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Weekly Commentary  

Free enterprise communism

The Communist Cabinet Minister looked me straight in the eye and with full sincerity here's what he said:

"We are on track in reducing the administrative burden on business by 30%."

"We also would like to learn from Canada about how government gets the private sector to do large infrastructure projects."

And how about this oneā€¦"We would like to complete negotiations with you on an investment protection agreement so that your business people can invest in our country with better hopes of a good return."

You have to admit, that's a far cry from "Down with Capitalism!" or "Make the rich pay!" There is no point in me mentioning what Minister from which country said that, but it wasn't China.

The fact is, throughout Asia, regimes which still fly the Red Star and nod towards the portrait of Lenin are doing things which would make the old Iron Fisted Dictator stir in his mausoleum.

These "Nouveau Riche" communists have taken time to look at economic history. It has dawned on them that the past policies of Communism or National Socialism resulted in universal impoverishment and shocking levels of state brutality against the citizen.

The new wave of leaders want to see their burgeoning youth population and rapidly growing middle class become successful and, okay, wealthy.

So this strange kind of hybrid bird of paradise has emerged.

On the one hand, some of these Asian governments still sadly cling to policies of curtailing basic freedoms and rights. But the other part of this hybrid is the one that allows citizens to have full freedom of enterprise and at low or non-existent taxation levels.

A tour operator in one jurisdiction told me he is very happy with his government. They recently eliminated personal income taxes. They now rely totally on reasonable levels of taxation on business, not punitive levels of personal or property tax.

That way the government takes the approach of welcoming business people rather than treating them like second class citizens.

Constituents who are regular readers of this column will know that whenever I return from trade missions to Asia I am overwhelmed by the rate of progress I have seen in almost every field of endeavor.

Architecturally stunning skyscrapers built through joint ventures with outside companies outpace what we have in most Canadian cities.

Tech and bio-tech breakthroughs are the order of the day. Rising rates of pay are the trend (one huge Chinese company just increased wages 20%).

In Vietnam, where I just was with a Canadian business delegation, places like Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon) are rapidly emerging as modern wonders of growth and opportunity.

Export companies there are eager to hear about the joint ventures they can enjoy at our efficient ports in Vancouver and Prince Rupert and as Asia's environmental problems stare them in the face there is growing appetite for alternative energy and waste reductions initiatives.

Many of these are being provided by Canadians.

You almost have to see with your own eyes what is taking place across Asia to fully grasp its magnitude.

This is no time for us to believe we can maintain our present levels of prosperity and opportunity by locking into cruise control.

The environmentally friendly highway of dreams is still open. We'll navigate it well as long as we apply those Canadian values of hard work, creative thinking and reaching out to the world around us.


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