Three Cheers For The Bust

So this boom that has rained bucks on its beneficiaries and disadvantaged the majority in myriad ways – in Perth, at least – appears to have busted. Slow handclaps for the stockbrokers and financial media seers who declared time and again with unshakeable confidence that China’s dizzy growth rate was assured for another three decades, regardless of America’s economy or the state of global markets. Add India, the other waking giant, to the mix and we had a cake that would just keep on a-risin’. Turns out, ’twas more like a souffle full of hot air that escapes with a hiss when taken out of the oven, leaving big ambition and great expectations collapsed in a cheesy heap…

I say three cheers for the bust. The boom has misshapen the Perth community quite grotesquely in all sorts of ways. Here are a few obvious examples:

  • the widening chasm between rich and poor;
  • vastly inflated real estate prices that have killed off the dream of home ownership for far too many people;
  • higher living costs across the board for the majority who have not benefited from the mining spoils;
  • infrastructure groaning under the strain of a city on a hypergrowth spurt that is busting it out of its britches.
  • There have been multiple other adverse effects that are less simple to list. There’s something wrong, for instance, when teenagers straight out of school can go north and pull in better incomes than they could hope for with years of uni qualifications behind them. You can’t blame them for passing on uni when big bucks are just a plane flight and a quick training course away. The resulting vacuum of qualified graduates must have an impact on the wider community down the track.

    And what of the futures of these kids, semi-skilled in mining industry jobs, once the music stops – and that mightn’t be long. The boombox is running very low on batteries. Back to study, then. Nothing wrong with a late start at tertiary education, but it’s fortunate the boom has busted now, rather than a decade hence. Embarking on a course of full-time study in your thirties, with mortgages and kids likely to be in the equation, is often a whole lot harder than in your twenties.

    In cheering for the bust, I open myself to abuse from those who stand to lose most, even charges of – gasp – being “unAustralian”. To which I say, chuck yer lamb chop on the barbie and shut yer whingin’. Those who have gorged themselves full as ticks off the boom, count yourselves lucky, for you did so at the expense of the rest of the community. I ain’t saying you are culpable for the downsides of the boom. Just that you’re lucky you thrived off it, while the majority copped the backwash sweet. If you’ve over-extended yourselves on your inflated incomes and need to make adjustments now the economic shit has hit the fan, so what? Welcome back to earth. Be glad you managed to defy gravity as long as you did.

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