“The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” – Genesis 2:7
When a baby takes its first breath this begins the process of life on earth and this life ends when the last breath has been taken. In the interim, since the lungs have a finite capacity, this analogy was shared in the Daily Word last week, breathing becomes a continuous process of receiving and releasing and exemplifies the ongoing ebb and flow of life.
Whatever hand we perceive that we have been dealt as a nation in terms of the amalgam of human, intellectual, social, cultural, spiritual, physical, natural and financial capital resources, inhaling and exhaling become a continuous process and exemplifies the ongoing ebb and flow of economic life.
As exhaling and inhaling are essential for human life, the combination is also essential for economic life. As an economy we need to avoid being caught in a time warp and exhale thus releasing what no longer serves us. This now leaves room in our economic lungs and we must inhale the new life-giving oxygen that we need. We must continually contemplate what we are willing to release and what we are willing to embrace; what we are willing to give and what we are willing to receive. We must be open to the ebb and flow of economic life.
Mark Sheffield’s article “Waiting to Exhale: Economics, Simplified” is very relevant to the growth of economies in small emerging nations, in particular, where indigenous market footprints are small and they must focus on “DNA of an Elephant” enterprises to grow their economies. In the Caribbean Community, the member states are fundamentally committed to democracy, the rule of law and a free-market economy as the basis of political stability, social and economic prosperity.
Sheffield argues in his blog that: “As with all things economical the argument for a free market system can be made as complicated or as simple as one wants. An economy can only exist in three states. It can be expanding, contracting, or in stasis. No useful person desires a long term contraction because, when taken to the logical conclusion, this person desires a global return to hunter-gatherer society complete with the massive human extermination this end state entails. Personally, I love air conditioning, concerts, nice restaurants, and writing this blog. While it’s nice to get away from the real world, camping on my own time is preferable to being forced into it. So to these people we should say – Okay, go be a hunter-gatherer, see you and don’t call.”
“For less extreme reasons, no useful person desires stasis. It’s just boring! The concept of a static economy reminds me of Anthem (the musical), where it takes the ruling ideologues generations to approve the use of the candle. Nothing changes, we don’t even have the hope of enabling a better life for our children. An expansionary economy is the only way to guarantee that generations to come have the possibility of a better life than their ancestors. Therefore, since this is a morally unassailable goal, we should constantly strive to maintain naturally expanding economies. Basically, we should attempt to be useful.”
Sheffield in his article quotes Harry S. Dent, Jr., an American financial newsletter writer, “An economy is like a human being. It needs to grow. It needs to inhale. It needs to exhale. The innovations and efficiency come on the exhale”. Sheffield then goes on to ask: “What, by definition, comes before and enables exhalation? Inhalation. A newborn can’t exhale what it doesn’t have in its lungs. Savings is what enables an economy to inhale, to set itself up for the expansionary exhalation. If we are taking Dent’s analogy to heart we have to make an argument for savings leading to an expanding economy, which leads back to savings ad infinitum. This is easy and every, single, human should understand this flow”.
We should all embrace the circular flow from savings to capital investment to expanded enterprise development to jobs back to savings. As this circular flow takes place it can induce a spiraling effect if the enterprises are carefully shepherded. This spiraling effect is what we all want – sustainable economic growth. Saving as is the secret to success.
As we discussed in this column last week, there are at least four enterprise development initiatives in the Caribbean Community, namely, National Incubator Business Information System (IBIS – T&T), the Arthur Lok Jack GSB BizBooster programme (T&T), the Branston Centre for Entrepreneurship (Jamaica) and the CBET Shepherding Model (St. Lucia and Barbados). For each of these to be successful they must inhale the resources of shepherding and investment finance. We must therefore create a healthy shepherding and investment finance climate so that the inhalation process of enterprise development will be well nurtured. Investment finance and shepherding are to enterprise development as fuel and maintenance is to motor vehicle operation. Individual, corporate and government savings drive the sustainable economic growth process.
Individuals must refocus on savings when the going is good and resist the temptation to splurge. Corporate entities must focus on expanding profitable enterprises, increasing productivity and trimming costs and government must adopt policies which “tax the outputs and not the inputs”, conserve foreign reserves and be prudent in terms of expenditures on services in the economy.
Once the investment finance is in place, the shepherded services can be acquired and trained.