Greenland: History, Culture & Economy

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Greenland (Kalaallisut: Kalaallit Nunaat meaning “Land of the Kalaallit people”; Danish: Grønland) is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Physiographically, it is a part of the continent of North America. The largest island in Greenland is also named Greenland, and makes up most of the country’s land area.

Greenland has been inhabited, though not continuously, by indigenous peoples since 2500 BC. There were Norse colonies in Greenland from AD 986 until sometime most likely in the 15th century. In the early 18th century contact between Scandinavia and Greenland was re-established and Denmark established rule over Greenland.

In 1979 Denmark granted home rule to Greenland, in a relationship known in Danish as Rigsfællesskabet (Commonwealth of the Realm), and in 2008 Greenland voted to transfer more powers to the local government. This became effective the following year, with the Danish royal government in charge only of foreign affairs, security and financial policy, and providing a subsidy of DKK 3.4 billion (US$633m), or approximately $11,300 per Greenlander, annually.

Greenland is, by area, the world’s largest island that is not a continent. With a population of 56,452 (January, 2010 estimate) it is the least densely populated dependency or country in the world.

The culture of Greenland has much in common with Inuit tradition, as the majority of people are descended from Inuit. People continue the Inuit tradition of ice-fishing and there are annual dog-sled races. Fishing by traditional methods has been increasingly replaced by the use of firearms and modern technology.

Both Greenlandic (Kalaallisut) and Danish have been used in public affairs since the establishment of home rule in 1979, and the majority of the population can speak both languages. Greenlandic became the sole official language in June 2009. In practice, Danish is still widely used in the administration, as a language of higher education, but also as the first or only language for parts of the population in Nuuk and larger towns. A debate about the role of Greenlandic and Danish in future society is ongoing.

Greenland today is critically dependent on fishing and fish exports. The shrimp fishing industry is by far the largest income earner. Despite resumption of several interesting hydrocarbon and mineral exploration activities, it will take several years before hydrocarbon production can materialize. The state oil company NUNAOIL was created in order to help develop the hydrocarbon industry in Greenland. The state company Nunamineral has been launched on the Copenhagen Stock Exchange to raise more capital to increase the production of gold, started in 2007.

Mining of ruby deposits began in 2007. Other mineral prospects are improving as prices are increasing. These include uranium, aluminium, nickel, platinum, tungsten, titanium and copper.

The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays a dominant role in Greenland’s economy. About half the government revenues come from grants from the Danish government, an important supplement to the gross domestic product (GDP). Gross domestic product per capita is equivalent to that of the weaker economies of Europe.

Greenland suffered an economic contraction in the early 1990s, but since 1993 the economy has improved. The Greenland Home Rule Government (GHRG) has pursued a tight fiscal policy since the late 1980s which has helped create surpluses in the public budget and low inflation. Since 1990, Greenland has registered a foreign trade deficit following the closure of the last remaining lead and zinc mine that year. More recently, new sources of ruby in Greenland have been discovered promising to bring new industry and a new export to the country.

Notes from Wikipedia

A'Keiba Burrell
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