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Look to edges to see clues

If you are not living at the edge, you are taking up too much room. Welcome to the twenty-first century. The edge is increasingly where you will find what really matters.

Twentieth-century talk of leading edge and cutting edge referred to that exciting, even dangerous space where the revolutionary stuff occurred. No longer.

Twenty-first century talk means edge is where you find the things that actually make sense of our chaotic everyday world.

If you want to know what a contract is really about, certainly glance at the main text, but STUDY the small print.

If you want to know the actual intentions of politicians or bureaucratic institutions, listen to the little throw-away lines hidden in the midst of their grand promises and empty motherhood verbiage.

The latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report on Australia’s economic future, released on 20 December 1999, has several shockwave edges.

The report slams the Australian Government’s work-for-the-dole scheme as essentially maintaining the unemployability of our very unskilled and untrained job seekers by offering jobs that provide

little useful training for employment off the scheme.

The scheme is a dead end, an unemployment trap similar to the poverty trap, whereby you are kept busy doing things that will not assist you to gain what you need to get out of the trap.

This is not, however, an edge of the OECD report.

Neither is the report’s confirmation of Australia’s healthy economic condition, with forecasted growth expected to remain at 3 per cent to 4 per cent and unemployment to fall to 6.5 per cent by 2001.

The edges are much more interesting.

Edge number one: the GST will proabably sustain a higher level of inflation and not be the one-off price rise as predicted by the government.

Reflect on what that means for interest rates during 2000, for employment, for growth economics.

Edge number two: there are two potential major threats to Australia’s long term economic health. (Reflect on these two little throwaway lines and their impact of life as we know it in the Western world).

First threat: a stockmarket crash in the US.

Excuse me? This is the OECD talking, not some loopy space cadet. The OECD mentions in passing that, if the American stockmarket crashes this year, our economic stability might be jeopardised. Really?

Conservative bodies driven by conservative

corporate forces do not pick any old what-ifs when discussing a nation’s economy – they choose highly possible scenarios.

The report did not identify the threat of a super race of androids taking over Wall Street, or the disappearance of the world’s supply of petroleum this year. They said the crash of the American stock market.

Second threat: the collapse of the Asian economic recovery.

Now that would really rain on our boisterous economic parade, too – make it a wash-out actually.

However, these two possibilities are not highlighted for discussion by the OECD – just part of the edge.

• Ann Macbeth is a futurist and principal of Annimac Consultants.

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