The OECD has published a list of principles to guide effective rural development. There are at least three interesting things about these principles – two good and one curious. The first is the focus on leveraging local competitive advantages. Somehow this most basic of economic development concepts – going back hundreds of years – has gotten lost or at least minimized in the developed world. At a very fundamental level, long term economic development has a lot to do with the assets and attributes of the local community.
The second interesting thing is the idea of “adapt and respond to emerging mega-trends (digitalisation, globalisation and trade, climate change, population ageing, and urbanisation)”. Again, I wonder just how much serious thinking in New Brunswick is focused on the impact of these mega-trends. There are some things going on – to be sure – but a focused effort to see how these can be leveraged to support longer term growth? Not much, IMO.
The third, and most curious, is the lack of any mention of the the shrinking labour force, immigration – or anything related to attracting people. This may be deliberate – maybe the OECD wants to encourage urbanization in the advanced countries so it doesn’t want to espouse principles that would counter this.k I would argue this is a curious and strange omission.
I’m a big fan of urbanization. Read my stuff. But hollowing out smaller communities to the point there is nothing left is not a good economic development policy. Even smaller communities need to think about the population growth policies needed to ensure they can survive and thrive into the future. Places like Sussex, or Chipman, or Neguac should have a future. Fifty years from now those communities should be relatively small, but thriving local economies.