The Great Equalisation

There is a recent TED Talk on YouTube featuring Niall Ferguson.  Niall is a Professor of History at Harvard University and a Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard Business School.  I guess that part of his agenda was to promote his recently published book – Civilization; the West and the Rest.  His talk was about the growth of the East – China in particular.

It would take a psychic to predict what will eventually happen.  I remain suspicious of the predictions (or so-called forecasts) of the big rating agencies and investment banks who seem to have been blind to recent economic bubbles.  Niall Ferguson does not hold back when he blows the trumpet for China.  He explained that China’s had been the biggest and fastest of all the industrialization revolutions. In the space of 26 years, China’s GDP grew by a factor of 10.  Ferguson points out that it took the U.K. 70 years after 1830 to grow by a factor of four, but according to the International Monetary Fund, China’s share of global GDP (measured in current prices) will pass the 10% mark in 2013.  Goldman Sachs continues to forecast that China will overtake the U.S. in terms of GDP in 2027, just as it recently overtook Japan.

Simultaneously, some critics remind us of the 1980s predictions about Japan’s inevitable rise to the top.  I remember entering university in 1991, and there was so much admiration for the Japanese business and economic model.  Of course, we know what happened to them.  So many things could happen to divert us into a new reality.  Coming back home, I believe that Trinidad and Tobago are wise to maintain a close relationship with China while not alienating the United States.  My personal credo is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. 

Personally, what I predict is not a big flow of wealth and consequent power from West to East, but a global rebalancing.  There will be stumbling but no massive demotion of the West to the back of the class.  I count myself among those that see an emerging multipolar reality.  I was chatting with a friend of mine born in India but now lives in Trinidad about her securing Indian passports for her children.  To me, that sentiment is a powerful symbol of this rebalancing.  When I was younger, it was all about having an American, Canadian, or British passport.  As we move forward, however, some are seeing advantages to having Indian and Chinese passports. 

Here in the UK, I see the daily signs of this rebalancing.  Factory doors closing, so many empty units in shopping centers, rising unemployment levels, softer real estate prices (outside of the South East), and falling wages for unskilled and farm labor caused by eastern European immigrants' inward flow.  It still surprises me that there are those in Trinidad and Tobago that genuinely believe that this great rebalancing would leave the country untouched.  They are clueless about the potential for declining demand, and therefore prices, for oil and gas from traditional markets.  Blind to the declining demand for our manufactured goods from Caribbean neighbors, the government's critical for supporting our Caribbean neighbors.  It is a failure to recognize the highly interconnected nature of the new global reality.  What affects one of us – affects us all. FATCA Compliance Singapore

Trinidad and Tobago’s ‘national budget’ is not meant to be a Strategic Plan, but it should be based on some workable strategy for taking the nation forward.  Whether the Finance Minister’s approach is realistic, given the wider global challenges, is seen.  Public discourse seems to be focused on who gets what instead of investing to assure a solid basis for our future.  It reminds me of a quote I once heard from the Pastor at Calvary Chapel in Ft Lauderdale –

“A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury.

From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising them the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.”

This statement is attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler from an 1801 collection of his lectures.

My name is Derren Joseph, and I love my country and my region.  Despite our challenges, I continue to have the audacity of hope in the future of our beloved country.  


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