Weekly Commentary  

Postcards from Mumbai

What can a mega city of over twenty million people possibly have in common with mini 'cities' like Peachland, Merritt or any other of the dream towns right in our constituency?

Well, for one thing, the people and for another, the principles which can lead to success.

Let's start with the principles. Consider the fact that our Prime Minister just returned from a trade mission to India. Think about that. We went to India, for, among other things, to open doors of mutual benefit for our working people, our producers and our investors. The reasons for that would not have been as obvious or as abundant, say 25 years ago. But things have been changing in India. Their present Prime Minister Singh is benefiting from many of the fiscal reforms he put in place years ago as finance minister. He began to move India away from some of the suffocating socialist impediments that had robbed people of the incentive to be enterprising.

It's true of course that having a population of over a billion people brings more than a few economic challenges. But don't forget, the accumulated numbers of people in nations which allow market principles is also well into the billions. And those billions of people (ourselves included) enjoy standards of economic, social and environmental well-being far beyond those in non-market economies.

Keep in mind, no system is perfect. Liberalized economies like ours have human and material challenges. And we always will because we are, well, human. But which systems would you have preferred over the last half century? Socialist North Korea or market based South Korea? Leftist East Germany or centrist West Germany? Freedom based Taiwan or communist based China?

Think about communist China for a minute. Though they are not a democracy, they have become the text book case for market based economic principles.
Look at the regions of that vast domain in which the government has permitted market principles and freedom of enterprise. Without exception those areas have experienced unprecedented levels of prosperity and hugely growing numbers moving out of poverty to middle class status.

Yes, a tiny percentage have even become wildly rich. Winston Churchill recognized the uneven manner in which market economies progress. He famously said that the problem with capitalism (meaning that people are allowed to accumulate things) is that its benefits are spread unevenly. But he went on to say that the problem with socialism is that its miseries are spread evenly. No thinking person today argues the fact that despite its faults, millions of people in Communist China are far better off now than even a decade ago.... because of market liberalization. And the number is growing.

India is the same. To India's credit they have managed an additional hope-filled essential. They are a fervent and robust democracy.
Even a non-democratic country can have a significant measure of prosperity if its people have freedom of enterprise and their hard labors are not taxed away. (Please note that I make this observation as an unabashed champion of democracy.).

So... from Okanagan Falls to Logan Lake we share some basic principles with the emerging Indian middle classes. There are also similarities with the people. I've walked and talked with struggling merchants in the impossibly crowded alley-ways of Mumbai. I've sat in the jammed and humidity soaked economy section of the train car speeding out of Delhi.

In so many ways the people there are the same as those enjoying a Saturday morning coffee at the Bliss Bakery or The Blind Angler in Peachland. (Both businesses won awards this weekend from the Chamber of Commerce, by the way.)
They want a measure of security, some financial freedom, a future for their kids, a little breathing space.

Early in the morning I saw dads on old bicycles with two or three kids aboard, weaving through traffic to get them to school, to get them an education they themselves never had. Those parents weren't a whole lot different than those I met with on Friday at the ground breaking for our new Okanagan College facility led by Donna Lomas and Jim Hamilton. They too are working hard for a better future for their kids. As are the parents and supporters of Judy Sentes's OSNS successful fundraiser for special kids which we attended Saturday night.

Together, with the principles of freedom and the people who share them we can move these dreams along, in Peachland and Mumbai.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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