Can a Country Save Too Much? The Case of Norway

Policy Brief
18-7
March 2018
Photo Credit: 
REUTERS/Marit Hommedal

Many countries have squandered their natural resource endowments. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank routinely hector developing economies to save and invest more of their revenues from resources such as oil and gold for the benefit of future generations after the resources run out. But, can a country save too much of its resource revenues? Gagnon argues that since the first capital transfers to its Government Pension Fund Global in 1996, Norway has saved more than was needed to raise consumption of all generations equally. Norway’s excess saving imposes a cost on the rest of the world during periods of weak aggregate demand and ultralow interest rates. Gagnon proposes a counterfactual saving policy that would have increased Norway’s household consumption by nearly 9 percent on average from 1996 through 2017. The proposed policy would have reduced Norway’s current account surplus by more than one-third, or $13 billion per year on average, from 1996 through 2017. Even now, Norway could raise current consumption by more than US$2,000 per capita, while keeping the contribution of oil wealth to future generations equally large.

Data Disclosure: 

The data underlying this analysis are available here [zip].