The Norwegian economy is generally characterized as a mixed economy - a capitalist market economy with a clear component of state influence.
As in the rest of Western Europe, the expansion of most industry in Norway has largely been governed by private property rights and the private sector. Nevertheless, some industrial activities are owned or run by the state. State ownership and the regulation of the private sector serve to classify Norway as a mixture of market and planned economy. State administration takes the form of taxation, duties and subsidies. It is also evident in licensing schemes and the regulation of elements such as the working environment, accounting procedures, pollution and products. During the 1990s, state ownership of industry became more focused on purely financial investments.
The industrial sector is mainly under private ownership, but the state is the largest owner of some of Norway’s largest corporations, such as Statoil and Norsk Hydro. Statoil (the Norwegian state-owned oil company) occupies a dominant position in Norway’s subsea oil industry, as well as in the petro-chemical, oil refining and oil marketing industries. Agriculture and fisheries are in private hands, apart from the approximately ten per cent of productive forestry land owned by the state.
The state has been a significant owner of hydropower stations and electricity plants. Although the state has a monopoly on railways and the postal service, the state-owned companies that have been established have been granted freer rein, which in turn implies that they are increasingly exposed to competitive forces.
State involvement in Norwegian industry is gradually declining in keeping with the deregulation and privatization processes taking place throughout the industrialized world.