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Edward Glenn | Don't blame globalisation

Published:Tuesday | July 5, 2016 | 7:00 AMEdward Glenn

I couldn't disagree more with Ian Boyne's assertion that Jamaica's prospects for development are largely beyond its control. This passivity, in and of itself, assures failure.

Jamaica has the means and talent to develop just as successfully as Bermuda and the Caymans. It has an industrious and motivated people. What Jamaica needs is to form the institutions of the 21st century - economic, legal, educational, and governmental - that function with sufficient intelligence so that they provide the infrastructure for increased wealth for everyone.

As Colbert noted as long ago as the 17th century, "Of all the devices for increasing royal revenues in the king's fiscal arsenal, the best is to improve trade and industry."

If Jamaica wants to increase its revenues so that it can pay down its debt, while providing a social safety net for the impoverished and disadvantaged, it must adopt policies that encourage economic growth and free enterprise. Not least of these is education reform.

Jamaica must reinvigorate its vocational-education programme at the high-school level. Every Jamaican must be given an opportunity to learn an employable skill, trade or craft. We need diesel mechanics, CT-scan technicians, welders, masons, electricians, as well as information technologists.

 

SKILLS-TRAINING NECESSARY

 

A skills-based education system would furnish our youth economic security and social standing. If you wish to see how telling this problem has become, consider the situation in the United States economy where five million jobs are unfilled because employers can't find people with the needed skills, while, absurdly, student-loan debt exceeds $1.2 trillion! Is there not something amiss here?

Mr Boyne rightly quotes The Economist in this regard: "Most of all, the West needs an education system that works for everyone, of whatever social background."

The source of frustration that underpins the revolt against the elites is not globalisation at all, as Mr Boyne and others incorrectly posit. Instead, it is the lack of social and economic fluidity within, ironically, the rich context that globalisation offers that the electorate resents and rightly attributes to exclusionary policies imposed by selfish, politically correct politicians and other cultural leaders.

Whether Mr Boyne likes it or not, competition and markets provide the wealth that create higher standards of living for entire societies. The key is balance, balancing the support and encouragement given to the ambitious with the obligations of a virtuous society. When imbalances are fostered by uninformed policymakers, we encounter serious problems, as in Greece, Venezuela, and, we all must admit, Jamaica.

 

LIMITED BY SOCIALISM

 

Political promises made to win elections are funded by debt that has grown to unsustainable levels. The bill of post-World War II socialism is coming due and the funds are not there to pay for it. Why? Because socialism's very flaw, to inhibit competition and business formation, makes economic growth too feeble to fund the debt.

Mr Boyne uses terms such as 'neo-fascist' and 'neo-liberal'. These are unhelpful because they sound au courant, but obscure the truth. For example, Mr Boyne doesn't understand the success of Donald Trump in the US, ascribing it to his ability to 'exploit' popular ignorance.

Trump is not a politician and is not 'exploiting' anyone. Instead, he is the businessman at the angry town meeting, who rises from the audience to decry the mayor and town council for the way the town is being managed: businesses are leaving because of high taxes, crime is rampant, the school system is expensive but provides a poor education, families are no longer moving into town.

There is a spontaneous roar of approval from the townspeople. That is the Trump phenomenon - having little to do with Trump, but everything to do with the polity and its frustration.

That this frustration is ubiquitous today is self-evident - Britain, France, Austria, Finland, Poland, Italy, and, yes, in Jamaica.

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