Sunday, September 1, 2013

The myth of economic imperialism: a brief take

[Recently, I was asked to express my views on the notion of economic imperialism and answer to a few questions. It was suggested that “the notion that Pakistan controls the reigns to the economic resources of the country is incorrect – she doesn’t. The G-7 does. They are the ones who make all the economic decisions for us, for our country, through their institutions like IMF, World Bank, and WTO through the policies of SAP, TRIPS, and TRIMS. The idea is to expropriate our land, our labor, our raw materials, and our markets for their own profits. This is what economic imperialism is all about.”] 

Here is the email I received on September 7, 2007:

We are a group of MBA students from LUMS, IBA, and CBM  who are launching a quarterly socio-economic magazine here in Karachi in November 2007.

We visited the Alternative Solutions Institute website and found it extremely interesting and thought-provoking.

We have found that your work is --enlightening-- to say the least and would appreciate if you can lend us your point of view oneconomic imperialism going on in Pakistan through the institutions of IMF, World Bank, and WTO (either in support or denial of the same).

Find attached a short introductory article to the process of imperialism as we understand. You will be interested to know that Mr. Tahir Husnain, Director of Economic Justice and Development (EJAD), Islamabad has already given us his point of view on the subject of economic imperialism.

Although our magazine issue is complete and all designed, we feel that it would do even better if you can contribute your thoughts on the subject as well. We submit our magazine for printing in 5 days.

Sir, we would be honored and privileged to have your thoughts printed on economic imperialism in our magazine for our readers. Can you kindly lend us some of your time and mind for this written interview of sorts?

We would wait for your decision.
Farhan Noor
Editor, CRITIC Magazine

But what I wrote and sent them was never published. Here is their response when I reminded them to at least acknowledge the receipt of my views / email:

I sincerely apologize for this uncalled-for delay in acknowledgment of the receipt of your email.

Unfortunately, our financiers have gone completely out of patience with us and they want the issue to be printed already. This obviously mean that I cannot accommodate your answer, much regretfully.

To let you know I have thoroughly read your response and cannot help but agree cent per cent everything you wrote. Your main argument that we should put our own house in order instead of pointing fingers and finding scapegoats and shifting blames and burden on other people's shoulders ring sanity and logic.

However, I do feel, at the same time, the capitalist interest-based banking system has a massive hand in economic imperialism throughout the world. This is no conspiracy theory, but rather an eye-opener. But then you are correct once again in pointing out that unless our own people (govt) are working hand-in-hand with these international financial institutions, nothing can transpire. Therefore and rightly so, the blame rests solely on us.

I promise to send you a complimentary copy of our issue in one months time, inshallah
Here is my response to this notion:

We are a lot of schizophrenics who are ‘usually characterized by withdrawal from reality, illogical patterns of thinking, delusions, and hallucinations, and accompanied in varying degrees by other emotional, behavioral, or intellectual disturbances.’ Our ‘defense mechanism’ has turned us into one of the greatest inventors and believers of conspiracy theories. We take and deal with whole of the external world as our enemy. If someone laughs, to us he is laughing at us. This is how we see people and reality existing outside of us.

One shouldn’t mind it as everyone is free to think, believe and act like as he wishes. But it must be pointed out that such a lot of people can never learn. If one cannot learn, one cannot grow and prosper. One who is just passive, submissive, and docile; one who is just the target of others and others’ conspiracies, how can he be alleged of doing anything wrong. All the wrongs, others do. So, we are the innocents. It is the whole other world that is after us to exploit us, to loot us, and to destroy us. We do nothing, hence, we learn nothing, and consequently neither we grow nor prosper. 

Since my childhood, I am trying to solve the riddle of one phenomenon that is somehow universal with our people: all the parents always blame other children or folks for any bad behavior or habits learned by their children. They and their children are just not responsible for, say drug-taking. It is other drug addicts who made them so. We blame others. Yeah, we blame others for what we do ourselves.

The same pattern of thinking and behavior can be seen replicated in all the other fields of life and learning. In politics, in economics, in culture, and in all the braches of knowledge, we commit to the same conspiracy theories.      

For any sane person, it is quite difficult to follow how the World Bank, IMF, ADB or any such institutions force us to be a client of theirs! How US or EU or G-7 or WTO compel us to be in their folds! How could they exploit us, loot us, and destroy us unless some of us are not prepared to be their partners in such endeavors. My stance is that if such exploitation, loot and destruction at the hands of above-mentioned institutions and countries or groups of countries happen, we and only we should be blamed for that. We should take the responsibility on our own shoulders for that.

Many of us are fond of calling this world a world ridden with cut-throat competition only. But we cannot ignore the fact that there is much cooperation, partnering, and mutual help also. Life is a phenomenon of inter-dependence and mutuality. Of course, we cannot take this world of ours as always making room for us, extending help to us, and sacrificing for us. Also, why should it be so? As we know, to live and to live well, we need to do hard work. It requires patient labor and continuous efforts to discover, create, invent, and produce. Nothing comes to be a useful thing easily and free of cost. We have to live in this world on our own, not on others’ expense. We have to prove our worth, only then we are rewarded. We need to realize that both individually and nationally.

Also, it is useless to contend conspiracy theories. The world is not devoid of them. But, pragmatically speaking, can we stop, or for that matter, can any one stop conspiracy theories against him? It’s next to impossible! It’s also misleading to go after stopping them; or lamenting on them, or justifying our own inaction, failure and irresponsibility on this pretext. History tells that conspirators succeed only when they find collaborators inside those against whom they conspire. Thus, it is we ourselves who are our own enemies, and it is among us that we have conspirators and conspiracies, and it is our own soil that proves fertile for them, and it is these factors that help any conspiracy come true.

If we put the notion of economic imperialism against this context, it seems that it’s but a myth only. Indeed it is our own being that we need to analyze and evaluate first. How strange that we want all such institutions and countries to be helping to us as if it is our privileged right. Would we be lending anybody without any interest and without any conditionalities? Isn’t it we ourselves who need to be blamed squarely for misusing and for letting highly expensive consultants misuse the loans?

Here are short answers to the questions:

What is the way out from all this mess?

Looking inward and taking up the responsibility for our own actions and failures is the way out from all this mess.

How can Pakistan get rid of herself from the mounting debt?

First, the government expenditures must be curtailed to a minimum. The number of taxes and their rates must also be reduced to a minimum. This will spur growth.

How can Pakistan become independent from the need of borrowing loans?

Very simple. Stop taking loans for the public sector to consume/waste; it is the private sector that will do the needful, and it will do it responsibly, as it has started doing.

How can Pakistan resume economic sovereignty without isolating herself from the international community? 

In absolute terms, there is no sovereignty. When we ink an agreement with someone, we lose some of our sovereignty. We give and take. We should have open heart and open arms. We should go for open and free trade and we will be most welcome by the international community.

How can Pakistan safeguard and promote her own interests?

How ironic that we want others help us, and at the same time want to safeguard and promote our ‘own interests’ only. Unfortunately, it’s a world populated by many peoples other than us. They have their own interests to safeguard and promote, like us. No doubt, there are mutual interests also. However, first we should be on our guard as against the ‘insiders/collaborators’ living among us. Then, we can go for such agreements that call for a win-win situation. We should be realist, not self-seekers in our dealings with others.

Or is Pakistan in a situation from which it is now almost impossible to escape?

No, nothing is impossible! It’s not escaping, rather a relentless struggle that we need. On the one hand, we need supremacy of the constitution, an independent judiciary, democracy under rule of law – in other words not an elitist democracy; security of fundamental rights of the citizens ensured in the Constitution. On the other hand, we need economic freedom to prosper, i.e. ‘personal choice, voluntary exchange coordinated by markets, freedom to enter and compete in markets, and protection of persons and their property from aggression by others.’

[This article was completed on 20, 2007, and then revised on September 27, 2007.]

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