Michael Rowan :
Telling jokes at the funeral
The recent news photo of presidents Morales, Chavez, Kirchner and Da Silva gleefully celebrating the nationalization of oil and gas resources symbolizes the most profound tragedy of South America in our time. As investment and exports plummet, poverty and chaos loom, while populist presidents smile for the camera. South America lays ashen in the coffin as its leaders tell jokes behind the bier.
Well the facts of life and death in South America are no joke. The region has 8% of the global population and 3% of its exports. Hong Kong has one tenth of 1% of population and 3% of exports. Japan has 2% of population and 6% of exports. Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore are becoming rich because of exports. Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand are already rich because of exports. China has reduced poverty by 210 million people in one generation because of product exports. India's economy is booming because of information technology exports. Bananas and oil are not as valuable to export as knowledge and technology - take a look at the global trade numbers.
Exports result from adapting to global investment and trade, which means the knowledge and technology people have used to succeed at life in modern times. In the last seven generations, the income of the developed world increased 19 times and the developing world 5.4 times through that adaptation while global population increased 6 times. But South American leaders are rejecting that success in favor of self-imposed failure and then blaming it on the US - the fireman is blamed for the fire. The region has failed miserably since 1980 as it rejected modern success cases, notably China and India, but including Chile, Mexico, Costa Rica and Colombia. Now it is celebrating failure by making a populist religion out of being the victim of success.
No one is making South America fail but its own populist leaders. The US, foreign investors and free trade are not the cause of South America's failure - they may not be helping it succeed, but they are definitely not making it fail. If China and India can succeed in the presence of the US, foreign investors and free trade, why can't South America? Rather than telling jokes at the funeral, wouldn't a little thought about giving life to exports be more respectful to the family of the deceased?
Michael Rowan's column is published by El Universal ( Caracas) every Tuesday (firstname.lastname@example.org). Petroleumworld not necessarily share these views.