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26.2.09

Weathering the Storm and after...

Editorial taken from Mebyon Kernows publication - Cornish Nation:

The economic downturn is showing no signs of abating. Prominent local firm Fitzgerald Lighting at Bodmin has gone into administration with the loss of 300 jobs and more jobs on the High Street are being lost as established firms, such as Woolworths, have gone out of business. Many long-standing local businesses are meanwhile reporting serious difficulties.

At the same time, public services in Cornwall are under terrible threats with the Treasury recently announcing that it is to close three local tax offices at Launceston, Penzance and Truro.

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics meanwhile show that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is still the poorest part of the United Kingdom. Cornwall’s economic performance for 2006 (the latest year for which figures are avaliable) shows a GVA (Gross Value Added) that is only 63% of the UK average. This compares to 279% in inner London, 136% in Berks, Bucks & Oxon and 130% in NE Scotland. A further report by the GMB union shows that the average wage for Cornish workers is only 75% of the UK average.

This continuing low level of economic activity means that central government must accept its responsibility to recognise Cornwall as a priority area for support.

Gordon Brown’s much-vaunted plans to invest in selected sectors, such as environmental technologies, advanced manufacturing, healthcare and education, will mean nothing to the people of Cornwall if investment continues to remain focussed on london and SE England.

Labour announcements in recent weeks have done nothing to suggest that this will change. All the talk is of an unpopular third runway at Heathrow, the 2012 London Olympics being an “important job creator and growth generator” and other infrastructure improvements in large cities.

Cornwall merits its fair share of investment at this time to stimulate activity in the local economy and create jobs, with targeted support for small businesses and initiatives to boost the lot of low-paid workers.
What can I add? Well it certainly doesn’t help if the Treasury pockets £25m of funding that should have gone to Cornwall. More on this later but for starters there’s this question from MP Julia Goldsworthy. Equally it's all well and good Gordon yappin on about health care, technology, environment and other typically populist topics, but without a fully coordinated EU wide re-launch money spent in one state will simply flow into neighbouring states who are 'waiting' to re-launch later. However perhaps now is the time to press for a Green Recovery.

Sparked by the recession various debates on Cornwall 24 have treated the questions: What alternatives to capitalism do we have? Would they work for Cornwall? I suspect I’m going to disappoint but not surprise. Possible directions to follow but no answers.

Of course individuals can support the Cornish economy through buying Cornish and to this end a clear labelling system for all local / Cornish goods and services is indispensable. Cornish Credit Unions and other schemes such as LETS, Time Banking, Freecycle and Local Currencies also give us the possibility to support local business and reinforce our communities. Are they the answer to all of Kernow's economic problems and the global crisis though?

Muhammad Yunus of microcredit and Grameen Bank fame has suggested that we don’t need a revolution that totally replaces capitalism, but rather a revolution that ensures two systems are brought to coexist side by side, one capitalist the other altruistic. Yunus suggests this symbiotic state would see one system compensating for the shortfalls inherent in the other. A very asiatic yin-yang take on socio-economic questions. Perhaps it’s a way forward but more flesh on the bones is needed and more reading for the CD no doubt.

Anyway those looking for a happy equilibrium between human well being, the environment and profit would do well to visit the New Economics Foundation for ideas on the way forward.

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