, Statistics Norway could reveal that the immigration population in Norway had nearly doubled over the past ten years. The report mapped a drastically evolving picture of immigration to the country, from a two percent immigrant population 40 years ago, to over 10 percent now with second generation children included.

In 1970, 70 percent of immigrants to Norway were from Nordic or Western European nations;  now they make up 20 percent. Around the same time, immigrant labor from Pakistan, Turkey and Morocco began to come in numbers, followed by waves of refugees, from Chile, Vietnam, through to the Balkans in the 1990s. The expansion of the European Union has been the latest development, with a new round of countries easily able to try their luck in the frosty north.

On the business front, while Norway has been relatively unharmed by the global financial crunch, there are some worrying signs. Though not all figures are in, 2009 is likely to have been a record-setter for bankruptcies and forced liquidations.

The target ‘to beat’ is the 2003 high-water mark of 6,342 failures. At the end of November 6,069 cases were noted by the Bankruptcy Register, so the odds are that the financial crisis will make 2009 a record year.

While Norway didn’t top the Reputation Institute‘s survey, their fifth place result is a vote of confidence. The study questions 22,000 citizens and businesspeople of the G8 nations about their impressions of other countries.

Norway was seen as a clean place with natural beauty, and an ordered, responsible and democratic society. The top four were Switzerland, Canada, Australia and Sweden. Now that I think about it, that fifth place must really burn when Sweden is number four.

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