culture’s proxy

What is “economic development”?

Wikipedia says “economic development is a sustainable increase in living standards that implies increased per capita income, better education and health as well as environmental protection.”

In White Rock’s experience, many if not most projects touted as being in the interests of economic development have actually been cultural, social, or environmental initiatives. So, I wonder why so much time, attention and resources over the past year has been devoted to creating an “economic development strategy”? Admittedly I am not an economist, but it seems to me that this is a very inefficient delivery method.

Isn’t much of economic dogma about seeking greater efficiencies? Wouldn’t those resources be more efficiently invested if applied directly to cultural, social and environmental policy development and projects?

Why are the heritage inventory, communications strategy, and tree protection bylaw taking a back seat to 2010 day-dreaming and economic development strategizing? These are things that we know are key to our community’s identity and economic success. And we’ve seen those same policies be very successful in supporting the economies of cities all around BC. So it seems ironic to me that what is now standing in the way of those initiatives is the diversion of resources into developing an economic development strategy. Yet, over the past year, the resources dedicated to talking about how the city needs an economic development strategy could have been used to actually implement initiatives we already know would be good for our local economy. It appears to be terribly inefficient wasting all that time and money on talking about the things that should have been done instead of doing the things we know should be done.

I hear from conservative capitalists that all that warm fuzzy stuff gets in the way of making cold hard cash – and that’s what’s most important. And yet, economic development strategy in White Rock usually ends up talking about beautification projects (cultural), housing development (social), and parks improvements (environmental).

I’m tired of the opinion that funds invested in cultural infrastructure, social services, or the environment is lost money. The things we most pride ourselves on in this community as being important to our economic well-being is our artsy atmosphere (culture), hospital (social), and waterfront park (environment). I say our best economic development strategy would be to not let all the talk about branding, increasing development, and the Olympics stop us from celebrating our culture, building stronger neighbourhoods, and improving our environment. Isn’t that the purpose of economic development anyway?

Besides, branding is a cultural exercise and expression, development is for social advancement and improvement, and hosting the Olympics is about showing off our cultural heritage and environmental stewardship.

In this respect, I agree with many economists, it looks like the best thing the City could do for the economy in White Rock right now is to stay out of the way. Instead, invest all that time, energy, and money in cultural infrastructure, social services, and environmental improvements.

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