Some trends are irreversible. Without this indisputable reality, the world as we know it would be completely different. The incremental changes from which humanity evolves from primitivism to social progress underscores that verdict of history. Because humans remain instinctively resistant to changes and invariably prefer the path of least resistance, all positive accomplishments were never easy. As the financial meltdown becomes the “number one issue” in this year’s presidential election, overshadowing perennial concerns such as a possible insolvency of the social security trust fund; terrorism and health care, the transfer of U.S manufacturing jobs overseas merit to be put in perspectives.
Understandably, the financial crisis that cripples a number of investment banks; the slump in the housing market and uncertainty about the economy are creating emotional havoc within many American families. Moreover, as more and more Americans are living under the specter of losing their jobs, outsourcing is undermining a sacrosanct American value: namely, uninhibited optimism. Is this conjectural pessimism warranted or the politicians and the American people have yet to reconcile themselves with the transformative and inevitable nature of outsourcing, which requires a bit of inventiveness and dexterity nevertheless?
While the jury is still out on the ultimate consequence of globalization on the U.S economy; outsourcing, its progeny, remains part of a revolving cycle from which derives progress. Granted many C.E.O took the objective a bit too far by relocating some high-tech industries overseas, enabling recipient countries to leapfrog technologically and become competitive with the U.S; outsourcing remains a natural evolution of the industrial revolution, thus inescapable. It not only worked for Great Britain, the pioneer of the industrial revolution, but also facilitated the industrialization of many countries, therefore reducing poverty in unprecedented numbers in our interdependent world. Moreover, the transfer of industries from the industrialized to the technologically least developed countries benefits contributors and recipients, because it expansively creates wealth, facilitates trade, and reduces the threat of military conflicts.
Had outsourcing not become part of the U.S’ economic strategy in the 1980’s, that country’s exports would be prohibitively expensive, because of the high wages of the deserving U.S workers. Moreover, the U.S would have had to rely solely on its domestic market and those of other affluent countries, which by themselves were not enough to absorb its colossal manufacturing capacity. The end result would have been protectionist legislations from the U.S Congress; massive lay-offs of workers or closing of manufacturing plants. All these would have disrupted world trade and affected living standards worldwide.
Critics would say: is not what is happening now the other side of the same coin? On the surface yes, but a comprehensive analysis of outsourcing reveals that bad management of the enormous surplus generated by the trend rather than outsourcing itself created the present situation. Although many cities affected by the phenomenon re-invented themselves to reflect the post-industrialization era, Wall Street and the banking industries, flush with excesses cash, simply engaged in speculative economics that did nothing to strengthen the U.S economy. Hence, the era of hostile takeover; corporate raiders, junk bonds, big bonuses for hedge fund managers, mismatched mergers, and the sub prime loans phenomenon that ultimately created the housing crisis. When Bush got hammered for saying that Wall Street got drunk; it was one of truest statements ever emanated from a U.S politician. I believe the president meant to say that Wall Street was guilty of excessive greed and a gross deficiency in patriotism for its emphasis on instant profits and absolute disregard for the nation’s economic well-being.
While many U.S politicians fret about the destabilizing effect outsourcing is having on the U.S economy, other industrialized countries are confronting the same problem. Analogically, a pair of shoes made in prosperous Italy and Spain is definitely more expensive than one produced in Vietnam or Brazil. A ton of steel manufactured in South Korea or China would be less expensive than one produced in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. Even China, distinguished for its unlimited reserve of cheap labor, is outsourcing many of its manufacturing production to countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam and other less developed parts of Asia.
Consequent to this inescapable cycle, many affluent countries, once renowned for the quality of particular manufactured goods, have become net importers of these products, because it no longer make economic sense to produce them domestically. I was an uninformed critic of outsourcing until a thorough analysis of its irreversibility and positive aspects convinced me otherwise. Hence, moving beyond the emotional aspect of the debate, fueled by dislocations and job losses, should be the focus of U.S policy makers. But politics being politics, many politicians would milk the issue to the fullest and, in the process, lose sight of the larger picture.
Whichever way on puts it, outsourcing is an irreversible phenomenon affecting the entire industrial world rather than a peculiar U.S predicament. The Europeans responded to the trend by integrating their countries’ economies, a move that allowed them to clamp down on speculative economics within the Union and rewrite the rules of global trade in their interests. With China slated to overtake the U.S economically within the next two decades, the U.S must get its house in order or risk becoming, like Britain or France, still relevant on the international arena but not powerful enough to lead.
What is next for the U.N mission in Haiti
For decades, studies after studies exhorting Haiti’s leadership to tackle the country’s ecological degradation, have gone unheeded. This devil may care attitude is emblematic of what is wrong with Haiti where government oversight of anything, except its brutal supervision of the restive population, is minimal. Given Haiti’s small size and high demographic, the protection of its ecosystem, which should have been a priority, was never important on the agendas of successive governments. Tree cutting for use as charcoal left Haiti’s mountains and hillsides denuded, leaving the country vulnerable to merciless aggressions by Mother Nature.
The suffering in this year’s hurricane season during which the country was hit by no less than four deadly storms, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, should be the catalyst for effective government actions. Creating more protected areas and embarking on a long-term reforestation program would be a step in the right direction. With 95% of Haiti’s forests gone, something has to be done and fast, otherwise large parts of the country could become inhospitable in the near future.
Though the official tally on human fatalities is sketchy and incomplete, the economic damages are enormous, especially for Haiti, which ranks among the world’s poorest nations. To make matters worse, the country’s poor infrastructure impeded the delivery of urgently needed supplies to survivors. In Gonaives, Haiti’s third largest city and home to 300.000 souls, those stranded on rooftops and improvised shelters had to wait three days without foods and water before any help arrived. More importantly, one million people, one-tenth of the country’s population, are homeless and remain in dire need of assistance. Water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery are sure to follow because of lack of access to clean water.
The nation will forever be grateful for whatever assistance that came its way in these distressing moments. However, this latest calamity to befall Haiti, which has been under a Security Council-mandated occupation since 2004, adds to the urgency for a change of attitude by the international community, if bigger catastrophes were to be averted. With the highest population density in the Americas, clustered on a denuded landscape, Haiti is both an ecological and political disaster waiting to happen. Unless something akin to a Marshall Plan for Haiti is conceived, frequent unrests and mass migration affecting neighboring countries would be the only two options available to the beleaguered population. The government would certainly respond to the unrests with repression, creating an unending cycle of violence that could plunge Haiti deeper into the abyss of misery. More ominously, the international community might resort to financing an orderly return to Africa for the multitude of Haitian refugees, unwelcome and unwanted by neighboring countries.
Those who think that a forced return to Africa, camouflaged as an attempt to help, is far-fetched should remember the resettlement project of Haitians in sparsely populated Guyana and Panama in the 1990’s that fell through because of opposition within these countries. As for Africa, If one Haitian family could be accommodated, that of Aristide in South Africa, why not thousands and even millions in other parts of the Dark Continent? The worthlessness of Haitian lives, so apparent in the indiscriminate slaughter of thousands under the occupation, makes the sinister project all the more feasible and without political risks.
Haiti’s strategic location in the Caribbean, one of the world’s most visited regions, was one reason why the international community decided that episodic turbulences in that country will no longer be tolerated. Hence, the offensive label of Haiti being “a threat to international peace and security” and the occupation.
One cannot separate the destruction wrought by Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike from the foreign-induced political instability in Haiti that practically impedes social and economic progress, the lack of which is responsible for the gravity of the disaster. As today’s situation attests, the government and its foreign bosses are more concerned with quelling the artificially-created instability, which spun out of control, rather than improving Haiti’s infrastructure and economic conditions. Fittingly, the U.N military base being built in Sité Solèy makes more sense than a sewer or a water treatment plan since it can intimidate the restive population into submission, whereas economic progress would neutralize the rationale behind the occupation.
Whatever the spin on the occupation of Haiti, which took place at the behest of the country’s economic elite and international finance, the truth did finally reveal itself during this hurricane season. The inadequate international financial response contrasted with the 601.58 millions allocated for MINUSTAH in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009. Because the U.N is willing to spend that amount to subjugate the country, it sure can afford to shelter and feed the one million Haitians who find themselves homeless and desperate for a handout. The apologists may resort to subterfuges and hypotheses but the truth could never be altered, since it remains undeniable that the policies of those pretending to save Haiti are mostly responsible for the country’s misery and despair.
Be careful what you ask for, because you may get it. The artificially-created instability, which provided the rationale for the occupation, may now be harder to manage. As fate would have it, Mother Nature is helping. Would the recent tragedy usher an expedited implementation of phase II of the occupation, which certainly involves mass deportations to Africa? Whatever in the pipeline, the next 12 months could be full of surprises for both the population and the occupiers.