What will 2012 bring?

| by Dr. Ruwantissa Abeyratne

( December 29, Montreal, Sri Lanka Guardian) The focus in 2012 could be on a multiplicity of aspirations, following the eventful occurrences of 2011. One focus would continue to be on people power, and protestations against autocracy and corporate greed will continue throughout the world. The Arab Spring could spread through sub Saharan Africa and unless the affected countries heed the example of Myanmar as a harbinger, they would realise that governments which opt to continue dominating by force will continue to feel the power of the protester and the presence of the international community at their doorsteps. In other words, 2012 will be the year of the people, whether there will be more dramatic regime changes or not.
International intervention to prevent the massacre and torture of people who protest peacefully against their regimes has proved to be effective when exercised by the international community prudently.
Fiscally, 2012 had better be the year of growth rather than just a year of austerity. Whether in Europe, the Americas or South America, merely cutting spending without the promotion of economic growth simply will not work. Economic stagnation could be avoided by taking a quick look at history, where in 1937, the tightening of fiscal and monetary policy saw the United States economy go down to disastrous levels.
For most countries including China, which has transited from being an export driven economy to being labelled as a consumer focused society, investment in education and health services would be a priority. The Chinese would have to balance their phenomenal march towards infrastructure development with a structured programme of investment to uplift the lot of their lower classes, which are still in the millions. The Economist is incontrovertibly accurate when it says in its forecast for 2012: “ The best arguments remain with liberalism, especially in the emerging world. From Shanghai to Mumbai and Sao Paulo governments that removed economic restrictions have made their citizens richer. But militarism, xenophobia and protectionism will remain beguiling options for any politician under pressure. It could be a rocky year”.
The author believes that a compelling direction developing countries would have to take is to vigorously pursue foreign direct investment if their low income earning populaces are to lift themselves up from poverty. Both developed and developing countries would need to focus on being competitive both in trade and in essential services such as education and health care.
There are three areas that would be crucial to 2012 if we are to avoid it being a year of self induced stagnation. They are: competition for growth; international intervention to secure the welfare of people; and investment in a balanced education and healthcare for the people. As for competition for growth, this is not a new measure of economic proactivity I have argued in my writings that national prosperity is created, not inherited. Although national resources are a States’ assets, the prosperity of a nation does not necessarily emerge solely from the natural endowments of the State concerned, nor from its labour resources, but rather from a certain localized process which engulfs economic structures, national values, culture and institutions. The essential catalyst to trade is national competitiveness.
National competitiveness is one of the most critical drivers of successful government and industry in every nation. Yet for all the discussion, debate, and writing on the topic, there is still no persuasive theory to explain national competitiveness. What is more, there is not even an accepted definition of the term “competitiveness” as applied to a nation. While the notion of a competitive company is clear, the notion of a competitive nation is not.
International intervention to prevent the massacre and torture of people who protest peacefully against their regimes has proved to be effective when exercised by the international community prudently. This was seen in the implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 which gave the necessary military impetus that prevented the massacre of protesters by the Libyan forces. Another effective measure was the intervention of the League of Arab Nations in Syria, which was intervening on behalf of the people of Syria at the time this article was being written. Only history will tell what the outcome of these negotiations were. Retorsion, which diplomatically isolates a State and its people until that State complies with internationally accepted norms of conduct and governance, together with international sanctions should continue to be considered effective tools of international intervention throughout 2012.
I also believe that 2012 would be a pivotal year for States to focus on investing in their future generations by enhancing their opportunities of education. In this regard one can see the disturbing trend that relegates the humanities to the background. While it is true that the advancement in science is crucial for development, yet it is disturbing that the relevance of educating our children in the humanities is fast receding, giving way to undue emphasis on economic literacy and business education. Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago Martha N Nussbaum, in her book ‘Not for Profit – Why Democracy Needs the Humanities’ (Princeton University Press: 2010) states: The humanities and arts play a central role in the history of democracy and yet today many parents are ashamed of children who study literature or art. It is largely a matter for the State concerned to reverse this trend. Again, I have argued in an earlier publication that that scholarship in humanities is achieved by approaching knowledge in a certain way that juxtaposes a close interpretive examination of languages, meanings, values, culture and aesthetics. Above all, the humanities question social and political myopia using such media as fiction, music, cinema, drama or intellectual debate and bring to bear the fundamental premise that we can live in a multicultural world in harmony, mutual respect and understanding.
The deep-seated empathy and incisive analysis provided by the humanities help people to see themselves as others see them and understand their problems. Humanities provide realization of others problems and needs and help in building capacity for concern for others in their misfortunes; promote racial harmony and responsibility to be accountable for ones actions. As Socrates observed: an unexamined life is not worth living. Within this context, the humanities provide a sound foundation for successful democracy and can no longer be impugned as an expensive irrelevancy.
Finally, from a social perspective, there could be a huge surge in the Facebook and Twitter culture, with new technologies joining the fray that would facilitate instance communication between a person in Australia with another in Zimbabwe. What Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook called the Law of Sharing could well become the Law of Political Coercion that would enable the forces of the public to readily and spontaneously communicate with each other to unite and overthrow an existing dictatorship merely by people power.
Perhaps that is what 2012 will end up as – the year of people power, which could effectively respond to the main concerns of the Economist – militarism, xenophobia and protectionism.

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Author: Sri Lanka Guardian

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