Wednesday May 24, 2017

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Week Ahead

The future is next week

Lawmakers and business leaders in Greenland sit down to talk with, rather than at, each other
A voice from the present (Photo: Leiff Josefsen)

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Mention a biennial Arctic event taking place next week, and Fairbanks, Alaska, and the Arctic Council’s big meeting is likely to come to mind. But for those with ties to Greenland, and in particular those whose business is making money, Nuuk will be the place to be, as it hosts the fifth Future Greenland conference on May 9 and 10.

As in the past, the main point of this year’s gathering is to bring together political and commercial leaders in one room and get them to explain how they can help each other accomplish their goals.

Lawmakers, as ever, want businesses to create more jobs, and preferably of the sort that add value to the things that leave the country. Currently, this is just seafood products, but before long minerals will be added to the list. There are also a number of projects looking to export water and ice, as well as beer.

SEE RELATED: Expansion capital

Tourism, also a form of export, is another area where especially local leaders are hoping for a boom, but they say this will only happen if everyone works together.

For businesspeople, the message will be simple: spend less time on ideological discussions about independence and more time on making the country attractive to investment. Regular complaints about why it is not include a clay-footed bureaucracy, political instability and an often antagonistic attitude towards outside businesses.

Addressing these issues, businesses argue, will give the country the economic foundation that independence requires.

This is an opinion many voters, as well as some lawmakers, share; a recent poll indicated that while a majority support independence, most are happy to wait to step out on their own until doing so does not mean having to make to do with less.

SEE RELATED: Of the Arctic, by the Arctic, for the Arctic

Most of the outside input for the conference will come from Denmark, though Margrethe Vestager, Denmark’s former vice-PM who is now the EU competition commissioner, will be able to give a somewhat broader perspective of what it takes to make an economy run.

For the government, taking her, or anyone’s, advice, no matter how much it agrees with it, may not be so simple. The premier, for example, favours a go-slow approach, but there are important political factions, including within his own party, who, if given the choice, would pick poor and independent to rich and remaining a part of Denmark. For them, there is no time like the present for independence.

The government can argue it is doing something about this situation, including what appears to be an on-going purge of the most strident secessionists from positions of influence. In October, a coalition government that represents all but seven of the government’s 31 members was formed. This may make it possible to pass the sort of legislation that can stand up to changes in government. The construction’s days may be counted: a general election is due in 2018.

The future in Greenland is at least a year away.