Nordic Welfare States Are Poorest in Europe
In Oslo, library collections are woefully outdated, and public swimming pools are in desperate need of maintenance. News reports describe serious shortages of police officers and school supplies. When my mother-in-law went to an emergency room recently, the hospital was out of cough medicine. Drug addicts crowd downtown Oslo streets, but applicants for methadone programs are put on a months-long waiting list.
Even the humblest of meals - a large pizza delivered from Oslo's most popular pizza joint - will run from $34 to $48, including delivery fee and a 25% value added tax. In Norwegian pubs, anyone rich or insane enough to order a gin and tonic is charged about $15 for a few teaspoons of gin at the bottom of a glass of tonic.
Groceries aren't cheap, either. Every weekend, armies of Norwegians drive to Sweden to stock up at supermarkets that are a bargain only by Norwegian standards. And this isn't a great solution, either, since gasoline (in this oil-exporting nation) costs more than $6 a gallon.
A study by international accounting firm KPMG reported that when disposable income was adjusted for cost of living, Scandinavians were the poorest people in Western Europe.
Read more of the NY Times article "We're Rich, You're Not. End of Story," (from April 17, 2005)