What next, since neoliberal capitalism not working?Sunday, February 28, 2021
LAST week I was clearing out my father's storeroom where he had saved a range of historical documents. From political analyses, policy research, the Emergency Production Plan of 1977 (an alternative plan to Jamaica going back to the International Monetary Fund), to many commission reports on how to reduce violent crime, the collection is reflective of a man who believed we could create a better Jamaica.
Dr DK Duncan was driven by his experiences and genuine love for Jamaicans, the majority of whom experience a Jamaica where 'the ground nuh level'. His life's passion was for an equitable, just, and fair Jamaica.
As I read the documents, I reflected on the Davos Agenda 2021 hosted by the World Economic Forum (WEF). I smiled as I recalled the recent statement by its founder, Klaus Schwab: “The world must move on from neoliberalism after this pandemic.” For context, the WEF is the renown international organisation that engages the foremost political, business, cultural and other leaders of society to shape global, regional and industry agendas. Best known for its annual winter meeting in Davos, Switzerland, to date it has mostly promulgated ideas based on neoliberal capitalism and western philosophies of growth as we know it.
Problems Starkly Revealed
“Fairer economies” was a main pillar in Davos 2021. Discussions were held on how to pivot from capitalism as we know it (which is primarily 'shareholder capitalism') to 'stakeholder capitalism'.
While the world saw an explosion of wealth post-1945 due to capitalism, trade and innovation, that has been accompanied by an alarming increase in inequality and a level of environmental damage never seen before. No one could ignore the stark economic and social inequality the novel coronavirus pandemic revealed.
This issue of growing inequality has dogged Jamaica for decades. Yet, most leaders in Jamaica's public and private sectors have adhered to that form of capitalism, where it was hoped enough growth would be generated for sufficient crumbs to fall from the proverbial table. It hasn't happened in Jamaica or the rest of the world. In the process, the power of unions declined and the intervention of Government in the economy diminished while companies grew larger.
Can Jamaica Pivot?
It was clear to me, as I went through the historical documents and notes, that DK and his fellow progressive patriots were trying to find a way that works for Jamaica. The message was that we can choose, we can define our path and not assume we have to follow other development paths.
It's actually what Lee Kuan Yew did for Singapore and Deng Xiaoping for China in forging a path of “State capitalism”. Now, their path does not have to be our path, but we have to recognise that the path we are on is not working for the majority of Jamaicans.
I have faith in the capacity and capability of Jamaicans — here and in the Diaspora — to craft a pathway that facilitates entrepreneurship and innovation while addressing the systemic inequalities in education, housing, health and economics. In doing so, we would also address the chronic violent crime that plagues the country and retards growth even further.
While one team deals with the day-to-day requirements to address the COVID-19 crisis, another cross-functional team needs to step back “from the forest to see the trees” and use the opportunity of the COVID-19 crisis to pivot. This would include:
• a living wage;
• an effective plan to make all schools good schools;
• resolutely pursuing milestones to become an export-driven economy and make some real money;
• agreeing on how we apply capital and training to continuously support the growth of micro-enterprises to small then to medium-size companies; and
• ways to share the cost of training the workforce and increasing the productivity of companies and the country and more.
Who's ready to chart the path for a fairer economy?
— Imani Duncan-Price is a former senator, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and Eisenhower Fellow. E-mail feedback to email@example.com
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