Wednesday, Jul 17, 2019
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Who are the ‘we’ in this WTO consideration?

Dear Editor,

I would like to comment on the four-part “Consider This” series regarding joining the World Trade Organization written by Philip Galanis in The Nassau Guardian.

I would like to start with the parsing of the word “we” that Galanis uses throughout his summary. The language is important. Who are “we”? And, I mean this seriously. How are we grouping ourselves together in context and conversation?

Does Galanis mean Bahamians when he uses the word “we”? If so, as I believe he does, is it appropriate to group us altogether? It seems to me that this distinction is very, very important.

The way the world is currently divided, artificially of course, by nation-state, is quite inappropriate and inadequate, by any measure, for most every arguable purpose we choose today. Yet, it seems to me that Galanis believes that “Bahamians” are united about what problems we wake up to and what we worry about for most of the day, every day.

For instance, in every country in the world the “we” that is alluded to in Galanis’ analysis of the pros and cons of WTO membership can only really be seen in the light of this obvious division.

Let me take this argument, with no disrespect intended, to a personal level. When was the last time Galanis had to wake up worrying about how he was going to pay his light bill, his water bill, buy uniforms for his school-aged children and put a few crumbs of food on the table for his family? I am not saying this as a slight to negate the obvious achievements of Galanis. I am saying this to show that we have the argument all wrong. If you want to compare apples to apples then the vast economic differences between us must be acknowledged.

The world is really and truly divided into the “haves” and the “have-nots”. It is not divided by nation-states. The current way of thinking, “our country vs. their country”, holds us back as a species. The vast majority of Bahamians therefore, in my judgment, cannot find their way into Galanis’ worldview and use of the word “we”. Why? Because to use the word “we” there must be something greater that unites us. More than just cheering around a flag every so often at sporting events and Independence Day.

The operative reference in using the word “we” when discussing economic considerations must be our common financial situations. Most Bahamians are struggling to make ends meet, struggling to pay their bills, struggling to feed their families. Is this not a fact? If it is, then Galanis’ use of the word “we” in his WTO discussions is null and void. If he means that “we”, a select group of business people and their support groups, will benefit from joining the WTO, he should say so.

The loudest supporters of this move to join the WTO rarely have the same daily worries as most Bahamians.

“We” no longer believe the saying that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. Why don’t we believe it? Because we have had a rising tide in much of the world for decades and only a select few have truly benefited. The divisions between the rich and the poor grow daily. The statistics bear this out.

Galanis makes this concession in his quote, “However, world poverty has also risen during that same period. The World Bank reports that, ‘The number of people throughout the world living on less than $2 a day has risen by about 50 percent since 1980. In addition, a growing number of people are living on less than $1 a day.’”

So, if we look at some of the statistics associated with the rise of these trade organizations, we see, according to Galanis’ own figures, a stark rise in poverty and more importantly, income inequality. I would claim that the two, trade agreements and poverty, go hand in hand.

Now, this is just speaking as a person who has spent a good deal of time looking at the human side of these trade organizations and the reports on the ground.

The world of the future must be divided, not by Bahamas vs. any other country. But by those who “struggle to make ends meet” and those who don’t have these worries on a daily basis. The WTO doesn’t make these distinctions.

These trade organizations, as in politics, religion, business, legal affairs, always favor those with the most money and power. The biggest, richest and most politically connected “win” most all of the time. Is this a true statement?

The Bahamas has no bargaining power whatsoever in demanding global justice. None. The high-powered WTO lawyers who represent these big corporate interests will squash the Bahamian lawyers like bugs in the road. Is this not a fact? The best we can do is to fight for greater equality here at home. Yet, we have failed at this. Yes, in my view, failed.

And, when The Bahamas does prevail in any dispute at the WTO, who will be at the top of the heap in getting any benefits? All of us, or the handful of business people who have always benefited? Be honest.

Political representation has been bearing the same fruit. How many Bahamian politicians are millionaires? Successful business people, or opportunists fleecing “we” “The People”? But, we don’t need to delve into that here and now, do we?

I am against The Bahamas joining the World Trade Organization. I am against it because it seems that these trade organizations only favor the richest in each country. Do the statistics not bear out this claim? There must be advocates for the working poor in our world. The richest have gone silent on these matters, by design.

Many people proffer one way of thinking in church, according to the bible, then an entirely different way of thinking once they get home or in their office.

The Bahamas has many critical issues that must be attended to very, very soon. I believe we need to put this WTO deal by the wayside.

What we need to do is to rally our forces and to work to reconfigure our own society into one that truly does care about all of our citizens. We have talked about it, but never truly succeeded.

Our goal should be to take every penny we can find to improve our educational system, our healthcare system, our system of governance, and to create opportunities of uplift for all. We need to get serious about our environmental obligations. Our use of carbon, drilling for oil, refining oil, waste disposal, air quality, all need to be addressed immediately. These modern trade organizations do not do this. To the contrary, they favor the richest, who quite simply, need no more, and can move when the going gets tough.

The “have-nots” in our world are being ignored. They truly are. We must break free from this morally debilitating disease of only looking out for number one and then saying God blessed us. God had nothing to do with the way we are dividing up our resources. God did not create the poor. We did. There are more than enough resources on this Earth for everyone. That we have chosen a system that allows children to die for lack of money to buy food and gain access to clean water is the sin. We can either speak out on this injustice, or keep going to the bank while ignoring it.

I am not satisfied with Galanis’ statement that “we believe that the positive considerations, as depicted in our earlier installments of this series, significantly exceed the potentially negative impacts” of joining the World Trade Organization, for the reasons I stated above.

I do not believe that joining the WTO will benefit the vast majority of Bahamians. We urgently need to focus on the many issues which we can democratically influence in making The Bahamas a better place for all.

– Norman Trabulsy Jr.




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