There are at present no alternative policies to globalisation

Guyana and the wider world
A new series on globalisation by Prof Clive Thomas
Stabroek News
September 10, 2000

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Globalisation is one of the most publicly discussed issues of our time. It has generated intense debates, heated polemics, public demonstrations and street protests across the globe. This series of articles on globalisation begins almost a year after it was first conceived, and preparatory work started. The original idea was prompted by my conviction that the forces of globalisation had already enveloped all our lives here in Guyana, and it was therefore our duty to understand these, if we are to make intelligent choices. If this is the case, why then the long delay?

Frankly it had nothing to do with the pressures of work and other commitments, as might normally be expected. Simply put, I had come to the reluctant conclusion that we are so taken up, if not obsessed, with our mounting domestic problems, that readers would view the series a 'luxury' they could do without. However, a chance encounter with the Editor-in-Chief two weeks ago, led to an 'about-face' and the spur-of-the-moment promise to start the series today. I hope that decision was a wise one, and that readers stay with the series!

Two hurdles
A series on globalisation has two immediate hurdles to cross. First, in light of the intense debates one must make clear what meaning the term globalisation conveys. And, secondly one should establish whether globalisation as described, represents something fundamentally different from all that has preceded it. As we shall note in the series, these questions are not as straightforward as they might seem at first.

The problem with the term 'globalisation' is that it comes in the wake of a long list of catch words and phrases used to describe global trends and international development. This has made persons skeptical that globalisation is anything more than another fad. Compounding this, several writers have used the term carelessly. Often they do not provide a description of the way the term is used in their text and their arguments move between several different meanings.

However, a careful reading of the voluminous literature on the topic indicates two general classes of meaning attached to globalisation. One is the 'narrow' meaning, which confines it to the economic, financial and technological changes now sweeping the global economy. The other is a 'broader' meaning, which embraces cultural, ideological, political and other changes, along with the economic ones. In this latter view, globalisation is a process that permeates every dimension of human society,in every country.

Significantly, both approaches twin globalisation with specific types of economic policies. These are summed up as 'neo-liberal policies' or liberalisation, and they contribute enormously to globalisation. These policies emphasise the removal of barriers to foreign investment, and domestic and international trade in goods, services and finance. State controls, whether in the form of import quotas, subsides, foreign exchange permits, or directed credit are to be progressively removed. Private markets are promoted, and with these private enterprise as the engine of economic growth. State operated productive enterprises, wherever they exist, are to be divested and privatised as soon as possible. The almost universal commitment to liberalisation is captured in the roles of the WTO, IMF and World Bank at the apex of regulation of the global economy. We in Guyana are very familiar with these 'neo-liberal' policies. Already therefore, we can see how genuinely 'original' and responsive to domestic needs and priorities are some of the major economic policies we practise.

The narrow meaning
An excellent example of the narrow meaning is offered in the UNDP Human Development Report 1997. That Report states that "globalisation encapsulates both a description and a prescription". The description is "the widening and deepening of international flows of trade, finance and information in a single, integrated global market". The World Bank also describes it as the "growth in cross-border economic activities".

The UNDP Report, however goes on to describe the prescription (liberalisation) as the aim "to liberalise national and global markets in the belief that free flows of trade, finance and information with produce the best outcome for growth and human welfare".

The UNDP is careful to note that all this is presented with an "air of inevitability". It remarks that, not since the triumph of free trade in the 19th century has "economic theory elicited such widespread certainty".

The narrow meaning concentrates on a number of basic trends in the global economy. One is the unprecedented growth of "international production". That is the global output of transnational firms (TNCs). These are firms based in one country, that invest in others. This production is growing faster that either total global output or global trade. The basis for this development is the explosion of new technology - particularly in the areas of information, communications and transport. The effect is a global shift in production and trade towards services and knowledge intensive activities. The second is the rising share of trade (especially trade in services) as a proportion of global output. The third is rapid expansion of foreign direct investment by TNCs, which causes international production to rise.

Finally, the liberalisation of financial markets has had enormous consequences. It is now estimated that daily global financial market transactions exceed US$1.6 trillion. This is more than 100 times the value of these only a quarter of a century ago!

The broader meaning
My own academic writings support the broader meaning, and this will be reflected in the series. This meaning stresses the importance of locating these dramatic economic changes in a broader context. Some examples would indicate what I mean.

For example, the dramatic economic changes referred to, have intensified with the end of the Cold War. The existence of one capitalist superpower has made neo-liberal policies, far more 'acceptable' than they were before. There are at present no serious contending alternative sets of policies to challenge the worldwide shift in favour of globalisation and liberalisation. A second example is the historically unprecedented development of sites of authority at the global level, which out-rival those at the national level, in many countries. The best examples of these are the United Nations, WTO, IMF and the World Bank. Finally, as a result of the rapacious, unregulated natural resource-based economic development of the past, there is now a serious threat to the environmental integrity of planet earth.

These and other changes make clear that the forces of globalisation and liberalisation are as much material (economic), as they are non-material. The non-material forces shape our world outlook, our belief systems and religions, our ideas and institutions, and our culture and behaviour. In the long run this may well turn out to be the most permanent outcome of globalisation.

Before we delve into these matters in the months to come, next week we shall examine the idea that globalisation is a new phenomenon, which is fundamentally different from all that has preceded it in recorded history?

  • Liberalisation: policies in support of globalisation
    September 24, 2000

  • Globalisation and market dominance
    October 1, 2000

  • The outcomes of globalisation
    October 8, 2000

  • Two peas in a pod: the TNCs and globalisation
    October 15, 2000

  • The new bonanza: The business of buying and selling of firms
    October 22, 2000

  • Globalisation: more on buying and selling firms
    October 29, 2000

  • Globalisation: The costs and benefits of foreign investment
    November 5, 2000

  • Globalisation and the new trade order
    November 26, 2000

  • Globalisation and the Caricom external trade maze
    December 3, 2000

  • Globalisation and the free trade fiction
    December 10, 2000

  • Globalisation and the WTO
    December 17, 2000

  • Globalisation: New issues for the new millennium
    December 31, 2000

  • Globalisation and finance
    January 7, 2001

  • Globalisation, gambling and greed
    January 14, 2001

  • Globalisation: a life of its own
    January 21, 2001

  • The new financial instruments of globalisation
    January 28, 2001

  • Globalisation: From crisis to crisis
    February 4, 2001

  • 'Finance: The Achilles heel of the global economic system'
    February 11, 2001

  • Globalisation: taking stock'
    February 18, 2001

  • Globalisation and food security
    February 25, 2001

  • Globalisation: food security and the agreement on agriculture
    March 4, 2001

  • Globalisation: food security and biotechnology
    March 11, 2001

  • Globalisation: The theory and practice of food security
    March 18, 2001

  • Globalisation and poverty: The best of times and the worst of times
    March 25, 2001

  • Globalisation: measuring poverty
    April 1, 2001

  • Globalisation: The measurement of poverty and the poverty of measurement
    April 8, 2001

  • Globalisation: what is this thing called global poverty?
    April 15, 2001

  • More on global poverty indicators
    April 22, 2001

  • Globalisation: human development, human poverty and the UNDP indicators
    April 29, 2001

  • Globalisation: gender, poverty and development
    May 6, 2001

  • Globalisation: The new millennium goals and targets
    May 13, 2001

  • Globalisation and comparative advantage
    May 20, 2001

  • Globalisation and double standards

    May 27, 2001

  • Globalisation: the fraying web of life
    June 10, 2001

  • Globalisation and ecosystems
    June 17, 2001

  • Globalisation and the doomsday scenario
    June 24, 2001

  • Globalisation and the erosion of culture
    July 1, 2001

  • Globalisation and the new health scourge
    July 8, 2001

  • Full circle: economy,nature, culture and life itself
    July 15, 2001

  • Globalisation and recent trends in human developement
    July 29, 2001

  • Globalisation and the millennium goals
    August 5, 2001

  • Globalisation: CARICOM and human developement trends
    August 12, 2001

  • Globalisation, technology and development
    August 19, 2001

  • Globalisation: The economist's view of technology
    August 26, 2001

  • Gobalisation: applying the economist's view of technology
    September 2, 2001

  • Globalisation: one year later
    September 9, 2001

  • Globalisation and global terror
    September 16, 2001

  • Globalisation: Economic lessons from the aftermath
    September 23, 2001

  • Globalisation: The mainstream and fringe in the aftermath
    September 30, 2001

  • Globalisation and Caribbean economic performance
    October 7, 2001

  • Globalisation: Some economic challenges for the Caribbean
    October 14, 2001

  • Globalisation: Differential Caribbean economic performance and size
    October 21, 2001

  • Globalisation and social development in the Caribbean
    October 28, 2001

  • Globalisation and social challenges in the Caribbean
    November 4, 2001

  • Globalisation: More on social challenges in the Caribbean
    November 11, 2001

  • Globalisation: Concluding the social challenges
    November 18, 2001

  • Real tiger or paper tiger: the WTO in action
    November 25, 2001

  • Globalisation and the new WTO principles
    December 2, 2001

  • Globalisation: Strategy at Doha
    December 9, 2001

  • WTO and intellectual property: owners versus users
    December 16, 2001

  • Globalisation: more on the intellectual property debate
    December 23, 2001

  • WTO: The bold move into services
    December 30, 2001

  • GATS: The time of services has arrived
    January 6, 2002

  • Global trade in services: The CARICOM perspective
    January 13, 2002

  • More on CARICOM priorities and trade in services
    January 20, 2002

  • CARICOM and trade in accounting services
    January 27, 2002

  • Enron: The dark side of financial liberalisation
    February 3, 2002

  • Taking note of the local business environment
    March 17, 2002

  • On preventing "Local Enrons"
    March 24, 2002

  • Putting in place the new global agriculture regime
    April 7, 2002

  • The third pillar of the new agriculture regime
    April 21, 2002

  • The third pillar of the new agriculture regime
    April 28, 2002

  • Caribbean agriculture in the new trade order
    May 5, 2002

  • How sweet it is: Sugar in the new trade order
    May 12, 2002

  • How sweet it is! More on Caricom's sugar industry
    May 19, 2002

  • Losing the war against food insecurity
    June 30, 2002

  • WTO: Buying and selling ideas and knowledge
    July 14, 2002

  • Torn apart: Sams, scandals, skullduggery and the US exchange
    July 21, 2002

  • Fraud in the USA: The limits of presidential intervention
    July 28, 2002

  • The stock market crisis: enter the dragon
    August 4, 2002

  • Corporate theft: ending the era of low standards and false profits
    August 11, 2002

  • Lesson one: The perils of cooking corporate accounts and national accounts
    August 18, 2002

  • Fool’s gold, snake oil and make-believe
    September 8, 2002

  • Globalisation in stress: Business ethics and the stock market disease
    September 15, 2002

  • Globalisation: The cost and pain of financial crises
    September 22, 2002

  • Exceptions that prove the rule: WTO escape hatches
    September 29, 2002

  • The backwardness of breaking rules: The WTO's dispute settlement system
    November 17, 2002

  • Regulating global trade: Developing countries and small states
    December 8, 2002

  • Developing countries in the WTO system
    December 15, 2002

  • 'The United Nations is still becoming, still imperfect, but it is all we have'
    January 5, 2003

  • Feeling the heat: Globalisation and the Latin American-Caribbean Region
    January 19, 2003

  • The Latin American/Caribbean crisis and the ‘Guyana syndrome’
    January 26, 2003

  • The Bush stimulus plan: Responding to globalisation's crisis
    February 16, 2003

  • The global crisis and economic consequences of the axis-of-evil
    March 2, 2003

  • Corruption, the shadow economy and the state
    March 23, 2003

  • The shadow economy in Guyana
    April 6, 2003

  • More on backward capitalism
    April 27, 2003

  • The misadventure of public sector reform
    May 25, 2003

  • Trapped in a vicious circle
    June 1, 2003

  • Corruption in aid and political attitudes
    June 8, 2003

  • Globalisation and the ‘failed state thesis’ of state mutation
    June 15, 2003

  • External intervention and the failed state
    June 22, 2003

  • More on the root causes of ‘failed states’
    June 29, 2003

  • The failed state dilemma
    July 6, 2003

  • Past and present: authoritarianism and criminalisation
    July 20, 2003

  • The Achilles heel: Lessons from the past
    July 27, 2003

  • Putting it together: the state as criminal enterprise
    August 3, 2003

  • The heart of the matter: corruption, organised crime, and the shadow economy
    August 10, 2003

  • More theses on the criminalised state
    August 17, 2003

  • Grist in the mill of vested interests
    September 7, 2003

  • Concluding on governance and the criminalised state in the age of globalization
    September 14, 2003

  • 9/11 and the rocky road from Doha to Cancun
    September 21, 2003

  • Conspiracy: From “abominable no-men” to the “not for sale” network
    October 5, 2003

  • The litmus test: Agricultural negotiations at Cancun
    October 12, 2003

  • Attacking WTO core principles: Special and differential treatment
    October 26, 2003

  • Preferences do not work! Long live preferences!
    November 9, 2003

  • Flaws in the case against preferences and SDT
    November 23, 2003

  • A rich and rewarding experience
    November 30, 2003

  • The big prize: Small countries and Special and Differential Treatment
    December 7, 2003

  • Blowing 'hot and cold': WTO responses to Special and Differential Treatment for small states
    December 14, 2003

  • Why small size counts in global trade
    December 28, 2003

  • Small states and the vulnerability debate
    January 4, 2004

  • Guyana and the wider world
    January 11, 2004

  • Under siege: Small states and the offshore financial industry
    January 18, 2004

  • OFCs, Financing Terrorism, and the 'Dutch disease'
    February 1, 2004

  • Biting the dust: The other side of Vision 20/20 'Brave New World'
    February 29, 2004

  • The darker side: Crisis and vulnerability in CARICOM
    March 7, 2004

  • Regime change: Caricom and the New Haitian Model
    March 14, 2004

  • After the massacres: 'Work with us or we overthrow you' - the new democracy in Haiti
    March 28, 2004

  • Too harsh or too true: Gutless leaders unable to look a principle in the eye

  • At odds with itself: The scramble for territory in Caricom
    April 18, 2004

  • The maritime boundary disputes:Guyana enters the fray

  • The saga of the Caribbean Court of Justice

  • Rationalisation or reality: The law and development
    May 23, 2004

  • Guyana and the wider world:The ABC of high oil prices
    May 30, 2004

  • Once more how sweet it is: Sugar at the crossroad
    July 11, 2004

  • Lessons for the future: The myth of no relation between the world free market sugar price and its co
    July 18, 2004

  • The fall of King Sugar
    July 25, 2004

  • More on the regional sugar industry
    August 1, 2004

  • The decline of the Caricom sugar industry
    August 15, 2004

  • A tale of high costs: producing at a cost four times the 'commercial' price
    August 22, 2004

  • Sugar and shame: From imperial imposition to handout
    August 29, 2004

  • The Sugar Protocol: Quota size
    September 12, 2004

  • The EU's sugar reform proposals: Sham and scam
    September 19, 2004

  • Caught in the act: The WTO ruling and the EU's tangled web of deception
    September 26, 2004

  • Robbing Peter to pay Paul: More EU manipulation of sugar markets
    October 3, 2004

  • The ideology of 'there is no alternative' and the struggle for national policy space
    October 24, 2004

  • Policy space and the trade-off between global benefits and domestic constraints
    October 31 , 2004

  • Illusion or reality: The South and the new global division of labour
    November 7, 2004

  • China and the new geography of global economic power: Brave New World or more of the same
    November 14, 2004

  • The mechanisms of Guyana (Caricom)-type economies
    November 28, 2004

  • More on the Banks DIH and Ansa Mcal imbroglio
    January 16, 2005

  • After the great flood
    February 13, 2005

  • The Guyana economy before and after the great flood: Mired in an economic slump
    March 6, 2005

  • Sluggish export growth and the economic slump
    March 13, 2005

  • Oil imports, technology and the great slump
    March 20, 2005

  • Productivity decline and the economic slump
    March 27, 2005

  • Explaining Guyana's productivity decline
    April 17 , 2005

  • More on why economic growth is not forthcoming
    April 17 , 2005

  • Why all the fuss about competitiveness?
    June 5, 2005

  • Then and Now: The Transformation of Global Trade
    June 19, 2005

  • Transforming the geography of global trade
    June 26, 2005

  • Caricom then and now: Challenging the global division of labour
    July 10, 2005

  • Eye-pass
    July 24, 2005

  • The Walter Rodney conference and the changing world
    August 7, 2005

  • The health of the region is the wealth of the region
    August 15, 2005

  • HIV/AIDS and the threat to regional development
    August 28, 2005

  • Overwhelming the health system: Obesity and the development challenge in the Caribbean
    September 11, 2005

  • The United Nations at age 60 and the development challenge
    September 18, 2005

  • The second South summit: Making trade an engine of development
    October 16, 2005

  • Coming full circle: South-South trade and the continued dependence of poor countries on commodity exports
    November 6, 2005

  • China and South-South trade: Performance and pitfalls
    November 20, 2005

  • China: Threat or Challenge
    December 4, 2005

  • Countdown to Hong Kong
    December 13, 2005

  • Demonstrations without disagreements within WTO business as usual
    December 18, 2005

  • Verdict on Hong Kong: So much labour for so little!
    December 25, 2005

  • Looking backwards and forward: Guyana in a new year
    January 15, 2006

  • Seeking to make the obvious invisible: Stratagem or stupidity
    January 29, 2006

  • Politics in command: The economic consequences of senseless acts
    February 5, 2006

  • Economic sense and nonsense: Invoking the phantom economy
    February 12, 2006

  • The rise of the phantom economy and social decline
    April 9, 2006

  • The disposition of Guyana's forest assets
    January 29, 2007

  • Guyana's Poverty Reduction Strategy Programme (PRSP) and the forestry sector
    February 4, 2007

  • Guyana and the Wider World
    April 8, 2007

  • Regional Trends and Their Impact on State Formation: Guyana
    April 29, 2007

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