The Sunday Magazine

Farouk al Kasim: the man behind Norway's oil wealth

Like Canada and the United States, Norway has a very lucrative oil and gas industry. But unlike those two countries, Norway did not use its resource wealth to pay for hefty tax cuts or social programs. Instead, the Scandinavian country squirrelled its money away in a sovereign wealth fund for future generations.
(AP Photo/Scanpix, Statoil)

Like Canada and the United States, Norway has a very lucrative oil and gas industry. But unlike those two countries, Norway did not use its resource wealth to pay for hefty tax cuts or social programs.  Instead, the Scandinavian country squirrelled its money away in a sovereign wealth fund for future generations. And today -- less than 25 years since its inception -- that nest egg has grown into the world's most valuable sovereign wealth fund, worth almost $850 billion.

It is the envy of the world.

Meanwhile, the Alberta Heritage Fund, which is 14 years older, is worth about $17 billion; the Alaska Permanent Fund sits at $50 billion; neither of them chump change, but a tiny fraction of the wealth Norway has amassed.

And perhaps most remarkable of all, much of the credit for Norway's phenomenal success with its oil fund, belongs to a geologist from Iraq, although he is loathe to take too much of the credit.

It was 1968, and Farouk al Kasim was struggling with an important decision that would change his life, and that of his young family. What he didn't know at the time was that it would have such a profound impact on Norway's future as well. 

Farouk al-Kasim spoke to Michael Enright from a radio studio in Stavanger, Norway.
Geologist Farouk al Kasim helped mastermind Norway's management of its oil reserves. (Corinne Seminoff CBC News)

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