The UN is perceived as a kind of a World Government with which the best ethical democratic practices are associated. So when its agencies seek “reforms”, a warm welcome is extended to them by governments, intelligentsia, media and scholars. As poverty afflicts a major part of the world population, reforms are promoted in the name of the poor. Since the poor population is not uniformly distributed in the world, regional variations are a reality. Naturally, different solutions are tried at different places and one size does not fit all. So the poverty of the western countries is totally different from that in the eastern world. Even within this divide, regional contours throw up different models. The WTO (World Trade Organization) solutions don’t help all. And here lies the approaching dangers of neo-liberalism, the danger of impending Economic Occupation, which might engulf a country, region or part of the world.
One such movement is the promotion of foreign direct investment in retail trade. Couched in economic sophistry it essentially means free access to the retail market. One pre-condition of any such foreign direct investment is that the laws of the land coming in the way of such free access are either modified or exemptions are granted to the investor. It is a fact that capital is scarce and countries need high investments for economic growth. Besides, highly skilled manpower and state of the art machinery too may be needed for any noticeable economic growth. Technology is another quality product. The poor people, as also the poor peoples, lack such prized resources. Consequently they pay a very heavy price for acquisition of these tangible and intangible assets. They start with opting for second hand machinery, discarded technology, import of outdated technology and end up with costly production of poor quality goods and services. Even this slow growth takes decades for them as they struggle with improvements, up-gradations, modernizations etc as they progress in stages. Meanwhile they inflict miseries on their population by heavy direct and indirect taxation. Since it is the Nature’s law that livelihood activity never ceases, people pay unlawful rents, variously described but in reality corruption. It may be bribe, speed money, facilitation charges, lobbying, advocacy, workshops, seminars, study visits, discussions, summits, conclaves, service charges, commissions, sweat equity or reforms, but the target clearly is unhindered access to the market.
Corruption is endemic in poor economies. The rich economies have devised honourable terms to describe it in acceptable terms, such as lobbying. It is so life threatening purely from economic angle that neither the civil administration nor justice can provide any succor to the hapless poor people. All forms of governance, all institutions of the government, every arm of the social-political- economic- justice wings get compromised in the process. Transparency disappears totally. Shady institutions, bred out of corruption, take over the system. The economy comes under assault from the corrupt. They promote cronyism, breed crony capitalism, rule on the strength of plutocracy & mafia and reduce the statute to nothing more than toilet paper. They transport their treasures to foreign banks in tax havens. Such wealth is illegal accrual of money which is highly disproportionate to their known sources of income, invites the attention of international intelligence agencies, who are always looking for such couch potatoes for heads of the governments to serve their foreign policy goals, make them heroes in the international media for qualities they bestow upon them, facilitate their future rehabilitation plans and generally blackmail them on a sustained basis. After achieving such success, they venture upon advocating reforms. The double whammy of corruption and so called reforms only add to the poor people’s misery. The practices of some of the foreign direct investors in some other countries, their market dominance & monopolies, and the economic ill effects on the people frighten the people further. After all, investors are not there for charity. Their only goal is profits. If some foreign investor goes for investment, he is justified in demanding special privileges (as in Special Economic Zones or similar other attractively packaged operations). It is for the government of the destination country to guard its own national interests.
The national governments simply don’t do that. As mentioned in the foregoing, because of corruption or black mail, national governments of countries seeking foreign direct investments, not only fail to do their duty but also become complicit in weakening the economic sovereignty by actively promoting operations of foreign companies that will end up in economic occupation of that country in the near future. After all the two world wars were not fought for another Helen of Troy- they were economic wars! Is the declining World Economic Order no indication of the developing world economic scenario, with the melt down continuing and promising to further aggravate? Can economic or political sovereignty of any country be taken for granted if un-uniform laws operate in that country? Punishing corruption of local investors but sparing the foreign investor can never become acceptable anywhere in the world. Reforms seek to achieve exactly that privilege of no action for any unlawful acts of the foreign investors. They demand cloaking these concessions in the economic sophistry of the WTO kind. The misuse of the resources of the UN for pushing reforms of a deformed kind is the least that one would expect from a perceived World Government. The UN should ensure that the poor nations of the world do not lose their economic freedom, their economic sovereignty in the name of reforms. If not corrected in time, such a UN course will increase world poverty and not reduce it, trashing the millennia goals & other such programmes. The UN must draw up necessary convention to protect the poor, who run the worst risk of economic survival because of the need or the greed of foreign direct investment.
National political thinkers must step up their intervention. National leadership might have been compromised, all political parties and other individuals who might have kept black money abroad might also be compromised. The market is always comfortable in managing a handful of individuals rather than crowds called the masses. Costly elections deliver the nation a parliament which may not have membership in excess of 999. In that situation, which one is easier to manage: a population of more than a billion or 999? While power vests in the government, the people are entitled to keep an oversight on their activities. Either the government listens to the people or the people must make the government listen to them. The government is equipped with the brute power of the state. But the people are no less powerful. Only they have not discovered their own power. The brute power of the state is no match for the peaceful power of the people- satyagrah, non-violent movement, Arab Spring, Jasmine Revolution or the Occupy Wall Street are manifestations of superior people power which have changed regimes without shedding blood. Hence the people must watch out. Wealth cannot be allowed to be controlled by a handful of people. Means of production cannot be allowed to be monopolized by a handful of people. Army occupation cannot be suffered. Economic occupation is to be frustrated. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) cannot become a tool of Economic Occupation of any country.
The United Nations & its agencies ought to bring an ethical order in the world. That alone can be sustainable development. Rest of it is “unethicalism” of the International Civil Service that the United Nation has come to be considered by many. It needs to be noted that subversion of the laws leads to political chaos, civil disorder and total anarchy. All norms of social, political or economic behaviour start to lose their grip. People lose faith in the system. The history of mankind is replete with instances of civilizations having been uprooted by various kinds of aggressors. A civilization practicing values, especially human values, is greatly disadvantaged against an aggressor attacking any such values. The oldest world civilizations are proof of it. Until such time the world government draws up universal code of values with regard to social, political or economic behaviour, all operations camouflaged as reforms deserve to be closely scrutinized by the target country. Greed for wealth knows no limits nor puts any premium on values. The market forces can deploy any trick in the business guides to seduce government ministers and political party bosses to get privileges they desire. So far, nobody has withstood the charms of money and magnificent personalities! Only Adam & Eve have been thrown out of the Paradise: the serpent continues to be still there. It is the masses versus the classes when it comes to access any country’s retail trade.