Knowledge and the “All-Inclusive” Ivory Tower

On a recent trip to the Dominican Republic I walked with one brief kernel of research, (which although incorrect did influence my enjoyment to a certain degree). Sadly(?) I mistakenly ranked the DR as one of the highest ranking Caribbean countries in terms of GDP per capita (a proxy for the general standard of living).

World Bank (2005–2012)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rank

Country

Intl. $

Year

1

 Luxembourg

91,388

2012

7

 United States

49,965

2012

22

 France

36,104

2012

23

 Japan

35,178

2012

27

 Bahamas, The

31,629

2012

36

Trinidad and Tobago

26,647

2012

41

 Saudi Arabia

24,571

2011

51

 Antigua and Barbuda

19,964

2012

53

 Barbados

18,805

2009

55

 Saint Kitts and Nevis

18,034

2012

59

 Mexico

16,731

2012

60

 Panama

16,615

2012

70

 Venezuela

13,475

2012

71

 Costa Rica

12,943

2012

72

 Dominica

12,643

2012

74

 Brazil

11,909

2012

77

 South Africa

11,440

2012

79

 Saint Lucia

11,146

2012

80

 Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

10,987

2012

82

 Grenada

10,827

2012

86

 Dominican Republic

10,204

2012

99

 Jamaica

7,083

2005

131

 Guyana

3,399

2012

137

 Nigeria

2,661

2012

143

 Cameroon

2,342

2012

164

 Uganda

1,352

2012

166

 Haiti

1,228

2012

169

 Ethiopia

1,139

2012

180

 Congo, Dem. Rep.

422

2012

The problem is that I took every opportunity to justify what I believed to be accurate. I discounted the lack of agricultural development, absence of factories, the low wages, etc believing that the happy, smiling faces were a reflection of the prosperity of the nation. In lockstep with my thinking the high-end mall and the nearby golf course simply reinforced my original assumptions. The truth is that the all-inclusive Caribbean resort is to a large extent the quintessential ivory tower.

The numbers are all relative. Haiti is clearly less prosperous than Jamaica, and comparatively destitute when compared to the United States, but many African countries make living in Haiti look like winning the lotto. The apparant disconnect stemmed from the fact that the Dominican Republic has the second largest economy in the Caribbean – one only need multiply the population by the per capita GDP, (say 10million by the per capita GDP (+$10.2k), to get a GDP in excess of $100bil…. Trinidad and Tobago by comparison, with a popln of 1.3million and a much higher GDP per capita (+$26.6k), would have a GDP of +$34.5bil).

Honestly, I had a great vacation. I do however feel like I missed something by not exploring and engaging in the “real” culture of the people and country. Maybe ultimately that lost opportunity is the true price one pays for staying in the ivory T.

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Africa, PIIGS, GDP and Haiti

Lately the economic troubles facing the PIIGS, (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) has roiled financial markets and further muffled credit markets.  What is far from apparent is that the standard of living in these areas is much higher than most areas in Sub Saharan Africa, Haiti, and Cuba and yet the poverty of these areas continue to be neglected by the mainstream media.  The closest analogy would be to sensationalize Warren Buffet having to change a tire on his car while ignoring the fact that in some countries children have to walk miles to get to school.[1]

Economic Data (GDP) for Selected Countries

The Gross Domestic Product (GDP)[2], is a measure of a country’s output. Where it becomes interesting is when one looks at the GDP per capita, which can be used as a proxy for the average salary in a country, (see income approach).[3]

What the grid shows is that the per capita values between the African countries and their European counterparts show embarrassingly high disparities. The fact is that while a strike (civil unrest) in Europe more likely represents being able to afford a backyard pool or better retirement benefits, a strike in Tanzania represents basic items concerning food, education, and shelter.

To add insult to injury the general consensus is that the problems faced by many African countries stems from greed, mismanagement, and ineptitude of governance.

The following chart shows the colonization of the continent in 1914.[4]

Colonial Africa 1914

African history shows the manipulation of various tribes by colonial powers, (Chowke vs Lunda)[5] , and the exploitation of the arts and resources of the continent have resulted in long term weaknesses in the African economic framework.

It should come as no surprise however that several of the colonial powers which invested in the unsustainable exploitation (Portugal, Italy, and Spain), now find themselves losing ground on the economic front without surplus capital provisions from the African continent.

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