19 July 2008

Wanted: an entrepreneur

There's no small irony that Bond Papers has been serialising the 1992 Strategic Economic Plan these past few weeks and at the same time, Brian Dobbin takes a swipe at Newfoundland and Labrador as he pulls his cash out of the Independent.

The irony is not so much in Dobbin's rant. That after all is a fairly typical BD one, built as much on myth and fantasy as anything else.

The the truly striking contrast is between the reality of government policy since 1992 and the policy advocated by a supposed entrepreneur.

To do this we need government support financially for those dreamers who will create the industry that will give our children rewarding lives here when the oil runs out …
or in another spot:
I don’t expect our board will accept that kind of capital expenditure in the future on something they rightfully see as the province’s job.

The job of government in Brian Dobbin's universe is to spend scarce public cash on private sector business ventures. How novel an idea in the history of this place.

In order to do this, we must do away with the current system of government, according to Dobbin and replace it with something else. We'll leave aside Dobbin's laughable claims that this is a "barren place to try to grow significant industry."

By contrast the 1992 strategic economic plan is built explicitly on the premise that the bright economic future of our province would be built on a foundation of innovation from the private sector. Novel ideas, backed by sound business plans, would succeed.

There'd even be government money handed out by professionals. These people, removed from the partisan influences of the day would assess projects and invest in them where some others might not.

Gone though, would be the days Dobbin pines for, the days when limitless millions were poured into one ludicrous scheme after another based on the direction of a premier elected safely for a lengthy period and a blew to hand pick whomever he wanted to sit in cabinet.

Gone would be the rubber boot factories. Gone too the cucumber plants and the oil refineries bolstered by public cash either as direct investments or as loan guarantees. Gone was any suggestion that the role of government was to prop up the local business sector

Gone too would be any suggestion that it is the responsibility of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to pay cash to a private company so that rich foreigners could come here at a discount.

Yet, that is what Dobbin advocates and with as straight a face as there is.

Give it some thought.

Then realise that what Dobbin advocates is what his country-men and -women rejected in 1948. They rejected a small country dominated by local business interests in which the economic affairs of the country were arranged to the benefit of the handful and the detriment of the majority.

Some will undoubtedly see right away the familiar message wrapped now as it was then in a flag of patriotism. Let no one forget the connection between a certain brand of local patriotism and certain narrow business interests.

Give that some thought.

As a last word to young Mr. Dobbin: Best of luck in your future ventures.

At least, we won't have to put up with yet another self-proclaimed nationalist slagging off the province and its people at the drop of a hat.