Economic Undertakings

Common prosperity – Stabroek News

Just over a year ago, the term common prosperity began to gain traction when it was firmly defined as a goal to which China aspires. The expression is not new, nor its meaning. According to the Reuters news agency, Mao Zedong, a pivotal figure in the People’s Republic of China and its head of state from 1949 to 1959, spoke about it in the 1950s. Later, in the 1980s, the leader Deng Xiaoping , which was a power from the late 1970s to 1989, also spoke of common prosperity. Last week, President Xi Jinping, who reintroduced the concept in 2020, publicly defended it at the virtual annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

It is unclear if a question about this was posed to President Xi, although it is doubted that this was the case. Perhaps he felt the need to explain that common prosperity is not a volte-face, but rather a continuation of the Chinese Communist Party’s goal that China will become a “fully developed, rich and powerful” by 2049. Nonetheless, he definitely told the WEF meeting that for his country, common prosperity was “not egalitarianism.” Instead, he said, the intention was to ensure that every Chinese citizen receives “a fair share of development” and that there is a fairer distribution of income. To achieve this goal, Beijing has started to rely on big business and the super rich to make heavy donations to charity and a property tax is also expected to come into play.

China Watchers (an actual term given to people who have been doing just that for decades; there are even young China Watchers groups in universities around the world today), predictably, have dissected this term and its probable effects as well as offering thoughts on its success or not.

However, if we took China out of the equation, isn’t it the common prosperity that any politician wishing to take power or remain at the helm promises? Governments and politicians around the world present themselves as capable of implementing policies that would meet far beyond the basic needs of people. Quality health care, decent and affordable housing and jobs that pay decent wages feature prominently among the commitments made, along with good education and social security support for the most vulnerable, as needed. Without “Robin Hooding”, doesn’t lifting people out of poverty or promising to do so not actually promote a form of common prosperity?

In Guyana, the masses have been given versions of it for decades. Among the most memorable were the PNC’s slogan under the Forbes Burnham administration about “making the little man a real man” and former President Cheddi Jagan’s vow that under his party’s governance everyone would earn enough. to meet all needs while still being able to afford “a little candy for the kids”. More recently, there has been the UNPA/AFC’s promise of a “good life” for all. several others, but none of them ever came to fruition. In the current era, they would have been rich fodder for memes.

Once a green champion and could have been a regional agricultural giant, our resource-rich country, or rather its leaders, have chosen to embrace oil production. The myth around the billion barrels that was first discovered – there have been other discoveries since then – was that all citizens will eventually be rich; common prosperity to the nth degree, perhaps? Maybe not.

At a very basic level, some citizens had high hopes of receiving monthly cash payments once the “oil money” started to arrive. May 26, 2017, flag-raising ceremony in New Amsterdam: “We have discovered more than a billion barrels of oil off the coast of Guyana. With less than a million inhabitants and being entitled to 50% of that…, every Guyanese, you and me, we are already millionaires”.

In the meantime, we would all do well to pay attention to the one-time, far-from-perfect cash distribution of $25,000 intended to supplement lost income in response to household economic deprivation caused by COVID-19 restrictions. This effort should be seen as another learning experience. A look at the past will reveal that this was not the first time that people in desperate need were unable to receive benefits, while many who did not need it received the payment as extra pocket money.

Indeed, the turbulent atmosphere surrounding how the oil money the country has earned so far on the thousands of barrels already recovered – far less than it should have collected – should or should not being spent does not bode well for contentment in the future.

Whether China will achieve common prosperity, especially given its unique approach, is certainly worth watching. In Guyana, considered from all its angles, common prosperity is absolutely Sisyphean. So beware of politicians who will try to keep dispensing Kool Aid on this.