By C. ben-David
“SVG must also capitalise on its higher visibility to promote, wherever possible, our economic interests such as the marketing of tourism and enhancing international economic ties” (New Democratic Party [NDP] press release, Sunday, June 9, 2019).
So reads part of a statement from the NDP applauding the proud and wonderous news that our small and unknown country was elected to a two-term membership in the powerful United Nations Security Council [UNSC] last Friday,.
Not only was our beloved country elected, it received nearly every vote cast in its category! Truly our leadership should be praised to the skies for their hard work and patience over the years in achieving the singular honour of breaking the record as the smallest ever UNSC seat holder.
Though there has been much rejoicing in land because of this prestigious achievement, one that will doubtless raise our international profile, this must be tempered by some words of caution.
Moses led the Biblical Israelites — His Chosen People — out of bondage in Egypt, guided them through a great wilderness for 40 years, and brought them finally to the Promised Land of milk and honey then known as Canaan. Over the centuries and up to the present time, the milk has often gone sour and the honey turned dark. Indeed, there is an old Jewish sardonic joke that says, “Please, Yahweh, choose somebody else next time.”
Our very own Moses, Ralph Everard Gonsalves, who has led us through the wilderness of economic hardship and intractable unemployment for nearly 19 years, has said of this miraculous achievement, “It’s a sweet victory; sweet, sweet victory.”
Indeed it is, but the prime minister has been careful to never promise that this victory could ever give us milk and honey as implied by the NDP’s press release.
This is surely because he is well aware of the following.
None of the five permanent members would ever offer us any economic freebies except in exchange for our loyalty and votes. Both the United States and Great Britain have offered us very little in recent years, not even help with Argyle International Airport. Indeed, America is displeased with our close ties to Cuba and Venezuela while Great Britain cannot be happy that our Prime Minister is the founder and leader of the extortionary slavery reparations movement. Conversely, would our prime minister throw Cuba or Venezuela under the bus for a few pieces of silver? Never.
Worse still, China will never give us a penny as long as we are in the forefront of the Taiwan sovereignty movement unless we support some anti-Taiwan Security Resolution or the other which we would never do. As for France and Russia, the former is preoccupied with giving aid to its Caribbean possessions while Russia has never done anything for us in the past and is unlikely to do anything for us in the future. As for the non-permanent members of the UNSC, including the five newly elected representatives, most are at least as poor or poorer than we are.
Actual evidence that temporarily joining the UNSC has enhanced the economic well-being of those who have done so is also mixed.
There is research that suggests that have-not “temporary members trade their votes for cash,” partly based on the assertion that all hard-up General Assembly members do so. These studies also suggest that, “Whether used to bribe or reward, IMF [International Monetary Fund]loans are funneled not just to developing countries facing economic crises, but also to politically important developing countries, such as those serving a term on the UN Security Council.”
This is credible because four of the five top IMF shareholders who control the funds — America, Germany, France and the United Kingdom — are permanent Security Council members. But getting more IMF money with fewer restrictions is a missed blessing at most because it encourages more reckless spending of funds that still has to be eventually repaid.
Not so for grants and other forms of aid. Another study found that, “… a country’s U.S. aid increases by 59 per cent and its U.N. aid by 8 per cent when it rotates onto the council. This effect increases during years in which key diplomatic events take place (when members’ votes should be especially valuable) and the timing of the effect closely tracks a country’s election to, and exit from, the council. Finally, the U.N. results appear to be driven by UNICEF, an organization over which the United States has historically exerted great control.”
On the other hand, there is research suggesting that, “Nations elected to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as temporary members have lower levels of economic growth, become less democratic, and experience more restrictions on press freedoms than comparable nations not elected to the UNSC.… [O]ver the two-year period of UNSC membership and the following two years during which a nation is ineligible for re-election, UNSC nations experience a 3.5 per cent contraction in their economy relative to nations not elected to the UNSC.”
I make no claim that any of this will necessarily or invariably apply to our membership on the UNSC, only that the experience of other developing countries shows that the temptation to trade votes for cash is irresistible, even if the economic impact is negative.
Only the future will reveal whether our two-year tenure will be successful or not. But one thing is certain, a welcome sense of joy and pride are now being felt by most Vincentians, regardless of political party affiliation, which is why the NDP was compelled to issue such a positive statement, albeit debating among themselves for over two days whether to do so or not knowing full well that the die had been cast, not by the prime minister but by the General Assembly which has now virtually determined the outcome of the next election.
How many conscious Vincentians would rush to vote against a ULP government whose efforts have been recognised, embraced, and honoured in this way by nearly the entire world of nations?
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