Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
The country is spending 2 million pounds to hide its blight from world leaders.
Pay no attention to the dying economy behind the curtain!
In two weeks, world leaders will convene for the G8 conference at a Fermanagh county golf course. So that the eyes of presidents and prime ministers aren't burdened with scenes of pesky blight and unemployment on their way to and from the resort, the country is spending 2 million pounds to make abandoned storefronts look like real live businesses.
"Northern Ireland is in the international spotlight," said Northern Ireland Environment Minister Alex Attwood in a statement this week, "so it is entirely right that we should portray it in the best light possible."
But hiding the country's problems from the leaders who are supposed to be fixing them isn't just counterproductive. As Matt O'Brien pointed out last week, the government-sponsored revitalization campaign, putting local tradespeople to work, is the backdrop to a conference of pro-austerity politics (including the United Kingdom's own):
In other words, the government has used Keynesianism to try to cover up austerity's failure. Now, paying people to disguise vacant storefronts as vibrant ones is probably the worst stimulus ever, but it's better than none at all. And maybe, just maybe, it will help them realize they can pay people to do actually useful things too. You know, make the public investments that lead to genuine prosperity, not just a simulacrum of it.
How ironic. Now that we have some photos of the project, courtesy of Reuters photographer Cathal McNaughton, we'd have to add that it is also kind of sad. At least the dog is fooled.
Photos by Cathal McNaughton/Reuters.