Hand out vs. hand up

I just read about the Telus union complaining vigorously about some of the basic customer service functions that the company wants to do in the Philippines. The union would gladly advocate giving more money to the Philippines in the form of foreign aid. Heck, they’d even pass the plate and get their members to kick in a few bucks. But, how about real jobs and real economic opportunity (i.e. have the Philippines join the global economy and provide some back office services for Canadian companies)? Not on your life.

Of course, there are parallels within Canada as well (although obviously not on the same scale). Ontarioites (ians?) don’t have much of a problem with serving up Equalization as their ‘contribution’ to this ‘great country’. But, if an auto plant ever decided to set up here – you’d get an earful to the tune of “how dare they?”. We got a bit of a taste of this when RIM decided to set up its next major facility in Halifax with 1,200 jobs. While somewhat restrained, there were a number of stories and op-eds criticizing Halifax ‘stealing’ Ontario jobs.

The truth is that government aid (define it how you will) rarely translates into long term, viable economic benefits. The aid, more often than not, is targeted at ‘expenses’ (basic necessities of life in the third world and health care in New Brunswick) and not at investments (like creating the environment for industrial development).

I mentioned it before, I think, but almost a decade ago I was approached by an eccentric, gold ring wearing World Bank guy about the possibility of replicating the New Brunswick call centre industry in the French language countries of North Africa. This guy thought the World Bank would support efforts to grow a call centre industry in that part of the world and he thought that when the lights turned off in Moncton, they could have been turned on in Tunisia or Algeria. It wasn’t a bad idea but there was no place for me to take this. There certainly wasn’t an appetite in Freddy Beach to consider such a notion.

I don’t know why I am even blabbing on about this except to say that most of my thinking around global investment flows and create environment where specific industries can foster does apply beyond the borders of New Brunswick and Canada. In some naive way, I think that countries should stake out their position in the global economy and work to build the economic foundation on which social and community development can be fostered. And this definitely includes foreign direct investment as well as the other components of a well-formed economic development programme.

French language call centres in Africa? Why not?

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0 Responses to Hand out vs. hand up

  1. NB taxpayer says:

    Call centres in Africa?

    Good idea, David. Because the economic climate in NB is cancerous at the moment. Not to mention, they have more pride in a small place like Congo, a third world country, than we do here anyway. (as demonstrated in the U20 World Soccer tournament in Edmonton, Alberta)

    Furthermore, being a supplicant for far too long has left us with a crumbled entrepeneurial spirit. I was reminded of this fact after reading this article about Sweden:


    I know you don’t agree with excessive ideology, however, I’m sure you can agree with their position on the declining work ethic in a statist environment and the hypocracy of a high hidden unemployment. Both subjects which you have touch on many times here. And rightly so!

  2. mikel says:

    I’m not sure what you mean about Africa, but keep in mind that I remember when RIM announced Nova Scotia and a couple of op-eds means nothing, gripers have to write about something.

    And I recall they were pretty low key, it certainly wasn’t on the order of McKenna getting bashed in the national press.

    The reality is right here:


    People should burn that story into their minds, since if its foreign ED you want, thats the way to do it, step by step.

    As the article states, RIM was already looking for expansion outside of Waterloo. They are maxed out here, and hardly a murmur was ever mentioned here when they announced the Nova Scotia move. And this even after a few years ago when they were laying people off.

    As the article also states, the feds were quite happy to help out any way they could and LIKED the ‘made in Canada’ solution.

    So its not as one sided as it seems. But as you often say, if the NB government fails in its responsibilities, you can’t blame the fed or Ontario for that.

    In reality southern ontario is bursting, the only people talking about unlimited growth are politicians. Here in Waterloo they are building suburbs over top of the Waterloo Moraine, a more ecologically significant moraine than Oak Ridge Moraine you may have heard about, and the recharger of the areas ONLY water resource.

    On the economic front, if you haven’t heard, Toyota is in fact building TWO manufacturing plants in Woodstock (ontario), virtually every supplier in the area is drooling, and since a good many of the employees will probably end up being from Miramichi, its a good time to point out some of these facts.

    In some brighter news, Fatkat has just announced that they now employ over a HUNDRED employees. Gee, that’s ten percent of what Irving SAYS they will employ at a new highly polluting refinery that will turn Saint John into a septic tank. I wonder how many emissions fatkat churns out?

  3. David Campbell says:

    Thanks for the story on RIM. Interesting piece on the process. As for FatKat, the only emission there is likely smoke coming from their ears. It’s a great story. If we had 100 FatKats, I might not be harping as much on the FDI bandwagon.