Several companies that received corona support from the state will send dividends to foreign owners. The party’s fiscal policy spokesperson, Hadia Tajik, says this is what they warned against last year.
– I would like to know what Jan Tore Sanner thinks now. We could easily have avoided this with a ban on dividends, but the right-wing parties thought this was not necessary, says Labor deputy Hadia Tajik.
Last weekend, E24 reported that the Louis Vuitton Norway store had a much smaller drop in turnover than first assumed during the pandemic.
The company, which in the first half of the year received NOK 893,091 in corona support , ended the year with a profit of NOK 40 million. The company writes in its annual report that it will pay dividends to its French owners.
– This was what we warned against and Sanner must take responsibility for this being the result.
Tajiks say it is mainly not the companies that are to be blamed, but the government.
– I hope that companies that against all odds have done well in 2020, and that intend to pay dividends, reconsider this. I still believe that the responsibility should not be individualized, it is the rules that there is something wrong with, she says.
The dividend ban
When the compensation scheme for companies was introduced, a dividend ban was not adopted, despite the fact that this was discussed, and was originally set as a requirement from the left.
In the end, the Storting, in addition to Rødt, advocated a broad scheme where companies could take dividends at the same time as receiving support.
– Could you wish that you stood even more on your hind legs when it came to the dividend ban?
– We were very clear that we wanted a dividend ban at the time, but it is only possible to get approval in the Storting with a majority, says Tajik.
Enriching individual owners was never the goal, she says.
– What about the arguments that dividends, for example, should be used for wealth tax?
– It was argued with the payment of wealth tax, but I experience this mainly as a political position. It is possible to postpone the payment of wealth tax, we have practical solutions for that, and in any case there are very few, says Tajik.
He does not share the Labor Party deputy leader’s views on the dividend ban.
– When Hadia Tajik thinks a dividend ban would solve anything, she misses, and it is a very naive proposal. A dividend ban is only a detailed management that is about time. In the event of a dividend ban, the companies could only wait to pay until the following year.
– Here she really misses, Sanner repeats.
Sanner stated earlier this year that it is “unacceptable” if cash support to companies goes to dividends.
– Are you still responsible for this?
– Some shareholders are dependent on dividends as salary, but I want to maintain that companies that receive public support must show moderation when paying bonuses and dividends.
Sanner says he can not mention individual companies, but believes that “the most important thing is to rejoice that the Norwegian economy has done well”.
– We have secured jobs and passed the stress test.
Calls for investigation
In the spring, E24 mapped how things have gone with the companies that have received support through the compensation scheme.
A total of 6,296 of the companies that received support have delivered a stronger positive annual result during the pandemic than the year before.
This is from 12,066 companies that have received support and that have so far submitted annual accounts.
A total of 8,683 companies that have received support, ie 71.96 per cent of those who have so far submitted annual accounts, made a profit and could therefore repay all or part of the support they have received.
Until now, as of mid-July, E24 has found a total of 29 companies with foreign owners that have received state aid and have decided on a dividend of NOK 400,000 to 130 million.
Magne Mogstad, who is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago, said in June that there should be a new commission that looks at spending money during the crisis.
– This commission should consist of competent professionals. Not interest organizations such as LO and NHO or the economists the Ministry of Finance likes to use, because they deliver the conclusion that is requested.
When asked if Tajik supports a similar investigation, she says:
– It will be natural to have an evaluation of how the money is spent.
Sanner believes that one must first see what the Corona Commission arrives at before drawing conclusions about new commissions, and adds that both the Office of the Auditor General and the Holden Group have evaluated the scheme during the crisis.
The scheme was cheaper than planned
Of the around 12 billion the state has paid out through the compensation scheme, just over NOK 50 million has been voluntarily repaid.
When asked if Sanner had expected that the sum of repayments would have been greater when so many companies have done well in 2020, he points out the government’s original budget.
– You must not forget that we had expected to spend far more money on this scheme. We have spent around 12 billion of the 50 billion we budgeted for. So I expect first and foremost that the rules are kept. But I want to pay tribute to those who have paid back, all credit to them, says the Minister of Finance.
– Could it be that one is less observant of the scheme because it became so much “cheaper” than expected?
– No. My responsibility as Minister of Finance is to take care of the use of money, and take care of the whole of the Norwegian economy, which so far has recovered well through this crisis.
Louis Vuitton says through its PR agency that the company has no comment on the case