WILD COOT: Check China advice
Though I did not attend the delivery of world famous economist Fred Bergsten, I followed his prescriptions carefully in the news. As expected, the economist sidestepped any criticism of his host in true respectful style, and questions and answers hardly touched on sore points.
There is a great measure of truth in the advice that we should diversify our markets a little so as to take advantage of emerging areas of wealth. However, I view the advice to look to China with much suspicion coming from a United States-based source.
Can you imagine that the United States spends trillions of dollars in Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, Afghanistan and such places, but Caribbean countries that constitute the underbelly of its security struggle to raise even a half of a per cent of those funds.
The United States seems more interested in us adopting same-sex marriage and changing buggery laws than in our financial well-being. Even so, we do not fly aeroplanes into twin towers, we do not burn American flags or effigies of American presidents, we do not take to the streets and shout “down with America”.
In fact, except for the attitude towards Cuba and the embargo affecting its people, we sing the praises of President Obama.
So why the “check China” advice as our life-saving option when a helping hand that can institute a Marshall Plan is so near? Indeed, we in the Caribbean were doing well with bananas, sugar and rum until the forces, mainly in the United States, constrained us to scale down our operations.
We were told to develop our ports and infrastructure so as to accommodate tourism and offshore activities, but policies in the United States (probably to appease a small clique) now target those who moved their business offshore to take advantage of tax benefits.
You know what happened to bananas and Dominica, St Vincent, Grenada, St Lucia and Jamaica and interests in Bolivia and Ecuador. You know what is happening to rum. So what are we to do now, Mr Economist?
Looking to China now makes sense, as looking to the United States does not augur benefits of the trillion of dollars spent in failed efforts to create strategic advantages and goodwill.
If the United States is a world power and a shaker or shaper, then it behoves it to look after those who have helped to build its economy. Our economies are burdened by debt deadweight, most of which is recent and caused by the ill doings of the very United States being the genesis of the world recession, Mr Economist.
Frankly speaking, I believe that the world famous economist could have shown more sympathy for the illnesses of places like Barbados. Did he indicate that our Government made the wrong decision because of prime mortgage greed in the United States?
Not reading the signals of the oncoming world recession, we taxed our economy into a worse recession in the wrong belief that we were protecting jobs.
Now having found ourselves in pucketary, he coming to tell us to turn to China.
Yes, we engaged the Chinese for help, and they have responded in a big measure but we have not been active in promoting Chinese interests. In fact, we seem to steer clear of any debate that pits China against the United States.
Come again, Mr Economist, we are well aware that we have to look to emerging economies, but we have worked with the United States since time immemorial and we know the devil in our dealings. However, with the others we have to tread lightly and dance carefully to whatever tune is being played.
For example, the Emirates.
As for Barbados, I feel that we are hoisted on our own petards. Our social programmes that served us so well have become unaffordable in today’s world. Whereas one upon a time with limited help and resources we were able to manage, today’s world is forcing us to be surrogate to somebody or some institution. Measurement of help as determined by per capita income will strangle on itself and redound to our chagrin. Maybe Mr Economist could have addressed that issue.
But Wild Coot, in geopolitics it is hegemony that counts, not being your brother’s keeper. Beware of messengers and their host.
Harry Russell is a banker.