The new south

By Herman Silochan


Bold red mural sign at Pearson International Airport arrival gate: “In the future, South-South trade will be the norm and not novelty.” This is put up by HSBC, or better known as The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, one of the world’s largest, and with the most extensive branch banking system on the planet. They should know, that’s how they have grown so big in the past decade.

Last week the 2012 United Nations Human Development Report came out in Mexico City with its annual tally, published every year since 1990. It has its critics, as some prestigious economists and sociologists say that the report overlooks numerous factors about the quality of life. For example, Norway, which has been number one for the past several years, relies primarily on offshore oil production for its national wealth but has a very high rate of divorce and alcoholism. Playing even greater roles in human measurement in the newest report are purchasing income parity, education or access to knowledge, individual access to resources, life expectancy and health services accessibility.

All the same the UNHDR, through a decade of statistical refinement, has become a benchmark of sorts, helping direct investment and aid policies to the so-called lesser developed countries. What’s best about it is that it outlines trends which are taken quite seriously.

So, this report’s highlight is that in the next seven years, the combined economic output of Brazil, China and India will surpass the total output of the USA, UK, France, Italy and Germany. If and when this comes to pass, it will have historical far reaching implications in just about every area of human-political-philosophical activity. The sun seems to be rising in the south and greyness begins to cover the North Atlantic. Right now, no doubt you are aware of this everyday news, Europe’s economy is in a slight retraction, the future of the Euro currency is in doubt, already killed off by some self-same European bankers.

Now, don’t think is all ripe bananas and juicy coconuts in the South. Vast areas of poverty still and will persist, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and pockets in China and South Asia. Closing those gaps will not be easy even as income levels rise globally. Population growth, threats of mass epidemics and the ecology- industrial pollution, water shortage- will be serious common problems.

The new Chinese leadership, which came into office also last week, now has to deal with this heavy reality, even as it projects its power and prestige onto the world’s forum. The irony of this is that Northern nations, many former imperialist powers, have begun taking cues from the South, somewhat a role reversal, minus battleships and marching armies. The United States and Europe are looking at ways to resuscitate their economies, and see models of growth coming from places like Brazil, Viet Nam, Indonesia and Thailand.

All the high school and university textbooks which taught us “bedrock” values of liberal free trade will have to be re-examined. Inherent in that, and mixed in with nineteenth century socio-biological education, was a developed racism. One would want to think that with tough ongoing trade and national relations, mutual respect will devolve.

If you think of it, right now most of the United Nations’ reports and information gathering are co-authored by Asians, Latino-Americans and Africans. They have brought new insights into global governance and with it equality at the UN as never before. Signatories to various WWII charters, Winston Churchill, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin and Charles De Gaulle could never have envisioned such a rise of the south.

For our Caribbean readers let’s see how we do on the latest Human Development Index. We know we have our internal problems, but I dare say, the sun is on our side, somewhat. We are in Very High to High on the scale.

1-    Norway

2-    Australia

3-    United States

11- Canada

26- United Kingdom

38- Barbados

49- Bahamas

59- Cuba

63- Grenada

67- Antigua and Barbuda

67- Trinidad and Tobago

72- St. Kitts and Nevis

83- St. Vincent and the Grenadines

85- Jamaica

85- Brazil

88- St. Lucia

101- China

105- Suriname

118- Guyana

136- India

161- Haiti

186- Niger (last on list)