THE late Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley was one of the leaders of the developing countries calling for a new international economic order. Now, as then, the governments of developed countries refuse to address the just goals advocated by the peoples of the so-called Third World.
The powerful who are the beneficiaries of the international economic system will not willingly redress the distribution of benefits which accrue disproportionately to them. The origin of this dichotomy of economic gains is inherent in capitalism, if not tempered by being embedded in a social framework for affirmative action.
At the level of the nation state, every government, admittedly to different degrees -- makes some effort to assist the plight of their citizens that are disadvantaged by poverty. There is no such mechanism operating at the international level because the peoples of the world do not feel themselves to be part of a global community. There is development assistance by developed countries, euphemistically known as "aid", but it has never been enough and it is mostly tied to purchases and consultants in the developed countries.
Mr Manley abhorred injustice and sought to change the organisation of the international economic system to allow poor countries to achieve self-reliant economic development. He was both an effective advocate and practitioner of the goals and principles he believed should constitute the tenets of economic justice.
The People's National Party (PNP) subscribed to Mr Manley's ideas of a democratic and transparent governance of the international economic system in which collective action by groupings of developing countries could exert influence.
It is testament to his legacy and to the continued injustice of the global economic system that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in her address to the United Nations General Assembly last week, found it necessary to call the attention of the international community to the plight of the small island developing states which include Caricom countries.
"We are hampered by the volatility of energy and food prices, decreases in export commodity prices, and weak capital inflows. Increasing food prices cause untold hardships for many of our people, particularly the most vulnerable in our societies," she told the UN.
The prime minister's theme resonates with the need for reform pointed out by Manley in his book Up the Down Escalator: Development and the International Economy and the way forward as set out in the Michael Manley-Willy Brandt report Global Challenge: Breaking the North-South Agenda.
We commend the prime minister for the theme of her address to the UN as these issues are in desperate need of a spokesperson, and Caricom has to articulate the case of the small middle-income developing countries as they struggle in the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression.
Gone are leaders like Michael Manley, Fidel Castro, Julius Nyerere, and Caricom is without the leadership P J Paterson, Alister McIntyre, Shridath Ramphal, William Demas, Don Mills, and Owen Arthur.