STOP GLOBALIZATION, THE PACIFIC WANTS TO GET OFF

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By Michael Field

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (January 30, 2001 – Agence France-Presse)---Pacific nations, among the smallest and most isolated in the world, have had a look at globalization and while agreeing it has some good points they do not like it.

Sounding like they’re saying "stop the world, we want to get off," the Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders, bringing together prime ministers, presidents and ministers from Pacific nations and territories, heard repeated pessimist assessments of globalization by their peers.

The conference, organized by the U.S. government funded East West Center and its Pacific Islands Development Program (PIDP), was billed as a chance to discuss the impact of globalization on the small regional economies.

The two strongest critics of globalization came from the smallest countries, Niue’s Prime Minister Sani Lakatani and Cook Islands Prime Minister Dr. Terepai Maoate.

Both operate tax haven systems and last week the U.S. banking system imposed a ban on sending U.S. dollars to Niue for fear it was involved in money laundering. Maoate fears the same might happen to his country.

Lakatani was particularly bitter, saying the globalization trend was actually preventing his government from improving the quality of life of his people.

"Small island nations are vulnerable and are practically of no consequence when it comes to combating the adverse effects of globalization and what is emerging is a new order of colonialism," he told the conference.

"The uneven distribution of wealth and power points to the potential loss of sovereignty by national governments as the control of their respective economies become more subject to global forces such as multinational companies and the pressures of the select global brotherhood."

He questioned who benefited from globalization.

"Globalization is good for some, not for others."

Maoate said Pacific nations had become puppets of globalization.

PIDP director Dr. Sitiveni Halapua, a Tongan, said globalization was related to the issue of governance, which was much more complex now than it had been previously.

Conference chair, deposed Fiji President Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, challenged Halapua for a definition of globalization.

"Colonization was usage of power by strong nations over weaker ones," Mara said, "while globalization is the use of power by multinationals against the weaker."

Halapua characterized globalization as having three main points. These are the market facilitation of unrestricted flows of capital, labor and information around the world, the identification of level-playing fields "or sameness," and development, meaning increased productivity.

In contract, localization in the Pacific recognizes cultural obligations of give, receive and give-in-return on a local basis, he said, with identification of diversity or difference and development being seen as an exercise in identity building.

The Western way of thinking is that there is a solution for everything while the Pacific way sees dialogue, without preconditions of a conclusion, leading to a solution, Halapua said.

American Samoa Governor Tauese Sunia, who was the most optimistic of the participants, warned other leaders that globalization had arrived in the Pacific.

"The price of rice in China may have been a joke in the past, but it now affects the price in Pago and it affects everyone."

He noted that in earlier times, when the Christian missionaries arrived in the Pacific, people accepted their messages totally. Yet, he said, Christianity completely changed the value systems of Polynesia. More recently democracy had arrived. "Again we have accepted it wholeheartedly.

"Now we have value systems that are incompatible with our own value systems."

In American Samoa people valued refrigerators rather than going out and fishing everyday, and now they want better television sets.

"The economic value system has changed so much."

But rather than stop it, Sunia said it was up to Pacific countries to consciously think about what was happening and act accordingly. Local cultures and traditional systems needed to be protected, and to do that they need a good understanding of what globalization is.

Solomons Islands Foreign Minister Danny Philips questioned who would benefit from globalization when it was really intended to benefit Americans.

He mocked the conference notion of managing globalization at a Pacific level: "The best I can do coming from a very small state in the Pacific is to cope with it.

"The more I say this the more I confuse myself, but the reality is that we don’t know enough yet, even how to play on an even playing field.

"Right now we are lost in a bigger world."

Marshall Islands President Kessai Note said they had no choice but to jump on the bandwagon.

"To sit idly by is to be left on the wayside, but we cannot stand in its way, for to do so is to invite disaster upon us.

"We must exercise extreme care and be ever mindful that our cultural values… are about human rights. We need to anchor ourselves least we get swept away by the currents of globalization."

Michael Field New Zealand/South Pacific Correspondent Agence France-Presse E-mail: afp.nz@clear.net.nz  Phone: (64 21) 688438 Fax: (64 21) 694035 Website: http://www.afp.com/english/ 

 

 

PACIFIC ISLANDS LEADERS CRITICIZE GLOBALIZATION, ASK FOR HELP

HONOLULU, Hawai‘i (January 30, 2001 – East-West Wire/PIDP/CPIS)---Leaders of Pacific island nations grappled today with the forces of democratization and globalization that are hitting them at the same time, with some protesting the global economy and others asking for help to join it.

"Who is benefiting from this globalization?" asked Dr. Terepai Maoate, prime minister of the Cook Islands. "We're still being used as puppets. It's time to get ourselves together and fight."

Leaders from 19 island nations gathered in Honolulu for the Sixth Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders sponsored by the East-West Center. The conference theme is "In an Era of Globalization: How Do We Care For and Share with Others?"

Fiji's interim Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase said democratic government is often incompatible with traditional government, which is based on consultation and consensus among leaders and elders. "Along comes liberal democracy and we are told it's good for all of us and we must follow it," said Qarase, who was appointed prime minister by the military after last year's coup in Fiji. The validity of the interim government has been legally challenged.

The dilemma that faces many Pacific island leaders is that some democratic principles "can destroy out culture and tradition." Qarase added that the solution to his country's problems "lies within Fiji. What appears to be interference from the outside will probably worsen the situation."

The premier of Niue, Sani E.L. Lakatani, leads a tiny nation that has globalized its economy, but it's backfiring. Last Friday he learned that U.S. banks had stopped payments from international businesses that have offshore licenses in his country. Niue, Cook Islands, Marshall Islands and Nauru are included on an international black list of 15 countries suspected of failing to cooperate in the fight against money laundering.

Lakatani said his country expected to collect $1.6 million in fees this year from international businesses, a crucial income. He said his government has moved legislation to stop any possible improprieties and has helped investigators. "I feel like my own small nation was kicked in the stomach by the powers of the world. Define this globalization. Who are the beneficiaries?"

Dr. Tetaua Taitai, secretary to the cabinet of Kiribati, said globalization "goes against our cultures and traditions. Globalization seems to be a one-way street, benefiting only the economically strong."

Leaders from Papua New Guinea, American Samoa and the Marshall Islands, however, asked for help in joining the global economy by entering more international agreements and gaining expertise from developed nations.

Robert Kiste, director of the Center for Pacific Islands Studies at the University of Hawai‘i-Manoa, said Pacific island nations have the highest per capita foreign assistance in the world, most from Asia. Instead of strong economic development, however, the nations have developed "bloated bureaucracies" and too much dependence on aid. There's new focus on government mismanagement and corruption. But islands also face great difficulties in nation building because of the large numbers of languages and cultures within a single nation. He also noted that half of the 7.75 million people in the Pacific islands are under 16.

"Lots of us are suspicious about using the Western model of modernization as if it's the only recipe," Kiste said. "The new rules of globalization are being set by people who don't care about small places."

Gerard Finin, a Pacific islands expert at the East-West Center, said the legacies of colonial rule, lingering effects of Cold-War politics, the powerful forces of globalization and failed Pacific government policies have contributed to the problems facing the island nations. Foreign countries that remain the most engaged in the region -- Australia, France, New Zealand, Japan and Taiwan -- have at times pursued regional policies that may have "inadvertently increased the chances of instability." Responses to crises in Fiji and the Solomon Islands "seemed to demonstrate little understanding of regional dynamics."

Institutions like the World Bank "have a long way to go in seeing that the Pacific region is different from Asia," Finin said. The new "reform" agenda of economic development based on transparency, good governance and privatization has "so far shown greater concern for economic growth than it has for equity or social stability" and "stresses global economic growth rather than national development."

Gerard Finin can be reached at 808-944-7751 or fininj@eastwestcenter.org 

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