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Economics: Have We Got It Wrong?

A brief review of a presentation by Geoff White, the general manager of Trade Aid Importers Ltd.

Geoff White

This presentation was given as part of the BNZ Business Seminar Series  organised by the School of Business , University of Otago 10 August 2010.

The background was set by an explanation that all international commerce could be traced back to King Henry VIII. He then traced the history of economic development from then to the present (as a brief overview). White suggests that we should take a macro look at the history of economics and economic  development and not just take an arbitrary date that will support the current thinking.

White went on to discuss the Trade Aid charter explaining the three areas of partnership, change and sustainability.

Key statements:

“Globalization is very poor at growing wealth” and “free trade has not delivered growth, stability and equality”.

“I don’t want nice words, I want an order” White quotes a Bangladeshi women after he gave  a presentation on trade in a town in  Bangladesh.

“The status quo is not good enough for 80 percent of the world”

“The future of the fair trade movement is in the domestic market”. This is in the producing countries overseas and in New Zealand. With the decline of globalization, small and medium enterprises are ideally suited to service the domestic market that they are based in, e.g. local seasonal food produced for a local market.

To measure the impact of fair trade we need to make sure that success is measured in the eyes of the community that is being assessed  and not imposing a “western” standard that would be unobtainable. “An iron shed is luxury compared to a mud hut” yet to a first world economy observer it would be still an iron shed. Mediocrity to one person is excellence to another. It is not for us to judge the other, especially if we do not know all of the circumstances of the other.

“All this (change) is good, but besides, there is something really important that may be difficult to measure but is real: artisans and their families now can think in the future, they can do planning, they can even dream.” MINKA, Peru.

Questions:

Are free trade agreements always good? Often the free trade agreements can include “hooks” that could affect, not just business but may impose a colonial style approach to education, health, and welfare. Each agreement needs to be looked at not just from an economic perspective but from a holistic societal and sovereign view. Is short-term gain ever worth long-term loss? Some doubt and suspicion is required to ensure that own interests are protected, this includes the sale of land to overseas interests.

A further question to be asked is: Sustainable for who? Are all parties to any trade being treated in a way that is beneficial for all?

Overall this was an excellent presentation and the fact that the audience was left with questions will help in applying due diligence to all trade practices.

Paul S Allen

True Unity

Unity

In a world where there is so much need why does there exist rivalry between different agencies to meet the need?

Is it because of funding, ideologies, or worse power?

Where does unity fit into this, can it fit?

There are many great causes around the world whether it is poverty, injustice or health related, but there are also seemingly competing agencies or organizations that are competing to get the resources or the following required to be able to win the cause.

Unity does not come from oneness of action but oneness of purpose.

Each part plays its own role, as like the body, a hand is not better than the eye, or the ear better than the legs. All parts are important to achieve a unified life.

Each individual part may have its own function to play but it is only significant when it is part of the rest of the body.

Recognising that your organization is only part of a solution is important as it allows others to freely fill the gaps, perhaps where there are crossover areas collaboration should occur.

Indeed collaboration and partnerships are the sinews and ligaments that hold the body together.

In the fight to beat world poverty or hunger or even an environmentally friendly world, what we need is dialogue between agencies, governments, industry, and communities that while recognising differences can utilise each parts unique quality to build a better world.

The major hindrance to significance is ego. Significant change comes from an understanding that it is not about the individual but rather society; other rather than self; the next generations to come rather than “what’s in it for me”.

While it is right that someone should be in the coordinating leadership role, that person should be a servant whose purpose is to work to make sure that the cause is completed for the sake of all, not just for the glory.

Unity comes from recognising that differences are important and should be valued, celebrated, and that together doing our own special part we can see the cause won.

Paul Allen

Sustainable business is over emphasized.

I think the term “Sustainable Business” is over used, what it should be is “Best Business Practice.

“Sustainable Business” is often seen as another thing that businesses need to add to an already busy programme.”

Best business practice should be by nature “sustainable”, it needs to be a normal part of good business planning.

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