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Design and

Land Use Plan &



Global Economic Context and the Future



In 1999 and 2000 economic commentators took up the term the "Goldilocks economy" to describe the world economic situation – everything that theory says should be in place for sustained growth is in place, and it is “just right”. The combination of freer trade and investment flows, the virtual elimination of dangerous tensions between the worlds largest military powers and rapidly improving technology set the stage for stable monetary conditions, low interest rates and growth without inflation. This is not to say that things are perfect or that there are not pockets of distress. However, in terms of the world picture the economic fundamentals were in an unprecedented state of well being.

Real growth in Canada averaged 3.9% per year from October 1996 to September 2000. The economy began to slow in mid 2001 and the economy grew by only 0.8% for the period October 2000 to September 2001. The final quarter saw the economy contract marginally but it followed this with more growth in the first quarter of 2002. The United States showed a similar but slightly more vigorous pattern of growth at 4.2% per year from October 1996 to September 2000, however its growth slipped to 0.6% for the period October 2000 to September 2001. Its economy contracted in the fourth quarter of 2002 and expanded in the first quarter of 2002.

But for its timing, a slowdown was expected. Economic growth has never been a nice steady climb, but the slowdown was different. Over-investment, not subsidized consumer demand or demand driven inflation, spawned the reduction in growth rates in the last half of 2001. The economy would have to pause while it earned a return on its heavy, and maybe too large, investments in new technology and machinery and equipment.

Beyond its more fundamental effects on people’s sense of safety and well being, September 11, 2001 also hastened and possibly deepened the economic slowdown that was already underway. Notwithstanding, the 2001-2002 recession is likely to be among the least recessive on record. Canada finished 2001 with a 2.7% real growth in GDP and the United States had a 1.6% increase in real GDP.

As of mid-May 2002, the consensus among forecasters is that Canada’s economy will have grown about 2.7% during 2002 and could post a gain of about 3.5% in 2003. The US is expected to show a 2002 growth rate of about 2.8%, strengthening to 3.5% in 2003. A Nova Scotia Department of Finance survey of economic fore-casters is a bit more bullish for the medium term. It projects an economic growth rate of 3.5% in Nova Scotia and a 4.0% growth rate for Canada in 2003. This would mark a return to the growth rates seen during the period from 1996 - 2000.What is most important in this observation is that in 2001, and into the short term at least the Canadian economy is expected to outperform the United States. This situation has not occurred at anytime during the period October 1996 to September 2000.

One of the most immediate issues in the re-use plan for the SYSCO property is the extent to which it could be re-used for industrial land uses. The site has the majority of the infrastructure needed by most manufacturing companies. Working against the manufacturing re-use strategy is the fact that manufacturing as a percentage of the Canadian, U.S. and most developed economies is declining. However, the relative decline is not indicative of an absolute decline. For example, industrial production grew 4.1% per year (versus 3.9% for the total economy) in Canada from October 1996 to October 2000. During the same period in the U.S., it grew at an average rate of 3.9% (versus 4.2% for the total economy).

Production growth weakened well before September 11, 2001. It shrank by 3.6% in Canada between August 2000 and July 2001, and by 4.8% in the U.S. As is normal in slow or recessive economic times industrial production weakens as inventories are drawn down . Industrial output is now (May 2002) recovering. However, industrial production declined less in Canada than the United States and is recovering more quickly. These figures suggest that the goods producing sector of the Canadian economy appears able to outpace its U.S. counterpart and even the other sectors of the Canadian economy.

Taken together these findings suggest that manufacturing in Canada, and in North America, is not in decline but rather is changing its shape. The most striking example is the closure of large steel producers in North America and loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. The manufacturing sector more than replaced the lost production and jobs with the opening of "mini-mills", higher technology steel producing plants and higher value added manufacturing facilities for car parts, computers, CD discs, etc.

The fact that Canada’s goods producing sector can out-perform its U.S. counterpart is also consistent with the evidence. The historical trend of multi-nationals to conduct research and product development in what they consider their home countries continues. Manufacturing is then dispersed to other countries to take advantage of lower wage costs, available infrastructure, reduced transportation costs to market, etc. Manufacturing in Canada, and the CBRM, is in a position to take advantage of these global factors, and the additional advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

*Analysts have now concluded that major improvements in inventory control enabled manufacturers to anticipate inventory buildup and cut production sooner. Here the economic slow down at first appeared for most people to come somewhat "out of the blue." The traditional lead-lag relationship between inventory dynamics changed in the last five years. As a result, based on the traditional relationship most analysts expected a deeper and longer recession. The opposite occurred. The industrial sector may have reduced the amplitude and frequency of its reaction to economic cycles.

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