30 June 2011

A tisket, a tasket

You gotta love subtle minds, especially subtle political ones able to see nuances of meaning or the possibility you could rub your tummy and pat your head simultaneously.

That would be most definitely not like the political geniuses of the last decade -  Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale  - who always saw the world as consisting of two polar opposites:  what they wanted to do, and the pathway to complete destruction.  With Danny, his tendency to gainsay got to be especially funny since he was known to wind up arguing with himself on some major issues like Equalization.

The latest example is Kathy Dunderdale’s comments to the Telegram editorial board.  In the latest offering from that rich gold mine, Steve Bartlett tells us that Kathy Dunderdale has no time for any talk of a sovereign wealth fund.

For those who don’t know what that is, a sovereign wealth fund* would be what they do in smart countries, like Norway, to make sure their oil money continues to benefit the country long after the last drop of oil is gone. 

Basically, the Norwegians put a bit of their oil wealth into an investment fund and let it make more money for them.  They do lots of other things with their oil money, like build roads, bridges, tunnels and schools and such.  But they put some of it aside for a rainy day.

Now bear in mind the Norwegians have a shitload of oil and natural gas.  They are not really in danger of running out in the near future and there is always a good chance that all the exploration going on offshore Norway will turn up a few more gushers.

Still, they still thought it might be wise to start a rainy day fund. 

You know. 

Just in case.

And now several billion or trillion dollars later, they are doing just fine.

Some people have suggested the same idea here.  The most recent one is Wade Locke. Kathy thinks it is foolishness:

"People talk about a legacy fund all the time and we respond to that by saying, 'That's our legacy fund, the investment in infrastructure.' Because unless you have roads and wharves and hospitals and schools, your economy can't grow," she says.

There’s that binary thinking again.  No chance of doing more than one thing.  Sovereign wealth fund or infrastructure.  The word “and” is not in Kathy’s vocabulary.

One of the many things Kathy missed is that all those roads and wharves and hospitals and schools don’t really produce any money to pay for their own upkeep.  That’s especially true in a province like this one where the economy has grown increasingly less diverse over the Tory term of office. So it is great to spend a bunch of money on all that lovely infrastructure but if that is all you have done with the cash, you really haven’t done much in the long run.

The sensible answer would be to do several things with the oil money.  Invest some.  Spend some.  Pay down debt with some.  Build some infrastructure with some.

What Kathy and her mates have done is put all the province’s financial eggs into one basket.  It’s basically the same thing the Tories did with their own political leader:  one egg to rule the basket.  Sadly, when the time comes and the egg goes, as it inevitably will, all you wind up with is the sad case of …well…an empty basket.

And who really wants to be left with a basket case?

- srbp -

*  Paragraphing change and rewritten sentence to make it clear that the sentence after this mark wasn’t a comment made or or attributable to  KD.