April 2011 saw the release of a movie called Atlas Shrugged Part 1, based on a 1957 novel by the American science fiction writer Ayn Rand. The author’s views on capitalism saw the movie being adopted by those in the American Tea Party movement. Set in 2016, it shows a global society in a state of turmoil.
The existing socio-political-economic framework is in a state of turmoil. The year 2011 kicked off with the Arab spring sparked by rallies in Tunisia but spread through to Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, and Libya. Even nearby, Israel saw 450 000 people marching over declining living standards. Further north in Russia, anti-Putin dissidents took to the Moscow streets in the biggest protest in years.
Further east in China, there were calls on the internet for a “jasmine revolution.” Corruption was at the top of India’s political agenda as thousands flocked to support campaigner Anna Hazare’s hunger strike, and India saw a slow-down in its growth forecasts by the end of 2011. The end of 2011 also saw uncertainty on the Korean peninsula following the North Korean leader’s death. There were protests, financial system rumblings, and régime changes in response to austerity measures in Europe. By the end of 2011, the UK exercised its veto in a move that has deepened a rift within the EU. In the United States, partisan games saw S&P downgrading their AAA rating for the first time. Looking at the unimaginable size of the US debt, in my mind, debt default is now a mathematical certainty.
In Rand’s movie, the answer to this global turmoil was a character called John Galt inviting thought leaders to go on “strike.” The term “strike” in the movie really meant the disappearance of these prominent minds from the collapsing mainstream to create a more viable future.
American Tax Singapore
Last November, President, and CEO of the Neal & Massy Group Gervase Warner addressed an American Chamber of Commerce conference. It noted that “a wave of consciousness sweeping across the globe demanding greater responsibility from corporations and businessmen.” He admits that the business community is “being attacked and criticized for being greedy and acting selfishly.” Warner goes on to say that –
“I think the Trinidad business community needs to be a more proactive interlocutor for Minister Dookeran’s outstretched hand. I think we need to be more vocal about what we see needs to be done, and we need to start taking some bold actions and leading by example.
I know this isn’t easy because we have seen the consequences of speaking up under different regimes. We have also seen the advantages that accrue from staying in good favor. This, however, is NOT leadership. This is self-preserving cowardice. I know. I practice it myself. I don’t want to jump out of my crease and find myself run-out or stumped and everybody else still batting.
We need therefore to find a mechanism to join forces to lead a new initiative, not unlike the original Vision 2020 (which was started as a Master Plan to sustain economic growth by businessmen and led by businesses, NGO, academics, labor leaders, and community-based organizations before it became politicized). In 2001, Trevor Boopsingh (RIP) recognized the Tsumani of Revenue that the GORTT would receive from the Gas industry and set about getting business people to recognize the need to create a long-term plan use the wealth that was going to be created to sustain economic growth.
A great deal of analysis and consensus-building went into that effort at the time. Well, it’s more than a decade later, and times have changed. It’s time for us to retake the lead. This time the rallying cry is not the Tsunami of Revenue corning; it’s the cliff that lies ahead when the Revenue falls off it. So I call upon you, this esteemed body of businessmen and women, to deliberate on this challenge and hatch a new initiative to thrust business back into the business of leadership. We can bring together other stakeholders such as labor, Universities, NGOscommunity-based organizations, and even government to chart a course together through these times of unprecedented uncertainty.”
So like John Galt in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Warner has issued the call. This is a call echoed by citizens from many walks of life in many countries. Some will heed the call, but some would cling desperately to the old, fading paradigm. Now is as good a time as any to decide where we stand.
My name is Derren Joseph, and I love my country and my region. Despite its challenges, I have the audacity of hope in our country’s future.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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