Brexit: A Samoan perspective

By Ulupoao Ata Maiai ,

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FORMER BRITISH P.M.: Margaret Thatcher.

FORMER BRITISH P.M.: Margaret Thatcher.

In a recent conversation with a business colleague who lives and breaths the air of corporate London, he spoke with characteristically English - confidence of life and the future in the island. 

He is from an island race which has had an incredible history of survival;  and not long ago,  this island state  ruled half of the world. 

The British Empire is our connection with these island folks, affectionately referred  to as the Poms, the Scots, the  Irish and the Welsh.  Remember John William  the missionary who brought the Christian faith  to Samoa. And the great man, Robert Louis Stevenson.  

Then there were the British settlers and their descendants together with their  German, French, Dutch, Swedish  peers   made many  meaningful contributions  to the modernisation of this country. 

Many of us would remember waking up from a night sleep to the distinct  sound of the BBC world  news on Radio 2AP.

Our British connection remains intact in spite of Brexit: the management of Inter-governmental relations continues through the exercise of the Geneva Convention in bi-lateral diplomacy; technical, economic, political, spiritual ties  in the Commonwealth;  and our  sporting rivalries in Rugby Union, stand out in sports.

I lived and worked in Brussels, Belgium for over three years; and at the  time,  the collapse of the Soviet Union  ushered in radical  changes in official  attitudes and behaviours  of the  European peoples. 

It was a watershed development that distilled the turbulent, deadly and chaotic past developments that were carried out by participants in the  ideological contest between  Communism and Capitalism.

In the cold war period, the said ideological confrontation was the focus of the  West and East Relations: peace, stability, trade, economic cooperation to name a few and these disciplines  head- lined all kinds of diplomatic, political, economic initatives, the latter is  exemplified by  developmental programs funded from bilateral and multi-lateral sources in these camps. The agendas for the Defence and the  Security Communities  were  shaped by military exercises and maneuvers  of the West vs  East: these were responses  to the challenges of a   bi-polar world dominated by the presence of  nuclear weapons in their arsenals.

At the time, Prime Minister Margaret  Thatcher supported by  her Cabinet and the Conservative Party introduced a system of political thought that in action allowed government grants and technical support  to middle level businesses with capital of £250,000-£5,000,000 to grow. These enterprises were in the thousands and with their success come government revenue through tax plus the creation of new jobs.

The centre-piece of Prime Minister Thatcher   government’s  reforms lies in the mainstreaming of Free Market economics  and family values in policy; and the rejection of state-ownership of public enterprise. 

With the art of diplomacy, the government of  PM  Margaret Thatcher collaborated with the Administration of  President  Ronald Reagan of  the United States in advocating the spread of free market economies around the world. 

The theories of the  Austrian economist Fredrich Hayeks  and the American economist Milton Freidman provide  the intellectual muscles for the governments of  Thatcher and Reagan.  

One activity,  known as  the  privatisation program  designed to  win over governments to  market economies was accepted in   Western Samoa  under the Vaai-Tupua Tamasese Coalition and the Tofilau-Tuilaepa HRRP administrations.  The Samoan government sold its shares in the Bank of Western Samoa; Vailima Brewery and other companies.

The flow of official and private capital among nations in particular the wealth of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) and the Oil producing countries were widely reported in the Press. FRG invested millions of DM in US government bonds. 

Later FRG withdrew its investment after the collapse of the Berlin Wall. 

The financial Institutions in London were developing a strong presence in capital markets. 

The Chinese are now the no 1 investor in the US government bonds; and the billion of dollars from the Saudi and other Arab countries increase the flow of private and official   capital in the global economy.

Socialism was the political doctrine for Labour in the UK. Industrial actions and unrest characterised the pre Thatcherism era.  Decades before, the UK Government under Prime Minister Wilson went through trying times  to get IMF intervention in the British economy but now  Thatcherism brought promise and new confidence in British industries coupled by the existence of a  new  pool of  entrepreneurs to grow  the economy.

Against that background, the question: Is Brexit a historical offshoot of Thatcherism? Or is there a connection in these epic developments based on old fashioned  nationalism?  

Thatcherism gave rise to the triumph of ideas  of family values and freedom to take ownership of  destiny over the ideas in support of a  central planning bureaucracy  for governmental activities. The Brexit supporters have wanted an end to central planning and remote control  by the European Community of things  British.

Like the occurrences in Thatcherism, Brexit demonstrates a people’s desire for   independence to shape their destiny. 

The latter is well supported by the spoils of  yester years.   The market places for British goods were discovered in the days of the Empire.  

On the world scene, the UK businesses were operating in all regions of the globe. Great Britain had business interests in countries that front the Malaca Strait in Asia.  The British Empire never sets in Asia where it counts. The same could be said  in the middle east.

On the capital markets, the situation created by Brexit is cushioned by the structures and experiences bequeathed from the days of Thatcherism. 

The Bank of England and other business houses for instance are powerhouses in the world capital markets.  Moreover, with Brexit the unique role of the Monarch  as Head of State of the United Kingdom guarantee the protection  of   British interests and nationhood in the global community.

© Samoa Observer 2016

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