Greenland Economy - overview

Factbook > Countries > Greenland > Economy

Economy - overview: Greenland’s economy depends on exports of shrimp and fish, and on a substantial subsidy from the Danish Government. Fish account for over 90% of its exports, subjecting the economy to fluctuations in world demand. The subsidy from the Danish Government is budgeted to be about $535 million in 2017, more than 50% of government revenues, and 25% of GDP.

The economy is expanding after a period of decline. In 2016 the economy grew 4.6% compared to 1.1% in 2015 and negative growth in the years 2013-14. For 2017 the economy is expected to continue to expand at a more subdued rate. The expansion has been driven by larger quotas for shrimp, the predominant Greenlandic export, and also by increased activity in the construction sector, especially in Nuuk, the capital, where the harbor is being enlarged and a prison is under construction. Private consumption and tourism also are contributing to GDP growth more than in previous years. Tourism in Greenland has grown annually around 20% in 2015 and 2016, largely a result of increasing numbers of cruise lines now operating in Greenland's western and southern waters during the peak summer tourism season.

The public sector, including publicly owned enterprises and the municipalities, plays a dominant role in Greenland's economy. During the last decade the Greenland Home Rule Government pursued conservative fiscal and monetary policies, but public pressure has increased for better schools, health care, and retirement systems. The budget was in deficit in 2014 and 2016, but public debt remains low at about 5% of GDP. The government plans a balanced budget for the 2017 – 2020 period.

Significant challenges face the island, including low levels of qualified labor, geographic dispersion, lack of industry diversification, the long-term sustainability of the public budget, and a declining population due to emigration. Catches in fisheries have been declining in recent years. Hydrocarbon exploration has ceased with declining oil prices and currently only three mines are under development. The island has potential for natural resource exploitation with rare-earth, uranium, and iron ore mineral projects proposed.

Definition: This entry briefly describes the type of economy, including the degree of market orientation, the level of economic development, the most important natural resources, and the unique areas of specialization. It also characterizes major economic events and policy changes in the most recent 12 months and may include a statement about one or two key future macroeconomic trends.

Source: CIA World Factbook - This page was last updated on July 9, 2017

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