Thursday May 25, 2017

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The View from Copenhagen
Michael Keldsen
The View from Copenhagen

Greenland and the wolf

We’ve heard before that Greenland needs to reform its economy. Before long, someone is bound to listen
The pose that launched an overstated headline (Photo: Lieff Josefsen)

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You probably all familiar with the story Peter and the Wolf. You know, the one about the boy who cried “wolf!” so many times when there wasn’t one, that the one time a real wolf did come, no-one believed him.

Well, what you may not know is that Greenland has its own economic version on the story. Most recently, we saw Børsen, a Danish financial daily, cry wolf this summer. As part of a series of articles about the country’s economy this simmer, it ran one headlined “Greenland three years from economic collapse”.

The article resulted, as imagined, in a broad range of reactions, everything from indignation to applause, and unfortunately, silence from those who should have spoken up.

The headline was based on comments by Torben M Andersen (pictured above), an economist who heads an independent panel that advises the elected government. Mr Andersen, however, later made it clear that the newspaper had exaggerated his comments. What he actually says he told them was that within the next two or three years it will be important for Greenland to undertake the political process that will lead to the economic reforms that will eventually result in the development of an economic that is autonomous from Denmark’s.

SEE RELATED: Reform, reform, reform

It is, of course, important to set the record straight. But, when it comes right down to it, regardless of whose version is more accurate, no-one disagrees about the underlying message: that reforms are needed. This is something everyone agrees on, and the last thing we need right now is a debate over semantics to distract us from the work required to bring them about.

Instead, what we need is for Inatsisartut, the national assembly, and Naalakkersuisut, the elected government, to take the matter seriously and start doing something to fix the situation. It is also vital that they make sure voters know what their plan is; if Greenlanders don’t understand how dire the situation is, then it will make the job of passing reforms difficult, if not impossible.

The first people to feel the effect of a failure to reform will be voters, but ultimately it is elected officials and the entire political system that will lose the mandate to govern. Other problems we can expect include Greenland’s marginalisation internationally, a fall in the standard of living, more social inequality, increasing emigration and an unhealthy internal migration pattern.

This isn’t the first time a Peter has cried wolf about the Greenlandic economy. The worry is that if they don’t do something now, it may soon be too late for him to cry wolf again.

The author is a Danish barrister and a columnist for Sermtisiaq newspaper, which is owned by this website’s parent company.