A lo­cal so­lu­tion to un­em­ploy­ment

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

The over­all un­em­ploy­ment rate in New­found­land and Labrador is 13.1 per cent, in Nu­na­vat 12.3 per cent, in Canada 7.1 per cent, 4.1 per cent in Nor­way, and in In­dia, about 4.7 per cent (in terms of peo­ple ac­tively seek­ing jobs).

What is go­ing wrong in New­found­land?

Be­fore the to­tal col­lapse of the fish­eries in the early 1990s, New­found­land had two eco­nomic sys­tems: pro­duc­tiv­ity through fish­eries, farms and to a smaller ex­tent through things like car­pen­try, shoes, gloves, boats and sim­i­lar ma­te­ri­als; pub­lic sec­tor work (through health, ed­u­ca­tion and gov­er­nance). Af­ter the col­lapse, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment stepped in, poured in mil­lions of dol­lars to buy back the li­cences and fa­cil­i­tated the re­train­ing of peo­ple to do other things. Well and good.

Mean­while, the ex­ist­ing smallscale man­u­fac­tur­ing and food busi­nesses be­gan to die out be­cause of the in­cur­sion of cor­po­ra­tions sup­ply­ing things cheaply. Thus New­found­land stopped pro­duc­ing any­thing. Work is now ex­pected from cor­po­ra­tions al­most ex­clu­sively, and the skills and trades pro­grams bank on it.

Cor­po­ra­tions are not in­ter­ested in the well­be­ing of peo­ple and so- ci­eties, but only in profit, which is not the case with lo­cal pro­duc­tion es­tab­lish­ments. About three years ago, when the oil prices sky­rock­eted, the other cor­po­ra­tions sup­ply­ing items like milk and veg­eta­bles cor­re­spond­ingly in­creased their prices, be­cause their ‘trans­porta­tion costs’ went up.

Cor­po­ra­tions are not in­ter­ested in the well­be­ing of peo­ple and so­ci­eties, but only in profit, which is not the case with lo­cal pro­duc­tion es­tab­lish­ments.

Now the oil pro­duc­ers say their profit is not as high as be­fore be­cause the oil prices have gone down, but the other cor­po­ra­tions haven’t put their prices down, even though the ‘ trans­porta­tion costs’ are lesser. (It is rather hu­mor­ous in a macabre way that the inan­i­mate oil can make us dance to its er­ratic mu­sic!)

The moral of the story is that iso­lated is­lands like New­found­land, though part of Canada po­lit­i­cally, can­not de­pend on ex­ter­nal sources for the ba­sic needs of their peo­ple: work, food and shel­ter.

There could be more wood mills, small farms sup­ply­ing milk, veg­eta­bles and eggs, fac­to­ries can­ning and selling lo­cally caught fish, car­pen­try com­pa­nies mak­ing and re­pair­ing fur­ni­ture, and man­u­fac­tur­ers of leather goods (like the Terra Nova Shoes Co.). Gov­ern­ment can sub­si­dize lo­cal pro­duc­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers, if nec­es­sary, to com­pete with the prices of sim­i­lar things sold by multi­na­tion­als. More peo­ple will be em­ployed, and will also have the sat­is­fac­tion of do­ing some­thing for their own so­ci­ety.

Many of these things were and are be­ing done by In­dia. (A more ac­ces­si­ble ex­am­ple is Nor­way, which is sim­i­lar to New­found­land.) That is why their of­fi­cial un­em­ploy­ment rate is less than that of New­found­land.

Of course their ‘qual­ity of life’ and av­er­age life span may be less, if one equates qual­ity of life with av­er­age earn­ings per per­son. In my mind, a per­son who laughs more lives a life of bet­ter qual­ity than a per­son who laughs lit­tle. (Ed­u­ca­tion is a key as­pect of one’s qual­ity of life. That is to­tally an­other topic, and we should not test the pa­tience of the ed­i­tor or the reader!) K.S.Ra­madu­rai writes from Car­bon­ear

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