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THE ASTANA GLOBAL ECONOMIC FORUM - A Review

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THE SIXTH ASTANA FORUM

 

A BRIEF REVIEW

 

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From the 22nd to the 24th of may 2013, the Astana Forum was convened for the sixth time in Kazakhstan's sparkling new capital, built in the geographic centre of Eurasia as its very name (from Sanskrit sthana, Persian istan) suggests.

 

As in previous occasions, numbers were impressive; it attracted more than twelve thousand registered participants from one hundred and thirty nations, including  ten Nobel Laureates and three dozen serving and former heads of state and government. The annual Forum is an outcome of the Eurasian Economic Club of Scientists created by Kazakhstan's President Nazarbayev and it combined this year with the World Anti-Crisis Conference (WACC). The permanent movement that supports those various operations and provides feedback year-round is the G-GLOBAL, an Internet platform that has drawn, according to its administrators more than twenty five million visitors from 150 countries, many of whom provided input to its deliberations and submissions. The vision of the Kazakh leaders in setting up the G-GLOBAL was to associate as many citizens as possible to the debate on the economic situation and the desirable changes, as opposite to the exclusive high power clubs known as G-7 or even G-20. It won the support of no less than fourteen Nobel Prize winners, including Robert Mundell and John Nash (of the film A Beautiful Mind fame).

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As can be expected from a wide-ranging international debate many positions and proposals are at cross purposes when they are intended to support mainly one nation's or region's economy. Thus Robert Mundell, formerly a herald of free trade told Forbes columnist Eamonn Fingleton that he now favours a policy of protectionism in the USA whose economy is far too open to be sustainable, given that manufacturing now represents only 11% of the American GDP while its current account deficit is always well above 3%; though Mundell does not advocate tariffs which invite retaliation, he supports a "Buy American" policy which naturally would be reflected in similar measures in the countries that don't already have them in place. Japan for one adheres rigorously to its mercantilist faith by keeping its market relatively closed and generating huge trade surpluses in spite of its other internal problems. However is it still possible for the largely de-industrialised USA to revive its manufacturing sector in the face of fierce global competition, especially if Washington wishes to preserve its global empire while protecting the profits of its financial oligarchy? It stands to reason that when manufacturing is abandoned, the associated engineering and scientific know-how also fade and various authoritative reports suggest that American companies have lost the ability to operate or even understand many of the technologies which they rely upon but have outsourced to foreign businesses. The USA are still protectionistic where they can be, but reversing the trend their leadership initiated almost half a century ago may prove exceedingly difficult, particularly in the absence of a unanimous national will.

 

The officials from dominant western countries are bound to hold the Party Line that globalization's effects are "globally positive" for their own societies and for the world at large but that dogma is fast losing credibility in view of the persistent and spreading crisis which is leading to their rapid decline. The new book by Paul Craig Roberts, President Reagan's former Treasury Under-Secretary, The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism and the Economic Destruction of the West (2013), prefaced by Michael Hudson, another perspicacious economist, talks of a "political and economic race to the bottom". Both agree that so-called globalism may be regarded as "a conspiracy against First World jobs" and the resulting impoverishment is turning the USA and its allies into failed or pseudo-democracies which are increasingly behaving as police-state oligarchies. Craig Roberts, never once to mince his words, highlights that Washington serves "the interest groups that control it and which are committed to financial  fraud, disinformation and war". The governments of Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Brazil and other "challenger" states are quite aware of those views, echoed by many of their own top economists and are not willing to take the siren songs of OECD policy-makers and diplomats at face value.

 

The Astana Forum of this year issued a Declaration (text attached in annex) and the WACC drafted an Anti-Crisis Plan which has many components but which emphasizes primarily the need to reach a "sound integration of the three Es: Economic, Environmental and Ethical measures to combat the crisis and promote prosperity and true development, as opposed to mere growth. Special emphasis was placed on the need to adopt and promote new, non-polluting, carbon-neutral and renewable energy sources as far as possible.

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Both the Declaration and the Anti-Crisis Plan are to be presented to the G-20 summit to be held in Saint Petersburg, chaired by Russia on the 5th and 6th of September. Russia which is a partner of Kazakhstan in the Eurasian Economic Community (EURASEC), the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Community of Independent States (CIS) among other regional coordinating bodies participated actively in the preparation of both the Plan and the Declaration and is expected to support them, especially since the Kremlin wishes to see the leading economies step away from both the profligate creation of consumer debt and trade deficits and the stifling austerity policies practiced on both shores of the Atlantic. Whereas the Russian and Kazakh Governments see the global crisis as an ongoing and worsening process which is likely to lead to a collapse of the international economic system in the coming few years, the USA and the European Union are unwilling to address the real problems and prefer to proclaim their belief that the crisis is over and that a slow recovery is underway, despite plentiful evidence to the contrary.

 

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Come Carpentier is a French writer, traveller, editor, consultant and researcher born in the Canary Islands, who lives and works in India and in Europe (France, Italy.Switzerland), helping manage a private foundation and contributing to various (more...)
 

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