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Advancing the Case for a Modern Post Colonial Economy

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19.DEC.08

Political leaders have articulated a vision of what and where a country should be within a particular time period using developed indicators as the basis upon which they have predicated such views. St.Vincent and the Grenadines is no exception. Prime Minister Gonsalves spoke about creating a Modern Post Colonial Economy – a situation where St.Vincent as a nation state seeks to create its own socio-economic and political space- unhindered by any colonial strictures and constructs that have influenced all sinews of our institutional development.{{more}} It involves advancing a modern service based economy that reflects national, regional and international best practices.

Barbados has also articulated its own vision to achieve developed nation status by 2017, while Trinidad and Tobago touts its 20/20 Vision- to attain developed nation status by the year 2020.

Historically, few countries have made the transition from being a backwater outpost to that of becoming an industrialized and or developed economy in the 20th Century.

The Soviet Union under Joseph Stalin underwent rapid transformation and industrialization in a short period, eventually becoming one of the two pre-eminent powers after the Second World War. The ‘Big Push Theory’ adopted by Stalin did enable the Soviet Union to leap frog development- transforming itself from an agrarian based economy to that of a rapid industrialized society. China, under Chairman Mao, was less successful in emulating the Soviet Union example.

Japan in 1890 had a literacy rate of 90 percent and had shown signs of becoming an industrial power. However, it was not until after the Second World War and the USA’s fear of Soviet expansionism that they sought to lift the wartime restrictions imposed on Japan, enabling it to pursue its policy of industrialization. This focused or guided development was centred around ship building, cars and electronics, which they virtually dominated throughout the world in the latter part of the 20th century. Korea’s industrialization was a direct carbon copy of that of Japan. In 1960, South Korea was ranked on par with Upper Volta (Burkino Faso) and Sudan, based on the Human Development Index. In 2008, it boasts the 13th largest economy on Earth.

Israel, threatened by hostile Arab neighbours, concentrated on developing its defense industry, which resulted in spill over benefits, with Israel being the high tech hub in the Middle East. The oil base economies of the region still rely on foreign expertise to explore and extract oil and operate their refineries.

Singapore and Hong Kong’s success can be attributed in no small measure to being entrepot – with Singapore straddling the busiest shipping route (Malacca Straits) in the world. It must be noted that, in 1960, Singapore’s education officials traveled to Jamaica to look at that country’s education system. Thirty years later, Singapore, a country the size of St. Lucia, with a population of 4 million, has managed to transform itself into an Industrialized economy with a GDP of US$ 209 billion dollars and a highly diverse economy, specializing in petrochemical, pharmaceuticals, electronics, heavy engineering and information technology. Jamaica, 20 times the size of Singapore and a population hovering close to 3 million people has a GDP of US 8.9 billion and exports alumina and other primary products which fetch less in its raw state.

Advancing the case for a Modern Post Colonial Economy must be examined from an historical and ideological construct which is best illuminated by Best and Levitt Plantation Economy and Gunder Frank Dependency Theory.

Best and Levitt argued that Caribbean immersion into a global economy mirrors that of a plantation. They argued that the productive base of Caribbean economies was fashioned to supply primary goods to the metropole, while in turn these countries re-imported processed goods from the metropole. The mercantilist doctrine of the metropole also determined which countries the Caribbean islands could trade with, while their financial institutions provided the wherewithal to facilitate such trading.

The dependency theory looks at the dominant/independent or center/periphery role of nations in the international economy. They argued that developing countries remain poor because of their dependency relation with the dominant countries, exporting primary products and re-importing value added products from these primary products. Inevitably, the cost of the primary products will be less than the value added products that developing countries re-import.

According to Thedtonio Dos Santos, “dependency is a historical condition which shapes a certain structure of the world economy such that it favors some countries to the detriment of others and limit the subordinate economy…. A situation in which the economy of a certain group of countries is conditioned by the development and expansion of another economy, to which their own is subjected”.

Hence, a Modern Post Colonial Economy will involve establishing diplomatic and bi-lateral trade relations beyond that of our existing traditional trading partners and fostering beneficial relations with other developing countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, Iran and other emerging markets. Instead of critics viewing such relations as part of the begging bowl syndrome, it should be construed as the application of economic principles to international relations, in an effort to maximize potential benefit to further the advancement of economic development in St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

A Modern Post Colonial Economy will also involve embracing, applying and adopting modern technology to further development imperatives. Development assistance rendered by friendly countries should not be handout of Acer computers, but also the ability to assemble and develop programming software for such computers -technological transfer

– so critical to developing economies competitiveness in a globalize village.

A thorough assessment of our skills base and needs requirements for the economy will have to be undertaken in retrospect to our historical experience and modern day reality.

Hence, it will require the revamping of the educational system, re-orienting the curriculum which presently over emphasizes academic to that of skills base learning. In such regard, promulgating knowledge instead of image and competency over loyalty. Education itself should not be viewed as a means of individual social mobility or self-actualization but rather to further the development goals of the country.

It will envisage creating a competitive labor force operating in a global setting. Other small states such as Mauritius, Cyprus and Malta have done such with much success, with the latter two being members of the European Union.

St.Vincent, it must be noted, lacks the critical mass in size and population to be an industrialized nation; but it is not far fetched to assume that it can achieve certain development indicators that rank it on par with developed countries and thus acclaim developed nation status. However, it will involve setting pre-defined goals with clarity of purpose, a streamlining of the government bureaucracy and the formulation of public policy within a historical, ideological and socio-economic construct, if they are to have the desired outcome towards advancing the case for a Modern Post Colonial Economy.

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