Social and economic studies 113
History of national accounts in Norway
From free research to statistics regulated by law
The first phase of the history of national accounts in Norway started in the 1930s when Professor Ragnar Frisch at the University of Oslo tried to design a general national accounting system. The National Accounts Unit was established in Statistics Norway in 1946 and was led by Odd Aukrust. The empirical results were first published in 1952 and covered the periods 1930-1939 and 1946-1951.
Already in the pioneering years of Frisch and Aukrust there was the standpoint that "real phenomena" was what mattered. It also reflected the particular interest public authorities showed in the real flows in economy. The statistical base early became considerably better for production statistics than for income and financial statistics. Therefore, the production approach was the main approach for calculating GDP. Norway is one of few countries that very early (since 1952) had input-output tables integrated in the annual national accounts. They played a considerable analytical role in the economic models constructed by Statistics Norway in the 1960s and later, as an empirical basis for use in the work on national budgeting and macroeconomic planning as a whole.
The first estimates from quarterly national accounts were published in 1953, but were temporarily stopped in the 1970s. A new model for the quarterly national accounts was developed at the beginning of the 1980s and has been used since 1985. The quarterly national accounts have been given high priority in the last decades and are now an important statistical basis for analyses of business cycles and economic forecasts both inside and outside Statistics Norway.
Statistics Norway has carried out six main revisions of the national accounts, including the last one published in 2011. The 1973 and 1995 revisions were the most important ones. The 1995 revision focused on implementing 1993 SNA and ESA 1995. Norway had an obligation to implement ESA 1995 according to the European Economic Area Agreement. The 1995 revision amended quite considerably earlier estimates; gross domestic product was revised upwards by about 10 per cent.
The first regional national accounts were published in 1970, and yearly from 1997. Statistics Norway started in the 1990s to construct and publish results from health satellite accounts, tourism satellite accounts and satellite accounts for economy and environment.
The oil industry, entering the Norwegian economy in the 1970s, has created challenges to the national accounts, in terms of compilation principles. Major changes in the oil price contributed to base-year-problems in the volume calculations in the 1980s. GDP Mainland Norway (GDP exclusive the oil and ocean transportation industries) has become an important and frequently used variable in the Norwegian national accounts.
Statistics Norway has participated actively in the processes of revising the international standards of the national accounts and other international meetings discussing accounting principles. Many Norwegian experts have worked in various projects to improve national accounts in developing countries (chapter 9).