Friday, May 2, 2014


Bjorn went into the kitchen first thing after being relieved from his duty, where he dropped off the two thermoses he had been using over at the kitchen sink. Ante was nowhere to be seen, which disappointed Bjorn a bit since he felt like talking to him about the strange incident with the woman and her daughter. Why would anyone drive all the way to Lundby with no passport and with no intention of leaving the village any time soon? It made no sense.

Bjorn made himself a sandwich, hoping that Ante would return while he was busy making it. However, Ante did not appear, so Bjorn took his sandwich and drifted into the living room in the hope of finding him there, but the only one there was Frank, watching the latest sports updates as usual.

Sensing Bjorn's presence, Frank turned and looked at him.

"So?" Frank asked, noticing how Bjorn seemed lost in his thoughts.
"Have you seen Ante?" Bjorn asked.
"Eh... There were quite a few people going in to Lundby to buy stuff today," Bjorn said, feeling a need to say something of substance.
"People have clearly discovered the low prices of everything down there."
"Yes. It is getting a bit out of hand," Frank concurred. "Trond has already reported this to Oslo."
"You know Trond! The guy in charge of the check point over at the port. People have really started to flock to Lundby for bargains. So much so that it is hurting local businesses in Kirkenes."
"It's that bad, is it?" Bjorn asked, seating himself in the chair next to Frank.
"It is, and I believe they take the problem quite seriously in Oslo."
"Silly mistake, wasn't it?" Bjorn asked, curious to hear what Frank thought of the legal loophole. "They should have seen this coming."
"It is always easy to see things clearly in retrospect," Frank observed. "I seriously doubt that anyone thought that Pedro would invite Pingo to set up shop in Lundby when they were negotiating this."

Bjorn nodded thoughtfully. "What do you think they had in mind?"
"Cheap labour for the fish processing plant and the iron mine, I guess," Frank suggested. "Which is exactly what they got, by the way."
Bjorn agreed. "It's a modern day gulag, isn't it?"
"Exactly! It is a capitalist version of what they had in the Soviet Union, which means that everyone is paid a minimum wage and left to fend for themselves, instead of getting food hand outs from the prison guards. And that's the crucial point that the bureaucrats in Oslo must have overlooked. A capitalist version of a gulag will have a grocery store in stead of food hand outs. And with Pedro not being obliged to levy taxes on behalf of the Norwegian government, Pingo's prices come out lower than those in Kirkenes and Neiden."

"And that was the deal, wasn't it?" Bjorn asked rhetorically after a bit of thinking. "Pedro agreed to take on responsibility for the asylum seekers on the condition that he would not have to answer to the government regarding anything but the basic human rights of the detainees."
"That was the deal," Frank confirmed. "And since Lundby was completely uninhabited at the time of the negotiations, the focus must have been entirely on the savings that the state could draw from the deal."
"And if anyone wondered what Pedro was hoping to get out of the deal, he could simply mention the cheap labour," Bjorn continued, expanding on Frank's thought.
"Exactly! They all knew full well that they were setting up a gulag. The bureaucrats simply assumed that it would be of the old fashioned kind. Their mistake was quite understandable, when you think about it."

Bjorn nodded in agreement. However, he still thought it hard to believe that the full consequence of the deal with Pedro was completely overlooked by the bureaucrats. Then, suddenly remembering Ane's insinuation that she had powerful stake holders in her business, people located in Oslo. He asked Frank if he thought that the oversight might have been at least partially deliberate, and that the lawmakers might have been corrupted in some way.

"That's of course always a possibility, especially with the politicians currently in charge," Frank said with a nod. "However, I don't think the oversight was very serious. All they need to do is to give us instructions to act as customs officers, and the problem will be solved."
"So, that's what you think they will do?" Bjorn asked, finding Frank's solution quite reasonable.
"I'm sure of it. However, as long as we have received no such instructions, we are in no position to start doing this yet."

Bjorn thought about the prospect of having his duties expanded. Then it struck him that the introduction of customs duties might affect his colleagues and him too. And if they suddenly had to pay duty on everything they bought in Lundby, their affluence would be gone, and they would be no better off than everyone else in the military. However, when Bjorn expressed this worry, Frank replied with a smile. "Well, I'm sure we will be able to find a way around such a situation. We're all good friends here after all, and no one would go rushing off anywhere to tell on us if we were to make an exception for ourselves."

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