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Economic independence and political autonomy.

What will it take?

 

Future Greenland 2019 is the sixth in the series of Future Greenland conferences that the Greenland Business Association holds every second year in the beautiful Katuaq cultural centre in Nuuk.

Future Greenland is Greenland’s largest business conference, with around 450 participants engaging in lively debates and side events. The conference attracts a very broad circle of people interested in social issues, companies, politicians from Greenland’s government and municipalities, officials, students and participants from Canada, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Scandinavia and elsewhere.

The conference is broadcast live on KNR, the Greenlandic national television channel, and can also be followed on the net, with online streaming from the debates and side events. In this way, the Greenland Business Association underlines the fact that the conference is open to all stakeholders and decision-makers who are willing to participate in a committed and inspiring debate on the goals and directions of Greenland’s development.

On 13 May 2019, the Greenland Business Association is also hosting a B-2-B event at the Hotel Hans Egede, in which all interested companies are invited to participate and establish links with relevant networks.

The purpose of the conference

The purpose of the conference is to anchor the social debate on the development of Greenland more firmly in a common recognition of the fact that we cannot create the necessary economic growth without a healthy business community, more private companies and greater exports.

Economic growth requires political reforms that will create a favourable business climate. If we fail in this, we will be unable to pay for the many and growing demands of citizens upon the welfare state, and Greenland’s political freedom of action will be impaired.

Commercial enterprises, a larger private sector, more entrepreneurs and investments in new industries such as mineral resources and tourism, together with improved infrastructure, are key drivers of economic development.

Consequently, business policy must be given a more central place on the political agenda, and a political response must be found to the greatest challenge facing the business community right now – the increasing shortage of labour.

Under the heading “Education is Greenland’s most important resource”, the Greenland Business Association has therefore entered into a partnership with IMAK, the teachers’ organisation, in order to be more involved in the political reform work of creating better primary schools.

We have a great need for many more children and young people to acquire the necessary skills through their primary schooling to be able to complete the qualifying programmes of vocational training that are so much in demand – both among companies and for important social functions in the public sector.

In addition to the education theme, the conference’s title also refers to what politicians, businesspeople and other important stakeholders can do together to realise Greenland’s ambition of greater economic independence.

A much stronger national economy is the basic prerequisite for achieving greater political autonomy, both within the possibilities of the current framework of the Government of Greenland, and especially if the vision of Greenland as an independent nation is to be realised.

What do the words ‘economic independence’ and ‘political autonomy’ really mean?

What does economic independence mean in an increasingly globalised world, in which the trade of all countries in goods and services and the increasing mobility of labour makes everyone dependent on everyone else, and the giants on the internet cross all borders? What kind of economic growth would be required for the national treasury to be able to manage without external financial support? How large is the welfare gap, with and without block subsidies? How much more skilled and diligent will we all have to be? What conditions will foreign investors impose, if they are to be willing to take on commercial risks?

What does political autonomy mean, if a country cannot be economically independent? What is autonomy in a world of different regional, national security and trade policy interests and alliances? Where can Greenland find its rightful place, with its vast land area, its many unutilised resources and its tiny population? How do we find the right partners, and what alliances should we enter into? Is the Danish Commonwealth in or out, when we speak of political autonomy?

These concepts are often bandied about without any clarity in the public debate, and even if we can more or less agree on what the words themselves mean, what will be really be required in concrete terms in order to allow Greenland to one day declare itself economically independent and politically autonomous?

With these questions, the choice of the heading for Future Greenland 2019 opens up the possibility of a debate on a series of themes and issues – a debate that could not be more relevant than it is right now.

This is an important debate, in which the Greenland Business Association wishes to participate on behalf of many Greenlandic companies, and it is a debate that we, together with other interested parties, wish to strengthen with “Future Greenland 2019”, because we need as many people as possible to get involved in the discussion of how, together, we will shape Greenland’s future.

With Future Greenland 2019, we are thus once again emphasising that conditions for the business community cannot be viewed in isolation from the broad developments in society, but that all considerations of political reform, including the establishment of a constitutional commission, will have an effect on everyday business life. It is a matter of the future framework conditions for the companies.

Contents of the conference

Day 1, on 14 May will deal with the concept of political autonomy.

What political ideas lie behind the ambition of Greenland becoming an independent country? How far is the distance from Greenland’s political freedom of action today, within the Act on Greenland Self-Government, to the possibility of leaving the Danish Commonwealth and establishing an independent state with its own constitution?

What models are possible on the pathway from self-government to independence? What do terms like “free association” really mean?

What is Greenland’s current security policy foundation, in partnership with Denmark and under the protection of NATO? What will be the security policy doctrine of an independent Greenland? Who will take care of and pay for the current civilian tasks performed by the defence forces?

How will Greenland build up the social institutions required by an independent country? Can we copy the administrative structures of other countries, or are there any other solutions? Is the population large enough to solve all the tasks a state has to perform? How large will the public sector be?

Day 2, on 15 May will deal with the concept of economic independence.

Greenland has rich resources in the sea and underground, and possesses great potential as a tourist destination. Our fishing industry is efficient and generates a high income for society, but the country’s unilateral dependence on seafood exports must be supplemented by revenues from tourism and exports of raw materials, etc. The dependence on exports and the need to import consumer goods, fuels, machinery, building materials, etc., leaves the economy of Greenland open and vulnerable to international economic cycles.

The development of new industries, such as in mining and the tourism sector, will require foreign capital, skills and labour, while the level of education in the domestic workforce, two-thirds of whom do not have a qualifying vocational education, must be significantly improved. Otherwise, local businesses and the country’s citizens will become mere observers to the developments.

Greenland has one of the world’s largest public sectors: Even before the Act on Self-Government opened up the possibility of transferring administrative areas to Greenland, the public sector occupied 40% of the workforce.

All else being equal, the plans for self-determination will imply a growing public sector – competing for labour with the private sector, which will be required to finance an increased tax burden for the new public tasks currently paid for by the Danish state.

How much economic growth will be required in the private sector, and how much growth will be required in exports, to allow the country to replace the block grant with its own new tax revenues? What will it cost to operate the remaining state functions in an independent Greenland? Are we prepared to earn a lower gross national income per inhabitant, compared to, for example, Scandinavia?

How can the private sector be strengthened to generate the necessary growth – in competition with the growing public sector?

How do we realise the enormous potential of a better-trained workforce? How do we improve the quality and output of the education system?

On the basis of a number of plenary presentations, four side events will be organised on each conference day, at which conference participants will have an opportunity to go into depth with several of the issues raised.

The format for the conference will be plenary presentations and debates in the hall and panels, plus approximately eight side events in the afternoons. The conference languages will be Greenlandic, Danish and English, with simultaneous interpretation available.

The conference MC will be Martin Breum.