Throwing the baby out…

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 00:04 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Of late, it seems like every time I open the Newsweek, there is a reason to change my life. Just two weeks ago, there was a Newsweek article on how to handle one’s health from checkups to medication. The article outlined with examples, why it was best to say no to the hyper Western methods of managing our health through unnecessary tests.

Today, I was surprised to learn from a special edition of the Newsweek titled ‘The Key to Power,’ that we in Asia have been doing things right with our economy, all along. This is despite us being told all the while by the Western world that we needed to open our markets and let the market forces operate, allowing minimal interference from the Government. In other words, let Adam Smith’s theories operate in full force, and allow the so-called laissez-faire formula to be part of our lives.

But the Newsweek confounds us all. It seems that all these theories that were being forced down our Asian throats by the gurus of Western economic ideology were entirely wrong.

Just about a year ago, President Barack Obama had to come up with a rescue plan for the private banks that were tottering on the brink of a disaster, due to the subprime mortgage issue. This, to happen in a country, which had said free market sources must operate. It should have given us some indication that these Western chappies were about to change their tune – that market forces cannot operate by themselves.

The Newsweek article says: “A surprisingly little-known feature of Asia’s economic miracle is how much it has relied upon Western wisdom. Asian societies are flourishing today because they have finally absorbed and implemented traditional Western strengths such as political pragmatism and sound economic policies. But paradoxically, just as Asia has embraced these pillars of Western wisdom, America and Europe are abandoning them in favour of increasingly polarised politics and reckless magical thinking about their financial soundness and future resources. For most of the 20th century, Asia asked itself what it could learn from the modern, innovating West. Now the question must be reversed: what can the West’s overly indebted nations learn from a flourishing Asia?

“First and foremost, the West should relearn the virtue of pragmatism. A few decades ago, Asia’s two giants were stagnating under faulty politico-economic ideologies; strict Marxism in China and Nehruvian socialism in India. In both cases, dogmatic theory trumped economic practicality, which left their societies weak and uncompetitive. However, once China began embracing free market reforms in the 1980s, followed by India in the 1990, both nations achieved rapid growth. Crucially, as they opened up their markets, neither country threw the proverbial baby out with the bath water-instead, they balanced capitalism with judicious government direction. As Indian economist Amartya Sen has wisely said, ‘The invisible hand of the market has often relied heavily on the visible hand of government’.”

Sri Lanka is now rapidly moving on the world map, towards becoming a strong economy and even though we have been criticised in the past on many fronts, we have stuck to our guns in terms of the way we do things – be it in war or peace.

I’ve often heard those who have left our shores speak badly about the way we do things here. They are critical about the way we drive, our holidays, and mostly about our politics and Government.

For those of us who have stayed behind, enduring a war, which went on for about 30 years and half of our lifetime, there have always been doubts about staying back and not looking for what may have seemed like greener pastures.

But looking at things from today’s perspective, reports like the Newsweek’s make us realise that our choice to tread the more difficult path of staying put, was the right one after all. Our traditional methods may not have seemed very exciting then, but they will continue to hold us well as we step into a brighter future.

(The writer, a PR consultant and head of Media360, was previously a mainstream journalist in print and electronic media. He also edits a new media website.)

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