WTO Trade Winds: A Changing Title
Published 04 Oct 2017
Fiji has undergone a crisis across the social, economic, political levels of the nation, with many Western countries criticizing the events have unfolded. Such events include the toppling of a democratically elected president and replacing it with a transition government. A new democratically elected government has been installed once again, but there seems to be more in store.
Fiji has for long been burdened with foreign development models-mainly British and American- that have failed to work for the nation. Fiji is composed of less than one million people, with more than half of the population being native Fijian, 44 percent Fijian Indian, with the remaining being of Chinese, other Pacific Island and European backgrounds. One misleading notion has been that the problems in Fiji are due to ethnic tensions among the two major groups in the nation-the native Fijians and the Fijian Indians.
However, this crisis is more of a cultural affair than the purported ethnic tensions in the nation. Fijian problems can best be understood from a cultural perspective-where there are two models of development competing against each other- and not ethnical divisions. The numerous 1980s coups resulted in well-intentioned attempts aimed at encouraging development. However, these efforts did not succeed because the governments did not put into consideration the cultural aspect. The development models favored by those administrations were founded on the principles of individual capitalism as practiced in the US and the UK. These models advocate for ideals such as the importance of self rather than society, individual initiative, and conspicuous consumption. This type of capitalism worked, to some extend, for the Fijian Indians and not the native Fijians. This led to the adoption of both individual capitalism and collective capitalism, bringing many problems for the nation.
According to Lester Thurow (1997), there are two forms of capitalism in today’s global economy namely the communitarian form -advocated for by the Japanese and Germans-and the individualistic form-by the Americans and the British. However, many more forms of capitalism can be added to this list, including the government directed form of capitalism practiced by the South East Asian economic dragons such as Singapore, China, Taiwan and South Korea- all of which have followed capitalism through differing paths (Friedman et al, 2002).
Foreign development models should have been properly evaluated to identify their usefulness domestically before they were adopted in Fiji, or any other nation. This evaluation should have ensured that the models matched with the Fijian culture in order to sustain community, corporate and national development. For instance, down sizing was one such inappropriate model used in Fiji in the 1990s. This model worked well in America, where CEOs focused on short-term dividends for the shareholders and saw workers as a controllable budget line item. Moreover, corporatization and privatization found their way in Fiji, with downsizing being used to achieve these objectives. Although some organizations were able to save as a result of the downsizing, the overall expenditure increased due to social welfare and police programs (Friedman et al, 2002).
It is beyond doubt that the best form of capitalism for the Fijian culture is the collective capitalism as opposed to individual capitalism. This is because collective capitalism focuses on key ideals such as sharing of resources, the importance of the community rather than an individual and group responsibility (Kelly and Kaplan, 2001). Collective capitalism is also in congruence with the Fijian culture because it does not interfere with the harmony and balance of the nation, corporation, community or the group.
For instance, the Fijian village, which is the core of Fijian culture, is founded on the principles of collective capitalism as opposed to individual capitalism. Although the village system has been seen by some people-especially foreigners- as primitive, it is very important to the Fijians since it provides a number of basic human services that the central government is not able to provide (Friedman et al, 2002).
The village fund has greatly helped many villages economically, especially those that lease out land to commercial enterprises such as hotels. Moreover, this system provides some form of social control and enculturisation for numerous people in the Fijian community. The existence of the villages in Fiji has greatly saved hundreds of thousands of Fijians from living in subhuman conditions in the urban areas.
Fiji’s crises can be attributed to the colonial legacies and the competing for prominence among the American and British capitalists, the Indian entrepreneurial models as well as the Fijian village. Unfortunately, Fiji’s past leadership has always been in favor of the individual capitalism and underutilized the village model. This clash between development models has placed the Fijian commercial sector, as well as the government in some sort of dilemma leading to failure lack action on key problems facing the nation.
It is evident that the development models are the cause of the Fijian problems and not ethnic tensions, which are only the symptoms. The only solution to the problems is to balance the approach to development by adopting a win-win model incorporating all stakeholders. Economic development should now strive to create wealth and not just revenue as is the case.
- Friedman, H et al (2002) WTO Trade Winds-A Changing China, Harvard Asia Pacific Review
- Kelly, J and Kaplan, M (2001) Represented Communities: Fiji and World Decolonization, University of Chicago Press
- Thurow, L (1997) The Future of Capitalism-How Today’s Economic Forces Shape Tomorrow’s World, Penguin Books