NORWAY - The Norwegian Ministry of Finance’s new asset management department overseeing the state pension funds launches this month.

The Asset Management Department is headed by Director General Martin Skancke, the ministry says. He was formerly Director General of the Office of the Norwegian Prime Minister and was involved in the setting up of the Petroleum Fund in 1996.

“The department is responsible for the Ministry’s work on the Government Pension Fund.” This comprises the Government Pension Fund - Global (the former Petroleum Fund) and the Government Pension Fund - Norway.

The ministry is responsible for the funds, though the operational management is delegated to the central bank, Norges Bank, and the National Insurance Scheme Fund respectively.

“The work on strengthening the management of the funds is central to the Ministry of Finance, and that is why the Asset Management Department was established,” the ministry added.

“The department’s responsibilities include investment strategy for the funds, evaluation of the operational management by Norges Bank and the National Insurance Scheme Fund, and development and implementation of ethical guidelines for the Government Pension Fund - Global.

“The ambition of the Ministry of Finance is for the Government Pension Fund to be the best managed fund in the world.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Finance said that KerrMcGee Corp. now no longer excluded from the Government Pension Fund - Global, based on a recommendation from the Council on Ethics for the Fund.

“In its recommendation, the Council refers to the fact that KerrMcGee has ceased the activities which were the basis for the exclusion of the company in 2005.”

Norges Bank also said today that it would buy foreign exchange equivalent to NOK850m per day for the Government Pension Fund - Global.