Friday, April 3, 2009

Stability - Growth - Jobs

Is it any surprise that people in Zambia want the same thing?  Jobs, stability and Growth... 

The weight of the economic crisis has been on my mind for quite a while.  Everyone knows that GDP is shrinking so it can be called a global recession now, but there is something about the tone of that word…or maybe its the fact that a recession is capable of leading to a depression, and this stirs a very sick feeling deep in our stomachs.

Two of my uncles have lost their jobs because of the recession, many of my friends are also recently unemployed - some are now living back at home "temporarily" and taking any job they can just to get by.  I remember two years ago when I put up the HELP WANTED sign at Springbank Cheese, and after 4 weeks of waiting, I might have received 6 resumes from high school  students or recent grads, and I hear that these days, the same sign in the window draws dozens of resume's from people, even with university degrees.

Here in Zambia the global recessions' effects are delayed because it isn't tied into the system nearly as closely as Canada is tied in.   However, this also means that Zambia hasn't seen all the benefits of being tied in over the past 40 years.


The times, they are a changin.

Last week I met a pretty cool group of Americans who are with Peace corps in Zambia.  I quickly realized how far I have come in the past 5 years because I use to be the left leaning guy who thought socialism was necessary, that things like welfare, free health care, and free education are the way to go…and really an overall safety blanket for the public.  I also thought the more aid to developing countries the better.

Now my thinking is almost on the other end of the spectrum.  After working as a manager, travelling the world a bit and analysing how people are motivated and what income generation really means….well, ya, my conclusion is very much in line with what Mr. Barack Obama said last night;

  "the market is the most effective mechanism for creating wealth and distributing resources to produce goods and services that history has ever known,"

During the conversation I had with these Peace corps volunteers, I made a statement which would've been totally counter intuitive to me 5 years ago.  I claimed that "to reduce the gap between rich and poor, what's needed is for everyone to be given a fair chance, NOT for the rich to be taxed more such that the money can be given to the poor".  In other words, I believe the current set of rules, which includes both international trade rules and various government regulations even in Canada…I believe that on a whole, these rules are not fair.  I also believe that if they were fair, I would be content to go home, mind my own business and focus on being a decent member of my own community.  If they were fair, I believe absolute poverty wouldn't exist, I believe people would have a justified feeling of hope and the vast majority of us would work hard to ensure that life for the next generation will be just as good if not better.  For me, this might mean protecting the environment, for others with less money, it might mean sacrificing today so their children get a good education and a better life tomorrow.

However, this is a pipe dream.  The current situation is not fair.  The current situation kills hope.  Rules are in place which put women at a huge disadvantage.  The WTO (World Trade Organization) monitors a set of trade regulations which work to the advantage of the rich countries, not because the WTO itself is evil or even bad, but because the power lies in the hands of very few who want to protect their interests. 

If I had a magic wand, I would change these rules.  But I don’t.

In a couple of my blogs I mention the idea that peace comes through business transactions, or on the global scale, it comes through trade.  I also believe that the exact same tool for bringing peace also is the key to development and wealth creation.

Trade trade trade …. maybe I am way off, but I would love to hear why.  Its not going to be easy, but I only have to listen to the stories of how my grandpa only went to school up to Grade 6 and would go for days away from home chopping wood in the middle of winter, and where they would even sleep in the same shelter as the horses to help keep warm.  Lets not forget where we came from, we still have one foot in the past and we need to appreciate how far we've come.




I liked this Q&A with Mr. Obama at the G20 summit.

 Q: My… question is(on behalf of the world): politics is very local, even though we've been talking about global solution... How can you make sure that you will do whatever you can so that local politics will not trump or negatively affect good international economics?

Answer from Mr. Obama:

"I'm the President of the United States. I'm not the President of China…And so I have a direct responsibility to my constituents to make their lives better. ... how concretely does me being here (at the summit) help them find a job, pay for their home, send their kids to college, live what we call the American Dream. And I will be judged by my effectiveness in meeting their needs and concerns.


But in an era of integration and interdependence, it is also my responsibility to lead America into recognizing that its interests, its fate is tied up with the larger world; that if we neglect or abandon those who are suffering in poverty, that not only are we depriving ourselves of potential opportunities for markets and economic growth, but ultimately that despair may turn to violence that turns on us; that unless we are concerned about the education of all children and not just our children, not only may we be depriving ourselves of the next great scientist who's going to find the next new energy source that saves the planet, but we also may make people around the world much more vulnerable to anti-American propaganda"


Colleen said...


I really enjoyed this post. It was very honest and insightful about the changes you have had personally and what you feel is needed (or might be needed). Like you, my thoughts and opinions have changed over the course of the year. I'd be interested to hear more about your new perspective on the economy as the ultimate driver for growth.

How do you see this in your work on honey production with FF?

francis said...

hello man,
What an interesting article that you wrote, i was born and raised in Zambia and immigrated to the united states a few yrs ago. i plan to go voluneteer in the peace corps in Zambia in two yrs time if am able to get in.Anyways, id like to talk to you via my email, if you get a chance,drop me an email