"The arms that you wield now are not such as your forefathers wielded; but they are infinitely more effective, and infinitely more irresistable" ~ Cymru Fydd leaflet, 1890

Monday, 14 October 2013

Proud to be British? Where is our legacy?

October 14th 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the Senghenydd colliery disaster in which 439 men and boys died. The disaster came just 12 years after a similar explosion killed 81 of the 82 workers. The greed of the owners resulted in the second disaster. In a week it will also be the anniversary of Aberfan, when the negligence of the coal board saw 116 children and 28 adults murdered by an avalanche of wet slag. I use the term murdered for that is what the parents at the inquest shouted.
116 children and 28 adults 'buried alive by the national coal board'.
These are just a few of the more famous mass killings we've had as a result of the curse of coal. This website has a list of around 6000 deaths but as the site states it is no where near complete as it only counts five or more deaths and these disasters only account for around 17% of all mining related deaths (and illnesses).

So is this our legacy from our abundance of natural resources? Memorials to people murdered by the greed of those that got rich? In Norway they have put aside some of the money raised through the taxation of their oil. Their sovereign wealth fund currently stands at over $790 billion (about £490 billion).

In Norway the legacy they are leaving for their children is a sovereign wealth fund worth almost half a trillion pounds. In Wales we just have memorials to people who died so that land owners, pit owners, aristocracy and politicians could get rich. And it's not just us in Wales. Our Celtic cousins across the channel have nothing to show for the copper and tin that was brought across to Wales. Our Celtic cousins in Scotland have nothing to show for the oil money that goes straight to London. In fact you could quite easily state that Norway's sovereign wealth fund is $790 billion more than Wales' coal fund, Scotland's oil fund and Cornwall's copper/tin fund put together.
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Norway's fund doesn't just come from the taxation of its oil and gas. It's able to put around $1 billion per week in the fund and the fund is then invested. This isn't about making a quick buck it's about providing for pensions and future generations so they can take their time and analyse investments properly. They can hold on to shares when others are selling so that they can gain in the long term.

Norway has so much money it is more valuable than some banks, here in Wales we have people that cannot afford to buy food and must rely on food banks. The Red Cross is even planning on distributing food parcels around the UK for the first time since World War II. We export energy yet a quarter of Welsh households experience fuel poverty. We're at the bottom of just about every economic league table in the EU. The UN branded the UK as the most unequal country in the west with a gap between rich and poor equivalent to Nigeria.

Where is our inherited wealth? Where is our legacy from the colonial theft of our natural resources? Where was the investment in a cleaner, safer economy. Where was the investment in our people, in our children's education?  All I see are memorials to dead miners. And that's the legacy we have to leave to our children.

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Edit - This was original published in October 2013, by January 2014 the Norwegian oil fund was up to $828 billion which is enough to give every single Norwegian a million crowns each.

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