Monday, June 15, 2009
Thesis: Donkey-cart Economy
The following is extracted from a letter-writer (Tarron Khemraj) to Kaieteur news
And, the pic is taken from another Blog
The donkey-cart economy has the following characteristics:
1. The production of goods that are at the low end of the global hierarchy of products. In other words, we produce things that people really can do without. Our products are not as special as we would like to believe; not even in CARICOM, let alone the world.
2. Given number 1, it means the income elasticity of demand for the country’s primary exports is small. Meaning as world income (and CARICOM’s income) increases the demand for the country’s products will not rise accordingly. Sugar, for example, is clearly a product that fits the production profile of donkey-cart cart economy. Let’s face it, there is a finite amount of sugar the rich can consume (as a matter of fact, the rich might consume less sugar and sugar-related products as it is one way to stay slim). On the other hand, as the world gets richer we all consume more energy. Therefore, a superior strategy to save the Demerara estates would be ethanol and of course the bi-product of baggasse.
Furthermore, the Jagdeo Administration’s REDD strategy and low carbon development strategy are too narrow and are not likely to impact directly on job creation and industrial development. In addition to the REDD, what the country needs is to develop a bio-energy industrial base with cane sugar as a feedstock for this industrialization. However, the low carbon development strategy should be seen as only one policy measure in a portfolio of industrial policies necessary to raise the welfare of the masses.
3. The production structure of the donkey-cart economy is mainly in the form of low productivity goods and petty services. For instance, immediately after Mr. Hoyte’s ERP the country
stopped producing soaps, toothpaste and similar small consumer items and left it to the local importer in the name of liberalization. The country also destroyed its local plywood making firm and replaced it with a foreign multinational. In a donkey-cart economy it is never a good idea to destroy your manufacturing base no matter how inefficient and trivial it might seem. You have to work with the capitalist class in a industrial policy framework to make the manufacturing base superior.
4. The production structure is made up of products that allow little room for learning by doing, innovation and technological change – the critical ingredients for long-term growth in per capita GDP and higher living standards.
5. Remittances prop up private consumption and create a false sense of success among government officials and the masses.
6. Remittances and underground economic activities indirectly feed foreign exchange into the domestic foreign exchange market from which the central bank (BOG) buys to accumulate foreign reserves (a required target under the IMF’s financial programming). Thus, remittances help to maintain the IMF/WB’s much touted macroeconomic stability (there have been several pro-government letter writers promoting macroeconomic stability as a great achievement). Therefore, a donkey-cart economy can be stable with relatively low inflation (owing to exchange rate stability) as is the case with Guyana. But this notion of macroeconomic stability is narrow, short-term in focus, and does not imply a success on the production/supply side of the economy. This point will take a full academic paper to explicate.
7. The donkey-cart economy imports most of what it consumes. Thus remittances are mobilized by economic actors and are used to make payments for imports of even basic consumer items (some of which we stop producing after the ERP). Therefore, unlike what some IMF/WB literature have argued and have been cited in the local media (see Dr. Prem Misir in SN 02-06-09), remittances are highly unlikely to lead to productive domestic investments in the Guyana context.
8. The donkey-cart economy exports most of its skilled and educated workforce. According to the OECD, Guyana exports 83% of its skilled population (the highest percentage among developing economies). Hence, there is the depreciation of the human capital base, which is a critical ingredient for long-term growth and development. Furthermore, the depreciation of the human capital base also involves the downgrading of the entrepreneurial and risk taking base. Of course, the contribution of human capital to growth (of high quality) is well explicated by endogenous growth theory. Moreover, Guyana is not India and is unlikely to earn the touted brain gain (as Dr. Misir has assumed) as in the Indian case.
9. The government significantly depends on foreign aid and finance from IMF/WB/IDB and bi-lateral aid donors. Even small projects depend on these sources of financing. For instance, the CARICOM building and the Convention Centre were built by grants (with aid-tying I am sure).
10. The government depends on IMF/WB for policy advice and analysis.