January 28, 2016
I am writing this column from my hotel room in the great city of Prince George where the Premier’s BC Natural Resources Forum is in full spate. Always an information-packed event put on annually to cheer us through the dark days of January, this year did not disappoint us in that respect. Events never stray far from topics such as forestry, mining, shipping, LNG, world economic trends¸ and First Nations issues.
I’m always fascinated and not a little entertained with the solemn reports of economists attempting to project present economic conditions into the misty unknown. I realize that they do their best to give us an idea of what might happen with the bears and bulls of the market, but there is one big thing that they just can’t see – the future.
And then, there’s the economist who assured us that if a corporation has one of his kind on the payroll it has at least one employee too many.
Which should give us all a modicum of confidence in their projections.
That said, I’ll share with you some of their wisdom as I interpreted it: China, India, and other emerging markets will require a greater infusion of material goods as they struggle to attain to the life style that we have enjoyed for a few decades. That means they’ll be importing more lumber, more gas, and, in the short term, more coal. But will they get it from us?
Third World countries, or, as termed by the economists, the emerging economies, are also growing rapidly and will, before most of us have numbered our days, be responsible for pushing the world’s population over the 8 billion mark for, as far as we know, the first time in this world’s short and mostly brutal history. All these new souls will require more food, more fabric, more fiber, more gas, more metal, more plastic, and more of just about everything we have learned to love. The world’s ability to keep up with the growing demand is not at all certain.
That’s the long-term projection. What’s the short term, the five- to ten-year look over the horizon? Oil is hitting a low as we all know. It’s even being felt at our local gas pumps –though we are still about 20 cents behind Prince George. Commodity prices are predicted to continue weak throughout 2016 but will stabilize sooner or later. That’s comforting. Forestry is moderately healthy and we can expect to see modest growth in the US housing market in the months ahead. Still, with the bogey of no Soft Wood Agreement with the US we can’t be certain of real stability real soon in the forest sector. (Both of our Senior Governments have this high on their to-do lists.)
LNG may still see the light of day but don’t expect much growth in mining.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Premier assured us that we are tough and we won’t lie down and quit.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor