Naalakkersuisoq Vivian Motzfeldt tale til ICC General Assembly, Utqiagvik
Country Reports - The State Of Inuit Nunaat- Political Developments. What Is The Future
Bemærk talen er kun på grønlandsk og engelsk.
Inoqatit, Minister, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address this distinguished audience again.
I have been requested to provide report on current political directions and visions for the future of the Government of Greenland.
The Government of Greenland was formed in May this year, after general elections on the 24th of April. The current coalition is formed by the four political parties; Siumut, Partii Naleraq, Atassut and Nunatta Qitornai. The political party which I represent, Siumut, being the biggest political party in the coalition and also holding the position of the Premier, Mr. Kim Kielsen.
Our coalition agreement has the primary goal of improving the living conditions and the equality of the population. I will elaborate a little on what this, in our definition, entails - by first providing you with an overview of the current situation, the Government’s vision for the future and finally, present actions our government will take to get from where we are today, to get to the future Greenland we envision.
In Greenland there has been good economic growth the last few years. The recent years' development of the GDP shows positive tendencies, with annual real growth rates of more than 6 percent in both 2014, 2015 and 2016. We have also had a surplus in the public finances in the last two years.
The growth is mainly based on good earnings in fisheries, due to good international prices on fish products and good catches, but also large construction projects has been beneficial. Further, tourism is expanding.
Fisheries remain the most important industry and our main export-base. Generally, favorable prices have contributed greatly to keep the earnings in prawn fishing up, despite lower quotas for prawns in the same period. And cod is again an important element in the Greenland fisheries, and new species as the Atlantic mackerel are being fished on commercial scale. Greenland's export has steadily been increasing since 2009, leading to a reduced trade deficit. In this year's first quarter we had a trade surplus, the first time in 5 years!
Prawn fishery is still Greenland's most important economic sector, accounting for almost 35 pct. of the total export value. Fisheries in total accounts for more than 90% of the total export value.
However, it can be very fragile that such a big share of the country’s revenues derives from fisheries alone, since fishing experiences fluctuations in both price and biomass. There is also currently uncertainty attached to the global trade relations, that may be of importance for earnings in fishing and hence the future tax revenue.
Even though we can feel isolated in the Arctic region, global political developments, such as the Canada-EU trade agreement and Brexit affect us directly in Greenland. Prices on commodities in general, such as for minerals, also affect activities in the mining and oil and gas sector.
The unemployment rate has generally been falling since 2014 as there has been a strong political focus on this issue. The unemployment rate is continuing to fall, with 548 less job seekers in the month of May compared to one year ago.
We have though to focus more on economic inequality in Greenland. Part of the explanation for economic inequality, is low levels of education. We have been and continue to fight the educational backlog, which makes it difficult for many citizens to raise their income. Fortunately, in the two last decades, we have seen a high increase in the amount of Inuit graduating annually.
The numbers of Inuit youth graduating from high school have more than doubled since 2005, now almost 400 young Greenlanders graduate from High School every year. In the upper secondary educations, bachelor's programmes, professional bachelor programmes and Master's programmes the annual completion numbers have also more than doubled since 2003, and more and more young Greenlanders are graduating as medical doctors, lawyers and engineers, as well as vocational educations.
So we feel we are on the right track, but of course a lot more needs to be done.
Greenland and the Greenlanders have a lot of possibilities for a bright future and our Government will work towards having everyone onboard by raising the equality level.
This brings me to my second point in this intervention – the vision of the Government of Greenland.
Vision for the future
Our vision is that our country should be a place where people have equal opportunities for a good life, where we all feel safe, both in the public and at home, and where our needs are supported by the structures within our society.
Our vision has always been that we eventually will reach this goal, by continuously strengthening the education sector. Our people should have a strong basic education, based on the Greenlandic language – but also an education that can be utilized and accredited internationally. We need therefore to open up more to the rest of the world – including to our western neighbors here in the United States and Canada.
The government also wants a society that is strongly rooted in resilient families. Where families do not have the basic conditions for a good life, we should be able to support them. Inuit culturally rely on strong family ties – the government should be able to support this positive cultural heritage. We will seek inspiration from our neighbors for such policies, where all feel that they are a contributing part of society, not least our elders, where we in Greenland have a lot to learn from you.
Economically, Greenland should be self-sustained through a full and reasonable use of our resources. In Greenland, we want to secure that we can live off our resources to the best extend possible and reduce our dependency on both imports and subsidies from abroad.
In the Arctic, we have an abundance of living resources that we can live off, and non-renewable resources that we can explore, utilize and sell on the global market.
Our government wants to improve conditions for an increasingly self-sufficient Greenland. It is the goal of our political coalition that our country becomes more self-sufficient in terms of energy supply, food production, water supply, livestock farming, agriculture and vegetable production, among others.
Resources also include mineral resources and oil and gas - and our Government will continue to explore the possibilities for exploitation and export of our resources - for the economic gain of the people of Greenland, but naturally without compromising the environment, and the future of our children and grandchildren.
The vision of our government is a Kalaallit Nunaat with strong, independent Inuit, on the path towards a politically sovereign and independent country – whom are well educated and well-rooted in their culture; living in a developed society based on our own resources. THIS is the future that WE want.
But how do we work towards this vision? This brings me to my third, and last, point of today’s intervention; which actions will the government take to get from where we are today to the future Greenland we envision?
Actions for a better future
The government needs to make significant reforms in order for us to reach our vision of a more self-reliant country.
Therefore, one of the primary objectives of the coalition agreement is developing the necessary reforms, to improve the living conditions of the population, and in particular to ensure continued economic development, thereby ensuring the creation of new jobs and increasing the number of people at work. These reform initiatives include, among others:
● Prepare a new school and education reform,
● Continue to strengthening our cultural life,
● Improve the efforts of the social sector,
● Enhanced support for disabled people,
● Improved healthcare services,
● Housing reform,
● Complete a new Fisheries Act,
● Reform of the legislation on Hunting,
● Continued expansion of production facilities in cities, towns and villages,
● Food safety legislation must be adapted to the conditions in our country
● Drafting of a constitution for our land
● And we prioritize and adjust procedures for taking over areas of responsibility, which previously has been administered by the Danish State.
… just to name a few.
Many communities in the Arctic are geographically dispersed – why my fellow Inuit here today will understand how important improvement of infrastructure is for the development of our country.
Therefore, one of the major projects that we hope to finalize during this term is - to complete the largest construction project in our country's history, in the form of three new major airports, in Nuuk, Ilulissat and Qaqortoq. This will mean more flexibility and efficiency in travels to and from Greenland – and will reduce air fares and open Greenland to more tourism and trade, thereby creating more economic development.
During the coming Fall session of the Parliament, we are expecting to finalize the plans for the construction of the new airports.
During the fall session, we also hope to initiate the discussions on the new fisheries act.
Fishing is the primary profession and export industry in Greenland. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to us, that the framework for the fishing industry is constantly developed and adapted – to prepare our nation for the future. The forthcoming fisheries act must be a long-term solution for our country, so the job for our coalition parties - in cooperation with all the stakeholders within fisheries – is to define a national consensus that will ensure maximum benefit for our country.
It is the aim of our coalition that all of the fishing quotas should be optimized and fully utilized, and in this context, the coalition will work to remove all unnecessary administrative obstacles to ensure that this objective is met. We have to ensure that we generate as much activity as possible, to develop, to become more independent and more economically self-reliant.
But the ultimate goal of all the before mentioned efforts… is to become a politically independent and economically self-reliant state in the Arctic. That is our overall objective, and I believe we are steadily, year by year, moving towards this paramount goal.
I have provided you with a perspective on the state of Greenland – and part of our Government’s strategy and our visions for a strong Inuit Nunaat.
I look forward to a productive discussion on the future that we as Inuit want.