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2003-06-07 18:33:35

Free Trade And Globalization Are Here Already

Yes, free trade and globalization have already affected us very dramatically, which should force us to look at our tax system and the impact on the economy.

On Saturday, May 17th past, I was involved in an almost life-taking accident, which ended in the total write-off of my automobile. A huge twelve wheel Mack truck plowed into another vehicle and mine just as we began to move west on the green light at Harrold and Yellow Elder Roads. The driver said that his hydraulic brakes had failed. The accident precipitated a search for a replacement vehicle, which led to some surprising observations and personal thoughts on the effects of free trade and globalization.

A week after the accident mentioned above, a Tribune story under the by-line of staff writer, Arthia A. Nixon, titled "Petition seeks views on free trade poll," appeared. An anti-FTAA group, according to the article, had launched a signature drive to have government hold a referendum on whether to sign onto the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas or not. The spokesperson of the group, Mr. Paul Moss, expressed concerns that signing on would "have the effect of mass unemployment and underemployment for Bahamians by forcing jobs to leave this country for other less developed countries..."

Additionally the group feared that such a move would mean loss of sovereignty; and so steps should be taken by government to properly inform and educate the people, especially those living over the hill, in a consistent and planned way. They felt that Bahamians were being hoodwinked by those who stood to gain materially from signing onto the Agreement; and so they have pledged themselves to hold a mock referendum throughout the country.

The concern of the group who called themselves Bahamians Agitating for a Referendum on the Free Trade Area (BARF), is quite founded. The movement of free trade and globalization not only will bring changes in how we do things but already has. Just look around and observe the number of cars other than those that have come from the Mexican and American markets. We have been inundated with 1990s Lexuses, Infinitis, Hondas, Mazdas, Camrys and other ordinarily fairly expensive cars and sports utility vans (SUV). The proliferation of these imports have had some profound effects on the traditional car market and our way of life.

These imports would ordinarily range in first cost of $5,000 to $25,000 if they come through the American used car market, thus generating significant customs revenue for the central government, and good profit for the traditional car dealers.

Instead of going the traditional route, many persons have taken advantage of competitive online buying especially from Japan, which has offered luxury foreign used cars from $3,500.00 and under. As a result government revenue per car has been significantly reduced on this side of the ledger as well as that of the traditional side, which more than likely has had to reduce its purchase levels.

The effects of this trend has afforded many more people to own quality cars, increase the number of car dealerships thus employing more people, increase the need for more parts suppliers and auto-mechanics, and so on. At the same time this proliferation of cars on our streets have resulted in much greater congestion in our urban centres, thus increasing the road rage which was already high, wear and tear of our road ways, finding all sorts of shortcuts to beat the traffic, and finding parking spaces. Residential roadways have now become congested, polluted thoroughfares, which will probably exacerbate many health and safety problems.

Under the existing conditions we can look forward to more and more roadside vendors, mechanic shops, traffic violations, shorter supply of parking spaces on the road and at business places (especially government offices), and more accidents, which will lead to higher insurance costs. This socio-economic situation has already reached crisis levels, where law and order are out of control, and no creative solution seems forth-coming from city planners and national developers.

Yes, free trade and globalization have already affected us very dramatically, which should force us to look at our tax system and the impact on the economy. What happens to it as online discount and much lower costs of shopping increase? Will our economy collapse and social problems increase? Surely we cannot continue holding onto systems, which clearly do not adequately respond to rapidly changing global conditions. We have not responded very well to changes thus far. How much time is there before we go under, or will our leaders wake up in time to stem the tide of socio-economic collapse, by developing a sensible blueprint of survival in the new world ahead? Continuing in ribbon cutting at opening of local activities cannot be primary functions of national governments of the future. We're now in the big leagues of globalization; and so should begin to conduct ourselves accordingly. Our local people can't be expected to survive in this new world if our leaders are not modeling new world behaviour and vision.

Viewpoints, The Bahama Journal

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