Business as usual runs the information highway

Alex Harrold
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While waiting for a ride the other day in a local hotel lobby, I picked up a copy of the St. John's Board of Trade Business News magazine. There were a couple of articles that caught my eye in the brief time I had. Both writers addressed the issue of the underfunded public service pension, while one of them also made several general comments regarding the local economy.

Both articles contributed to reinforcing the notion that some business leaders in this province appear not to be able to put forward a balanced view of a provincial economy, as opposed to what the rest of us would call an Avalon Peninsula only economy. They can be forgiven. After all, the magazine is the business community's platform through which business interests and concerns, accomplishments and investments are communicated to the larger community.

The unfortunate part of this however, is that the disparity between their vision of the activities in the St. John's region and what goes on in the rest of the province reinforces and goes as far as to prove that such a disparity exists and continues unrecognized by the business community as a group. The folks on the Avalon never like to hear this and usually conclude that we're out to lunch out this way in our view of a disparity actually existing.

For the most part, I found the contents of the magazine instructive in demonstrating that some of the people in the business community we rely on to be leaders generally have a limited view of the provincial economy. At the very least, one might also say that they've had their head buried in business for so long, their view of things is tainted by their own, big city experiences.

An example of this is the statement that the unemployment rate in St. John's is hovering around the five per cent mark. There is no reason to doubt that is true. And, considering that our unemployment rate provincially at one time ran somewhere around 25 per cent, it appears miraculous that we could have come so far in the last 30 years. Conveniently lacking however is the knowledge that the provincial rate of unemployment is at 11 per cent. You don't have to be a math genius to figure out that in order for the provincial rate to be at 11 per cent as compared to the five per cent on the Avalon Peninsula, the unemployment rate for the rest of the province would have to be somewhere around 17 per cent.

Broadcasting to the world that the rate of unemployment in the St. John's area is at five percent through your communications device sends an incorrect and unbalanced message. The communities outside of the Avalon that have long decried the lack of any significant investment as a result of the good fortune of the offshore oil do not have a magazine through which such information can be communicated to the larger community. We are left with our letters to the editor, various editorials, complaints to government officials, and anything else we might muster individually to try to make both the St. John's business community and the citizens they serve, understand that what goes on in St. John's with respect to investments, infrastructure improvements, and a general well-being of its population is directly related to a resource that is supposed to benefit the entire province. Frankly, if they keep insisting that you are doing as well as them because of our oil wealth, they would be seriously misinformed.

I've run out of room to address the second issue of the underfunded public service pension plan. The problem anyway is that most of what could be said has been said over and over again with very little change. I just worry about a pension that is guaranteed to workers by governments that have a track record of using pension funds for something else and then is benefited by support from some in the business community when they try to convince the rest of us that the whole problem is the pensioners' fault. You have to read between the lines. Especially in magazines with a possibly lop-sided view of your life.

Geographic location: St. John's

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