While the job is open from March 1, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will first have to serve out his term at NATO, which runs until the end of September 2022.

Norway's government published a list of 22 candidates for the central bank job that includes Stoltenberg but also Norges Bank's deputy governor, Ida Wolden Bache, who is also considered a top contender.
Norway's government published a list of 22 candidates for the central bank job that includes Stoltenberg but also Norges Bank's deputy governor, Ida Wolden Bache, who is also considered a top contender. (AFP)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has applied to become Norway's next central bank governor, raising questions about the bank's independence from the government if he were to be appointed.

Stoltenberg and his main rival for the job, Norges Bank deputy governor Ida Wolden Bache, both said they had been encouraged by the government to apply on Tuesday.

"The finance ministry contacted me in November and asked whether I would consider applying for the position. I've done that now and this is a job I'm very motivated for," Stoltenberg told news agency NTB.

While the job is open from March 1, Stoltenberg would first have to serve out his term at NATO, which runs until the end of September 2022, he said.

The successful candidate will be in charge of setting interest rates as well as overseeing Norway's powerful sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest with assets of $1.4 trillion.

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Central bank independence

Stoltenberg, an economist by training and former leader of the Labour Party, was Norwegian prime minister from 2000-01 and 2005-13 before becoming NATO chief the following year. He has also been finance minister.

Stoltenberg's party currently rules Norway in coalition with the agrarian Centre Party.

Several opposition politicians have queried whether it would be appropriate for Stoltenberg to become central bank governor as it could call the bank's independence into question.

"We do not have a tradition for politicians to take up this position," Sveinung Rotevatn, deputy leader of the opposition Liberals, told public broadcaster NRK.

"It is very important that everyone trusts the central bank operates independently from day-to-day politics on everything from rate-setting to investments made by the wealth fund."

Stoltenberg said the Finance Ministry in Oslo clarified that his background "does not conflict with the central bank’s rules on who can hold this position.”

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Only woman applicant

First-deputy governor Wolden Bache, seen by many economists as a leading contender, said she had applied "following a dialogue with the finance ministry".

She holds a doctorate in economics and was previously executive director of monetary policy for four years and head of financial stability for one year.

If appointed, she would become the first woman to run Norges Bank since its inception more than two centuries ago.

The current governor of Norges Bank, Oeystein Olsen, is retiring in early 2022 after holding the position since January 1, 2011 for two terms.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies