The difference in wealth creation between the two scenarios can largely be attributed to the pandemic and the reaction of society in the form of infection control measures, response by private actors, economic measures applied by the authorities, etc. According to our calculations, the COVID pandemic led to a reduction in mainland GDP of NOK 214 billion in 2019 money in the period February 2020 to November 2021, which at the time of writing is the last month for which national accounts figures have been published. In the period December 2021 to December 2023, value added measured in terms of GDP is forecast to be reduced by a further NOK 53 billion in 2019 money as a result of the pandemic. The projection is uncertain, and is based on Statistics Norway's projections in Economic Survey 2021/4, published on 3 December 2021.
Overall, we forecast that the total real economic costs of the pandemic in the period 2020–2023, measured in terms of lower GDP, will amount to around NOK 270 billion in 2019 money, equivalent to 8.6 per cent of mainland GDP for 2021.
Forecasts of the impact arrived at by means of the KVARTS model indicate that in 2020 and 2021 fiscal policy mitigated the fall in GDP to some extent. Extraordinary and discretionary measures in the form of support schemes for individuals, businesses and the non-profit sector, coupled with increased government grants, are estimated to have reduced the fall in mainland GDP by 0.6 per cent in 2020 and 0.8 per cent in 2021. The projection is subject to some strict assumptions, and may conceivably underestimate the impact to some extent. We have not considered the significance of the petroleum tax package.
The reduction in GDP attributable to the pandemic reflects only a portion of the overall costs of the pandemic. A number of important effects are not reflected in the decline in GDP. One important effect is that the composition of GDP has changed, in that some of the normal production activity has been replaced by activity designed to manage the pandemic and adapt activity to the pandemic and infection control measures. Management of and adaptation to the pandemic have been important for limiting the damage caused by the pandemic, but have not yielded the same wealth creation and welfare that would have resulted from normal activity. Another factor is that purchasers of goods and services would normally value them more highly than the price paid for them, such that the loss due to the product not being produced is greater than its actual price. This is designated lost consumer surplus, and in isolation leads to the socioeconomic loss being higher than the loss in terms of GDP.
The pandemic has also caused more extensive damage than that arising from reduced GDP, both economic and other societal damage such as reduced social contact, impact on health, disruption of education etc.