Our Readers' Opinions
September 10, 2010
Creative Globalization for Caribbean Countries

by Phillip Jackson Fri, Sept 10, 2010

It is common among persons in developing countries to discuss globalization from a perspective that emphasizes the threats at the exclusion of the opportunities. This limiting view may actually lead to a situation where much time and effort is wasted at throwing rhetorical twigs in the way of the globalization train in full throttle.{{more}} What is required instead is a view of globalization that allows an entrepreneur, a company, a country or a region to first identify current and emerging opportunities and the necessary collateral mechanisms for the exploitation of these opportunities.

Economics is sometimes described as the activity of maximizing the use of limited resources to satisfy society’s developmental needs. This view is in many respects parallel to the view of the organism within an ecosystem – where the organism attempts to maximize the use of energy and information within an ecosystem for its own development and the procreation of its species. I, therefore, propose a more optimistic view of globalization predicated on an ecosystemic model, what I may other wise describe as a naturalistic political economy.

I contend that an ecosystemic view of economic development can offer lesser developed countries an approach to identify niches of exploitation that are appropriate to their current resources and institutions and also point the way to the further development of these enabling institutions to sustain and expand growth.

An ecosystem is a heterogeneous complex of matter, energy and information in constant flux and exchange. Each species (type of organism) within an ecosystem finds its own habitat and niche dependent not just on the distribution of these resources, but on the species own collective capacity to exploit this distribution of matter, energy and information – producing an intricately balanced, open, and dynamic system that is unified in its diversity, and with each species finding its own place.

In a similar way the global economy is dynamic. There is a heterogeneous distribution of resources, both human and physical and institutions such as trade and intellectual property agreements. This state of affairs far from presenting a threat is a real opportunity for countries, especially developing economies, to create their own competitive space. However, there is need to develop the skills of foresighting and innovation mapping to help them accurately define the global landscape and emerging consumer trends to help determine their niche in this landscape.

The implication of the foregoing for developing countries and their policy makers and other development actors is to first adopt an optimistic framework grounded in the idea of niche opportunities for expansion. This would require not just a change in mindsets but also a system of intelligence gathering that would allow adequate mapping of not only the global economic landscape but also the horizons. As a consequence, investments in good emerging-market intelligence and trend analysis is key as well as investment in the tools of foresighting and innovation mapping. However, the immediate question of resources for these approaches bring into the view the need to build critical mass through regional aggregation. It’s indispensable that the region deepens and accelerates its integration process.

The relationship of technology and innovation to economic development is undeniable. Equally important is the system of thought that encourages and sustains technology and innovation. However, we may miss greater potential for development if we accept a narrow view of innovation that emphasizes developing cutting edge technologies. One example of what is required is a focus on what Jamaican, Prof. Vanus James calls “domestic capital”. Some examples of domestic capital includes indigenous plant and animal species, especially those useful for food and medicine, culture, music, art and folklore. The implication of all this is that we are capable of developing our own innovations and solutions taking account of the available factors and knowledge within our spaces. These present an opportunity to go beyond the current model of commodity agricultural, and low-valued added petroleum and bauxite exports mixed with old school low value-added tourism.

This focused indigenous approach, currently sacrificed on the altar of expediency of commoditization, is however consistent with an ecosystemic view of development. The all important flip side of this is that the trends among more discerning and eclectic high-end consumers validates the indigenous niche and ecosystemic approach to economic development in a globalizing world. These consumer trends together with the rise of green and ethical consumerism (e.g. Fairtrade) and the power of social networking are powerful nuclei around which to reconceptualize and rebrand what we as a country and region can offer to the world. These trends create a truly fertile space where smaller economies can effectively speculate and operate. Despite the glares of the globalizing threats, these are real possibilities for sustainable economic development if we are willing to look and focus long and hard enough with a view for identifying the opportunities.

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