Free Trade and Open Markets have worsened the plight of the poor.
Posted on July 9th, 2017

R Chandrasoma

As part of the prevailing capitalist philosophy, the notion of nations trading freely in goods and services is seen as the panacea for all the economic ills that beset mankind. If we look around the world, do we not see a marked increase in material prosperity at all social levels in most countries of the world? This is the argument trotted out by the defenders of the so-called ‘Free World’. That there have been vast social changes worldwide following the expansion of global trade is not contested. This expansion has made life potentially richer but at a social cost – an elite has climbed to new heights of material prosperity while the vast majority is enslaved to a system that operates not for its benefit but for the prosperity rich capitalist elites. In recent years some countries – forced devotees of the open market and trading freely in the good things that Nature had bestowed on them – have failed spectacularly while the Big Capitalists thrive on the misery of the deceived. As an example of this double-play by the rich, take the case of Venezuela – a once prosperous country now struggling to feed a population near starvation. A more telling example is the misery and starvation that engulfs most parts of Africa – once rich in resources but sadly ripped of its resources by the ‘open markets’ and ‘free trade’ forced on them by the white skinned foreigners who manipulate the market and harvest the richness that rightly belongs to the people of this benighted continent.

It is not necessary to overstate the case – that great champion of Free Trade and Open Markets – the USA – is now the victim of its own cleverness. American trade is now in the hands of bankers and capitalists who find it better to tie hands with aliens in distant lands than to invest in native ventures that directly benefit the people. They see such people-oriented investment as an inefficient use of resources – as their cherished goal is to make money – not the amelioration of social ill. The spectacular result is near extinction of heavy –industry in the USA and the catastrophic loss of jobs for the ordinary citizen while the big companies rake in the profits from investments overseas. The New President – Donald Trump – has his weaknesses but he is dead right when he sees unfettered international trade as the root cause of the economic decline of the USA.

There is a lesson here for the people of Sri Lanka. We have the current leader of economic thinking in Sri Lanka – Mr Ranil Wikramasingha – as an open and fervent advocate of foreign capital investment in Sri Lanka. He sees this investment as the key to the resolution of the poverty and economic bankruptcy that supposedly assails our poor nation. In the light of what we have said above, any capitalist investing money in this country will do so to make more money – not to help a struggling economy to regather strength. Indeed, the very purpose of such investment is to create global monopolies that reduce most poor countries such as Sri Lanka into clients states that provide  cheap labour and captive markets. In this larger sense, the agenda that Mr RW and his political friends that advocate is the direct route not only to economic thralldom but also – more disastrously – to a loss of national identity with the economic overlord calling the shots while true independence withers.

5 Responses to “Free Trade and Open Markets have worsened the plight of the poor.”

  1. sena Says:

    Not only RW, MR followed the policy you mentioned with a pinch of steroid. After freedom from terrorism he could have adopted an economic policy some what similar to 70-77 government, which he was a part of , until the things stabilized. No he went full blast and let all the luxuries in. He paid only lip service to rural populace (whose sons and daughters were sacrificed to rid the country of terrorism) while his brother spent tax money lavishly in Colombo. The luxurious life style was such fully 40% of foreign exchange (mostly earned by blue collar workers like housemaids) were spent on petrol. Instead of decreasing huge debt incurred due to war, MR vastly increased the national debt some on projects dear to him but has no future potential.
    And your accusation of white skinned foreigners, how about the dark skinned powerful local elites who benefit from such exploitation. They are the worst kind of racists in the world my friend – looking down their own people while colluding with foreigners to sell off their own people’s wealth just so that their social circles remain rich and powerful.
    And they are ably supported by university educated (I may remind you free of charge) doctors, engineers, scientists, administrators, MBAs, accountants etc etc. in other words professionals in (ever) developing countries so that they also have a chance to climb in to these racist local elite social circles.
    Look at Sri lanka. We have had higher education for more than 80 years. You can judge for yourself what its contribution has been to the economy. Almost no healthcare or biotechnology industry (medical education), No local knowledge base in industry (engineering), no impact from science education towards new knowledge, Sri lanka (unlike countries like Singapore) have no big finance or banking industry. In summary 80 years of higher education has contributed nothing to the economy and worst through corruption and mismanagement they steal the productivity of poor blue collar workers who shoulder the Sri lankan economy.
    True there is no such thing as a free lunch, but in countries where the educated has given back to the society in terms of establishing knowledge based economies (East Asia for example) they have used foreign investment to modernize their economies and to build local knowledge base. Unfortunately it has not happened in Sri lanka and with the attitude of our professionals and politicians one cannot expect it to happen in near future.

  2. Cerberus Says:

    Mr. Chandrasoma, You are absolutely right. President Mahinda Rajapaksa was trying to go on the path of Self-Sufficiency as you suggest. He had to spend money on the infrastructure since it had been destroyed and neglected for 30 years by the old hag CBK and Ponil. As soon as MR came into power he started projects to develop the infrastructure. In 2009 when he eliminated LTTE and their leader the West was livid. They send the French Foreign Minister Boucher and David Miliband Leader of the opposition in U.K. Parliament to beg for Prabhakaran’s life from MR. President Mahinda Rajapaksa stood firm and as a result, they started their plans to eliminate him. Funds were given to the opposition to mount a campaign to besmirch MR’s character and drag him to the ground. In spite of it MR would have won if there was no large-scale cheating by the opposition.

    During the last two years from Jan 2015, the මූසල ආණ්ඩුව has taken more loans than MR did in his time from 2005 to 2009. But what do they have to show for it? They go around opening buildings and hospitals etc that MR had built and they put their own name plate on the buildings after removing MR’s name. The only thing they have done with the money is to import luxury BMWS, Mercedes Benzes and Range Rovers for the corrupt parliamentarians. The bond scam engineered by Ponil and Arjun Mahendran is one of the biggest insider trading jobs in the world.

    Self Sufficiency would have given our people Dignity, Peace, and Prosperity. The farmers would have been self-employed and would have supplied the rice we needed. We could have had small-scale private operations to produce various other goods as suggested by Garvin Karunaratne in his article. See:

    The Yahapalanaya killed the fertilizer subsidy to destroy the farmers. Now that Wikunanasinghe wants to convert us into an export economy as per the instructions from the IMF. They feel the time is right for the takeover of Sri Lanka by Multinational Corporations and the wealthy Tamil Diaspora. They will come and buy everything from the Trincomalee harbor, Hambantota harbors our best lands and convert the people to serfs who will have to work under these Corporations. Instead of being a dignified race of people who are self-sufficient, we will end up as serfs working for a pittance for these corporations. Wikunanasinghe and his cohorts will be very well looked after. Sri Lanka labor costs are much higher than that in India, Bangladesh etc. So these corporations will import labor who will never go back and what happened in 1815 will be repeated. The ethnic balance will be changed furthermore forever. Both CBK and Ponil will have their ultimate revenge. Ponil is a twit who mind is still in the 1950’s mindset. He thinks Capitalism works. It does not as has been shown by one of the world’s foremost Economists Dr. Richard Wolf and many others.

    There are many top economists who have written on the topic. One of the most outspoken has been Dr. Richard Wolf. His famous talk Capitalism hits the fan is given below. His solution for capitalism is to have democracy in the workplace. The Mondragon Corporation in Spain is actually a large number of Co-operatives under the umbrella of Mondragon. This was set up with the blessings of the Catholic Church. In the USA there are many companies which are run as co-operatives where the employees participate in the decision making of the company affairs by being on the board. In Germany which has been very successful any company with over 2000 employees have to have at least 50% of employees on the board. This is why unlike USA Germany is very successful. In 2008 when the recession hit many companies in the USA laid off people in millions. In Germany, the Govt informed the companies not to lay off anyone. They suggested that they can reduce the number of hours of employees but keep all employed. In return, the German Govt paid the wages of the companies who had reduced the number of hours of employees so that no one lost any money. The net result was that the people had money in the pocket and were spending it thereby keeping the economy rolling. They hardly felt the recession, unlike the stupid USA.

    Please watch ( Capitalism Hits the Fan – Richard Wolff) ( Austerity and Neoliberalism in Greece with Richard Wolff and Barry Herman | The New School)

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    Dear Mr Chandrasoma,

    We give heartfelt thanks for this candid and truthful article.


    The Economic Overlords you speak of will bring in changes to the LAND in Lanka.

    LAND ownership will change hands from the Government to foreign investors. It is not the fault of these Investors – they have been INVITED TO COME TO LANKA & BUY LAND by the UNP led Yahap govt.

    Use of LAND for Agriculture will probably bring in the use of more and more Glyphosate (as a weedkiller), plus GM (Genetically Modified) Crops which are Glyphosate resistent, but will contain Glyphosate in the Food Crop. Glyphosate kills Gut Bacteria & Enzymes, thus disrupting digestion, resulting in a host of killer diseases.

    We think that, at present, Climate Change & Glyphosate in Food are Public Enemy #1 !!

    * Therefore, LAND in Lanka must never be sold to foreign interests who, quite within their rights, will have the Profit Motive alone as the prime motive, and will use Glyphosate in the Food Crops.

    * Climate Change (CC) : To even minetely combat CC and contribute our mite to resisting CC, let us turn to more and more GREEN ENERGY, for Private & Public use.

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    error : minutely

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    Suggestion :

    GoSL should allow each District authority (with 13-A removed) to lease out for a reasonable fee, govt land to Co-operatives of that area to grow Organic Produce and for safe mid size Green Industries only.

    More suggestions welcome on SAFE Uses for Govt held Land.

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