I thought I should share the paper below on the role of science and technology and R+D in economic development written by Mervyn Claxton, a Trinidad and Tobago born consultant and former international civil servant with UNESCO who has written widely on the subject of Culture and Development. This paper speaks to the knowledge economy and the facilitating role of information technology. Developing countries can leap frog to the cutting edge to help spur sustainable economic development. A key point that you draw from Claxton’s paper is that there is no substitute for enlightened leadership in the development process. You can throw any amount of money into development but if there is no effective leadership then most of that funding is going to be written off as bad debt and waste.
Science & Technological Education + R&D: The Single Most Important Development Gamechanger for Caricom and Countries of the South
In a recent, very lively exchange on development, Science and Technology Education was the only substantive development measure “on the table”. Yet, there was not a single reference to it in the entire discussion. After some reflection, I decided to share, in the attached document, information on that critically important subject, which summarizes the international consensus on the subject, namely, that adequate investment in science and technological education, R&D, and innovation is the key to economic growth and prosperity.
In the period since the Renaissance, three non-violent revolutions have had a greater impact on the “Human Condition” than all the wars and violent revolutions that occurred in the same period. The first of the three revolutions, The Scientific Revolution (16th-17th century), transformed man’s views of society and nature, when developments in the basic sciences – mathematics, physics, astronomy, medicine, biology chemistry – demonstrated that the “laws of nature” are discoverable by means of observation and reason, and that he did not have to depend on revealed knowledge to know them.
Galileo enthused: “Philosophy is written in this grand book of the universe, which stands continually open to our gaze. But the book cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language and to read the alphabet in which it is composed. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one wanders in a dark labyrinth.” (“The Assayer”, 1623). Galileo was no doubt referring to the dark labyrinth of Church dogma.
A number of learned Institutions were established in Europe to exploit the possibilities offered by the new knowledge. The Royal Society of London for Promoting Natural Knowledge was one such institution. The Royal Society, which was inaugurated in 1662, stated its purpose very clearly, in its statutes: “The business of the Royal Society is to improve the knowledge of natural things and all useful arts…”).
The Industrial Revolution (18th-19th century) was the second revolution that had a transformational impact on the Human Condition. The mechanization of production, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, increased use of steam power and the development of machine tools generated unprecedented economic growth. “For the first time in history, the living standards of the masses of ordinary people have begun to undergo sustained growth. The novelty of the discovery that a human society has this potential for generating sustained improvement in the material aspects of the lives of all of its members, not just of a ruling elite, cannot be overstressed. (Robert Lucas (1995 Nobel Laureate in Economics), “The Industrial Revolution: Past and Future” in Lectures on Economic Growth, page 109, 2002).
The third transformational revolution was The Knowledge Revolution, which began in the 1960s and gave rise to The Knowledge Society and The Knowledge Economy. In a comprehensive landmark document (“Towards Knowledge Societies”, 2005), http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0014/001418/141843e.pdf to which dozens of experts from the North and the South contributed, Unesco defined and discussed those two transformational concepts.
The Knowledge Society
“Knowledge societies are about capabilities to identify, produce, process, transform, disseminate and use information to build and apply knowledge for human development. They require an empowering social vision that encompasses plurality, inclusion, solidarity and participation. The concept of knowledge societies is more all-embracing and more conducive to empowerment than the concept of technology and connectivity, which often dominates debates on the information society.” (Unesco, 2005, page 27).
“The mastery of technology is a necessary precondition for the creation of knowledge societies…” (Unesco, 2005, p.126).
The Knowledge Economy
“The knowledge economy is a particular knowledge-driven stage of capitalist development, based on knowledge, succeeding a phase marked by the accumulation of physical capital. Knowledge thus viewed is in the process of taking the place of the workforce, as Marx had foreseen in the middle of the nineteenth century, and the wealth created is being measured less on the output of work itself, measurable and quantifiable, and more and more on the general level of science and the progress of technology. (Unesco, 2005, page 46)
The Unesco Report points out that, in a global knowledge economy, “where the touchstone of competitiveness will be capacity for innovation”, the fostering of a culture of innovation is a matter of encouraging the rapid spread of inventions and new ideas throughout a society. “But innovation cannot be arranged by fiat. It is precisely because innovation has become largely unforeseeable that it is important to concentrate on the conditions that favour the emergence of the process of innovation”: for they constitute the only factor that it is in our power to affect.” (Unesco, 2005, page 59)
The Unesco Report identifies and illustrates by (successful) example the conditions that favour the emergence of the process of innovation:
“The successes achieved by a certain number of East and Southeast Asian countries in the fight against poverty is largely explained by the massive investments they made in education and research and development (R&D) over several decades. This is a possible example for many developing countries, that would stand to gain from drawing inspiration from experiences that have helped to slash absolute poverty.” (Unesco, 2005, page 20). The combined knowledge, experience and expertise of those experts who contributed to the Unesco Report, and who saw no obstacle whatsoever to developing countries learning from the experiences of East and South-East Asian countries because of the latter’s different political and social systems, should carry considerable weight.
In anticipation of possible objections that Caricom countries did/do not possess the funds to make “massive investments”, I should point out that, at independence, the Asian tigers had less material resources at their disposal than most Caricom countries, as a comparison of their respective national GDPs (at the time) would show. I think that the term, “massive investments” in the Unesco Report, would have been better expressed by the phrase “very high priority given to”. The latter is obviously what is meant in the Report, since that centrally important development policy was recommended to “many developing countries”. Documents produced by a large number of individuals who speak a variety of languages often contain language that is not as precise as those produced by individuals who speak the same language.
In the section headed “WHY ARE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CRITICAL TO PROSPERITY?” a major policy document, published by three prestigious American national institutions, pointed out that the “social rates of return” to R & D on investments in R&D range from 20 to 100%, with an average of nearly 50%. To illustrate the high rates from R&D investments, the paper cited the example of one US university whose graduates in recent years have founded 4,000 companies, created 1.1 million jobs worldwide, and generated annual sales of $232 billion. (“Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future”, U.S. National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, p.49, 2007). http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11463 (Click on Download, under the buy paperback sign, for free download of the document).
The policy document underlined the critical importance “to the quality of life in the United States” of investments in science and technology education and research: “The science and technology research community and the industries that rely on that research are critical to the quality of life in the United States. Only by continuing investment in advancing technology—through the education of our children, the development of the science and engineering workforce, and the provision of an environment conducive to the transformation of research results into practical applications—can the full innovative capacity of the United States be harnessed and the full promise of a high quality of life realized.” (The Gathering Storm, 2007, p.67).
In a recent circulated commentary, I illustrated my argument re the strategic development importance of Sc & Tech education, by comparing the number of registered Sc. & Tech students in Jamaica, in 1985, with the number of Sc & Tech students in Singapore, the same year. I suggested that there was a cause-effect relationship between the two countries’ different development trajectories and their comparative Sc & Tech enrolment statistics. I could have chosen any other Caricom country for my comparison, but I chose Jamaica because I happened to know the views of Edward Seaga, Jamaica’s Prime Minister between 1980-1989, on science and technology and Sc &Tech education.
I learnt of Seaga’s views on the subject from a Jamaican friend of mine, who was a former minister attached to the Prime Minister’s office, with responsibility for Science and Technology. In 1985, he told me of his failure to convince Seaga of the great importance, to Jamaica’s economic development, of a national science and technology policy that should begin with a substantial expansion of Sc & Tech education, which he wanted the government to implement with a sufficiently high degree of priority. My friend gave me Seaga’s response to his request: “Jamaica is not ready for that yet.” In frustration, he handed his resignation to Seaga and left both the JLP and politics.
Fast forward to 1994. In that year, Unesco published and distributed, worldwide, some fifteen thousand copies of a document (Culture and Development – A Study) I had written, in the context of my work for the U.N. World Decade for Cultural Development, of which Unesco was the Executing Agency. The initial print-run of 10,000 was followed by a second print-run of 5,000, in response to the demand for more copies of the Study. I devoted an entire chapter of my Study to “Culture and Technology”, one section to “Science and Technology for Development”, and a large part of the section, “Education in Development”, to scientific and technological education. Here are some relevant excerpts:
From Chapter 3: “Science and Technology”
“Abdus Salam, Nobel Prize winner, and Director of the International Centre for
Theoretical Physics in Trieste, has often pointed out the mistake of developing countries
trying to buy technology while neglecting to invest in the basic sciences. He emphasizes that technology follows science and that if a country is not good at science it would never be good at technology. His advice to developing countries is that economic prosperity today lies with areas of science-based high technology, and that the major investment needed in these areas is investment in creating scientifically highly literate manpower. “For long-term effectiveness, technology transfers must always be accompanied by science transfers . . .the science of today is the technology of tomorrow” (“Ideals and Realities”, p.35, 1987). Investment in the basic sciences, in scientific manpower and in scientific research is not enough, however, unless it is accompanied by deliberate efforts to exploit their technological potential.” (page 35).
“A failure on the part of most developing countries to understand the link between
national scientific capacity and the implantation of foreign technology has led to the
conviction that there was no need to duplicate the efforts of the industrialized countries in
making major investments in scientific research and development, since technology could be bought whenever it was needed…Hence insufficient effort is made by most developing countries to formulate relevant and coherent science and technology policies, to develop scientific education, to promote a scientific culture, or to help create the conditions for the development of endogenous technology.” (page 36).
From Chapter 4: The Development Challenge; Section: Education in Development
“Scientific and technological education can play an important role in developing
analytical and synthetic skills, in encouraging the exercise of critical judgement and in
stimulating the development of observational and creative potential. Technology should be
introduced into general education at an early stage, not only because it could provide an
important introduction to vocational training, but because it represents an inescapable part
of everyday life. A basic knowledge of it is, therefore, essential for understanding and
interacting with one’s environment. A scientific and technological component, based on
observation and experiment, and linked with real-life situations – in health, for example, or
in nutrition or environmental protection, could be introduced into the primary school curricula. Indeed, the educational system should, from the very beginning of primary
schooling, provide the tools for a scientific understanding of the world that the child sees
around him.” (pp.40- 41).
“Such developments would only be able to fulfil their real potential if they are accompanied, or preceded, by fundamental changes in curricula… [e.g.] the integration of science teaching into general education, and the association of the latter with the solving of local problems. But it is equally important to bring about improvements in teaching methods – more creativity in teaching, the rewarding of innovation in class, the encouragement of a critical attitude on the part of the student, and the placing of emphasis on “learning to learn”.”
“The incorporation of such efforts and practices into a society’s cultural assumptions
would facilitate the forging of stronger links between its educational and productive
processes. This could lead to the creation, development and adaptation of endogenous
technologies that could be used as grafting points for the introduction and assimilation of
technologies from abroad. Academic research, oriented to local subjects from its simple,
primary school origins, would more easily direct its focus to the real developmental needs
of the country. The local business community would also be more encouraged to provide
funding for basic scientific research in fields likely to produce results of relevance to local
industry.” (page 41).
From Section: Science and Technology for Development:
“The experience of several South-East Asian countries has shown that impressive
results can be obtained by the imaginative and innovative application of science and
technology to development. Developing countries need to define their own priorities and
objectives in the field of science and technology, formulate coherent science and technology policies reflecting those objectives, ensure adequate and appropriate scientific and technological training, and establish a research infrastructure for the promotion of research in areas likely to be of greatest benefit to their own development.” (page 44).
Tha Jamaican Government’s attitude to Sc and Tech for development in the 1980s.
I sent a copy of my Study to my ex-minister friend, who immediately asked me for twenty copies to distribute to decision-makers in Jamaica. I would be most surprised if Seaga was not one of the recipients. I seized the opportunity, presented by his request, to make a request of my own. I told him that Seaga’s attitude was symptomatic of the “white magic” conception of Science & Technology (more about white magic later), which apparently mesmerizes the developing world. I asked his permission to cite Seaga’s response to him re a Jamaican national SC & Tech policy, without revealing his (my friend’s) name, in a future publication, in which I intended to examine developing-country attitudes and policy (in)actions in the area of Science and Technology for development, comparing their (in)actions with their development failures or successes. He readily granted me permission to do so, although he knew that a Jamaican would most probably be able to identify the ex-minister in the anecdote.
1985 was the year I assumed my post as Unesco Representative to the Caribbean. I well remember the emphasis that Seaga placed on expanding garment-manufacturing jobs in tax-free zones in Jamaica, for export to the United States. Twenty-five years later, Hillary Clinton visited earthquake-stricken Haiti and proposed essentially the same “economic policy” (if it deserves that term), with one difference, the proposed garment factories would not be established in tax-free export zones. Clinton’s proposal represented some progress from Jamaica’s garment manufacturing policy, 1980s vintage.
I remember Seaga’s frequent boasts, on TV and radio of the number of jobs his government had created in that sector. As late as 2008, Seaga was still boasting publicly of the great success of his garment manufacturing economic policy for Jamaica. This is what he said in an article published in the Gleaner:
“In the 1980s the promotional strategy was for the establishment of free zones which required no expenditure of foreign exchange to purchase raw materials or capital equipment. It earned foreign exchange from the payments received by the substantial number of workers (over 30,000) and from payment of other domestic costs, such as utilities. The earnings up to the early 1990s made the free zone garment industry the top foreign exchange earner, reversing the loss position of the non-free zone industrial incentive programme.” (“Is foreign investment beneficial to Jamaica?”, Jamaican Gleaner, 1 May 2008. http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20080525/focus/focus3.html
What limited vision!
I could not help making a connection between the views Seaga expressed on the subject (illustrated by his garment-manufacturing “economic policy”), with the proposal of the United Kingdom representative on Unesco’s Executive Board, in its May 1984 session. In one of the regular puerile fits it throws when it does not get its own way in policy matters, the U.S. had given notice the previous December (1983) that it intended to leave Unesco in December 1984. The May Executive Board meeting was almost entirely devoted to discussing which programmes should be reduced or eliminated in order to meet the resulting 25% shortfall in its budget.
The UK Representative suggested cutting most of the budget for Science and Technology. He added that developing countries did not need science and technology. What they needed were programmes to promote literacy and education at the primary school level. He did not even include secondary school education among the alleged needs of developing countries, which conveyed the impression that secondary education was not a priority for developing countries. The UK representative’s vision of Sc & Tech seemed perfectly aligned with Seaga’s. After all, a primary school education would be quite adequate for garment workers in tax-free export zones. With a secondary school education, they would be over-educated for work in that vital economic sector. In the knowledge economy, such garment workers are the equivalent of “hewers of wood and drawers of water” (the Biblical equivalent of countries whose exports consist mainly of primary or low-tech products).
In suggesting that developing countries did not need science and technology, the UK Representative was not unmindful of the threat that Japan’s recent emergence as a technological giant posed to Northern/Western economies and their technological monopoly. He was determined to prevent other developing countries from becoming serious technological rivals. In 1984, when the UK Representative made his suggestion, Japan had already stunned the Western world with its technological successes, the most important of which were Sony’s commercial applications of the transistor, which a U.S. company invented in the 1950s but, as it saw no commercial prospects for the transistor, it allowed Sony to acquire rights to exploit it.
“And the rest, as they say, is history. With the transistor radio, music and information suddenly became portable. No matter how isolated you were, you could hear news of the world. And for teenagers who could suddenly listen to music anywhere they wanted — far away from an adult’s ears — it sparked a musical revolution: rock n’ roll.”
Japan has chalked up a number of technological firsts of strategic economic importance: The Compact Disc (late 1970s); the portable CD player (1984); the High-Speed Passenger Train (1964); the Quartz Wristwatch (1969); the Portable Music Player – Walkman (1971); the Camcorder (1982); the Video Cassette (1971); the Digital single-lens reflex (SLR) Camera (1981); the Floppy Disk (1952); the Flat-Panel Display – the Watchman (1982), and the first LCD and Plasma televisions. Several of those Japanese technological inventions/applications captured the world market, making them a redoubtable money-printing machine for Japan.
International efforts to promote Science & Technology for Development
The UN Conference on Science and Technology for the Benefit of Less-Developed Areas (February 1963, Geneva) was the first international effort to promote science and technology policy for development. The stated objectives of the Conference were:
“To explore recent advances in the application of science and technology which will benefit the less developed areas; to provide an opportunity for an assessment of the impact of such applications on the processes of economic and social development; to reveal opportunities for research directed toward producing new scientific and technological advances of special utility to less developed areas; and to stimulate and promote scientific and technological development in the less developed areas.”
In his foreword to the published proceedings of the Geneva conference, UN Secretary-General U Thant stated “science could be a powerful force for raising living standards if the governments find the means and the political will.” In 1971, The United Nations Advisory Committee on the Application of Science and Technology to Development (ACAST) published the World Plan of Action for the Application of Science and Technology to Development. Among the policy recommendations in the Action Plan, was that developing countries should make effective arrangements for formulating and executing national science and technology policy. The Plan also stipulated that developing countries should allocate one per cent of their GNP to science and technology for development. The UN Conference on Science and Technology for Development (Vienna, 1979) adopted The Vienna Programme of Action, which included the principal recommendations of the ACAST Action Plan, including the recommendation that developing countries allocate of one per cent of their GNP to science and technology for development (R&D).
In the period since the Vienna Conference, a number of other Science and Technology conferences, both at the international and the regional level, were organized after, to push home the message that Science and Technology is the game-changer in a developing country’s economic development. I attended one such conference, organized by Unesco in Brasilia (1985) – Conference of Ministers Responsible for the Application of Science and Technology to Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (CASTALAC II).
Abdus Salam, the distinguished Pakistani physicist and 1979 Nobel Laureate in physics, was the Founder and Director of the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (Trieste) from 1968 to 1993. The year following his death in 1996, the Centre was renamed the Abdus Salam Centre for Theoretical Physics, to honour him for his ground-breaking research in physics and also, for his indefatigable efforts to promote science in developing countries because of its critical importance in development. In 1983, under Salam’s leadership a group of distinguished scientists founded the Third World Academy of Sciences, the principal aim of which was to promote scientific capacity and excellence for sustainable development, in the South. Salam and his fellow scientists were very concerned at the dearth of innovative SC &Tech potential in the South, which they considered vital for solving the real-life problems of developing countries.
Abdus Salam fervently believed that the creation, mastery and utilization of modern science and technology are the one factor that distinguishes the North from the South. In other words, science and technology is the game-changer in development – nothing else. Salam expressed that view on numerous occasions, including the address he delivered to the South Commission in Kuwait, December 1988. His address, “Notes on science, technology and science education in the development of the South” was published in Minerva, Spring 1991, Volume 29, Issue 1, 10-12 December 1988, pp.90-108. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF01096299#page-1
Here is an excerpt from Salam’s address (Click on “Look Inside” in the link above, to access this excerpt and other selected passages in his address):
“Today The Third World is only slowly waking up to the realization that in the final analysis; creation, mastery and utilization of modern science and technology are basically what distinguishes the South from the North. On science and technology depend the standards of living of a nation. The widening gap in economics and influence between the nations of the South and the North is essentially the science and technology gap. Nothing else – neither differing cultural values, nor differing perceptions of religious thought, nor differing systems of economies or of governance – can explain why the North (to the exclusion) of the South) can master this globe of ours and beyond…Why does this gap exist and why is it growing so fast? Why is the size of science and technology sub-critical and their utilisation in the South so meagre?”
“Our second remark concerns the widespread feeling that the acquiring of science and science-based high technology is hard. We would like to say emphatically that this is not the case. In eloquent phrases, C.P. Snow, in his…lecture on “The Two Cultures”, made the point that science and technology are the branches of human experience “that people can learn with predictable results…For a long time, the West misjudged this very badly. After all, a good many Englishmen have been skilled in mechanical crafts for half-a-dozen generations. Somehow, we, in the North, have made ourselves believe that the whole of technology was a more or less incommunicable art.” In Snow’s words:
“There is no getting away from it. It is…possible to carry out the scientific revolution in India, Africa, South-East Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, within fifty years. There is no excuse for Western man not to know this.”
To echo the words that Abdus Salam quoted from Snow’s lecture, there is no getting away from it. It is possible to carry out the scientific revolution in the Caribbean…There is no excuse for Caricom (wo)man not to know this. Why have Caricom countries ignored (or rejected) the possibility that the scientific revolution could be carried out in the Caribbean? A possible reason why Caricom gave no priority whatsoever, to science and technology education when the region became independent might be due to our assimilation of technology to what Norman called “White Magic”, in his paper, “Technology Policies for Small Developing Economies”, 1983. http://www.sci-tech-jamaica.net/Ch%203-d.html
If technology is to be associated with any colour, it should be yellow (Chinese) or brown (Indian and Arab), not white:
“The Near East was superior to the West…For nearly all branches of technology, the best products available were those of the Near East…Technologically, the West had little to bring to the Near East. The technological movement was in the other direction. Between the 7th and 13th centuries A.D., Europe exported raw materials to the Arab countries in exchange for consumer and industrial goods…Egyptian and Syrian glass and metal work, as well as many of the products of Mesopotamia and Moorish Spain were highly prized as being manifestly superior to anything that could be made in Western Europe.” (Charles Singer (ed), “History of Technology” (5 vols.), Vol. 2, p.756, 1956).
One of those “emigrations of Eastern craftsmen” to the West was in the direction of 13th century Venice. The first recorded, formal agreement for the transfer of technology, which has since come almost by definition to describe a North-South flow, actually took place in a South-North (or, more precisely, an East-West) direction. In June 1277, Behemond VII, Prince of Antioch, signed a treaty agreement with the Doge of Venice, under which the Venetian State acquired Syrian glass-blowing technology, raw materials for making glass, and Syrian craftsmen to teach Venetians the technology. (George Sarton, “Introduction to the History of Science”, Vol.2, 1931).
The Venetian state, which guarded the precious glass-making technology very jealously, publicly announced that if any Venetian glass worker left Venice, to take his acquired skills elsewhere, Venice would send state agents to pursue and execute him, wherever he was. Syrian glass-making technology enabled Venice to monopolize European glass manufacture for four centuries, until France finally succeeded in smuggling the technology out of Venice in the 17th century. In 1665, Colbert, Louis XIV’s minister of finance, “enticed” a number of Venetian glassworkers to immigrate to France, bringing their precious technological expertise in glass making.
Colbert also recruited a large number of skilled workers from other countries to work in France’s newly established industries. That influx of skilled immigrant labour was largely responsible for the successful launching of France’s early industrial development. The French government subsequently decreed severe penalties (including imprisonment) for immigrant glass technicians and other workers who attempted to return to their countries. It is one of the many ironies of history that it is the French and Italian governments that led the successful campaign, five years ago, for the adoption of a community-wide policy, which criminalized illegal immigration, penalizing immigrants with up to 18 months imprisonment. France and Italy have conveniently forgotten the enormous historical technological debt they both owe to immigrants from the South and the Near East.
C.P. Snow and The Two Cultures
I became convinced, in my early twenties, of the critical importance of Sc & Tech education to Caribbean development and that of the South, as a whole. My eureka moment occurred when I read, in 1960, the lecture that C. P. Snow, the Cambridge scientist, had given the previous year, on what he considered a dangerous cultural divide that existed between the Two Cultures – the scientific culture and the literary cultures – in England and, to a lesser extent, in the Western world.
“A good many times I have been present at gatherings of people who, by the standards of the traditional culture, are thought highly educated and who have with considerable gusto been expressing their incredulity at the illiteracy of scientists. Once or twice I have been provoked and have asked the company how many of them could describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The response was cold: it was also negative. Yet I was asking something which is the scientific equivalent of: Have you read a work of Shakespeare’s? I now believe that if I had asked an even simpler question — such as, What do you mean by mass, or acceleration, which is the scientific equivalent of saying, Can you read? — not more than one in ten of the highly educated would have felt that I was speaking the same language.” (C. P. Snow, “The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution”, page 16, 1959).
Snow argued that the appreciation and application of science was the key to the future, and he bemoaned the over-emphasis, in British education, on a literary education, to the detriment of scientific and technological education. “Why aren’t we coping with the scientific revolution? Why are other countries [e.g. Germany, the U.S, the Soviet Union] doing better? How are we going to meet our future, both our cultural and practical future?” (Snow, 1959, page 35). Snow pointed out that the UK was training, at a professional level per head of population (scientists and engineers combined), one Englishman to every one and a half Americans and to every two and a half Russians. He added that the Russians possessed an even better understanding of the scientific revolution than the Americans. They had made an accurate estimation of the kind and the number of scientifically educated men and women they needed, in order to come out top in the scientific revolution.
When C.P Snow made the unfavourable comparison between the number of scientists and engineers the Soviet Union was producing annually, with the number produced by the U.S. and the U.K., he was also implicitly relating the Soviet Union’s larger percentage of trained scientists/engineers and its spectacular feat, two years earlier (1957), of being the first country to place a satellite in orbit. The even more spectacular feat, two years later (1961), of being the first country to send a man into outer space would not have surprised Snow. In his mind, the Soviet Union was merely reaping the results of the investments it had made in scientific and technological education.
“The Chinese, who appear in ten years to have transformed their universities and built so many that they are now nearly independent of scientists and engineers from outside. Ten years. With scientific teachers from this country and the U.S…other poor countries could do the same in twenty.” (Snow, 1959, p.51). In 1995, the Times Literary Supplement included C. P. Snow’s published lecture on the Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution among the hundred books that had influenced Western public discourse since the Second World War, ranking it No.42 in descending order of importance.
If Snow had lived, he would not have been surprised by America’s expressed fear, in the first years of this century, that China’s achievements in high technology posed a serious threat to the pre-eminence of Silicon Valley. (Bruce Einhorn et al. “High Tech in China: Is It a Threat to Silicon Valley?” Business Week online, October 28, 2002). Indeed, Snow virtually predicted such achievements in his Two Cultures lecture, when he said that the results of investment in science and technology were “predictable”. On 24 April 1970, only eleven years after Snow’s seminal lecture, China launched its first artificial satellite, the DFH-1, placing it in a terrestrial orbit. (“DFH-1”, Encyclopedia Astronautica Navigation) http://www.astronautix.com/craft/dfh1.htm
“From 1992 to 2002, China more than doubled its R&D intensity (the ratio of total R&D spending to GDP)”; “In China, national spending in the past few years for all R&D activities rose 500%, from $14 billion in 1991 to $65 billion in 2002.” (The Gathering Storm, 2007, pp.72, 208). One spectacular “predictable” result of China’s doubling its R&D intensity in that period was that, in 2003, China became the third country to succeed in putting a man into space. “China’s first manned spacecraft has entered orbit, making it the third country to send a human into space.”(“China puts its first man in space”, 16 October 2003) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3192330.stm China soon surpassed that ground-breaking achievement: “China’s latest launch of a three-person spacecraft shows the East moving well ahead of the once dominant West.” (“Beijing, We Have a Space Program” June 12, 2013). http://science.time.com/2013/06/12/beijing-we-have-a-space-program/
India was one of the poor countries, which, Snow stated in his Lecture, could achieve scientific and technological independence within 20 years, if it made the required investment in science and technological education, which it did. “India already has nearly as many young professional engineers (university graduates with up to 7 years of experience) as the United States does.” (The Gathering Storm (2007), p.208).
Caricom and the “Two Cultures”
When my Jamaican friend informed me of Seaga’s views on science and technology policy and education, I recognized him as one of the “literary intellectuals” whom Snow dismissively called “natural Luddites”, because of their total lack of comprehension of the transformations that scientific and technological knowledge were bringing about in the world around him. I noticed, to my astonishment, when I took up my post in 1985, that not a single Caricom country had a government ministry whose primary responsibility was science and technology. That centrally important twin portfolio was invariably tagged on to another ministry, as the second or even third order of priority.
That single fact was indicative of the minor importance accorded to Sc & Tech in Caricom development strategy at the national and regional level. Because Sc &Tech is the development game changer, a ministry of Science and Technology should have been one of the two or three most important government ministries in every national Caricom government, headed by one of the more senior ministers. I also recalled that Caricom countries never included a scientist in their delegations to the biennial Unesco Conference, which left the Science Commission at the Conference with no Caricom presence or participation. I was associated with Unesco, as a national diplomat/delegate or as a staff member, for period of almost thirty years. I never saw a scientist included in the delegation of any Caricom country, during that considerable period of time.
I was struck by another anomaly. The Caribbean Council for Science and Technology (CCST) http://www.ccst-caribbean.org/aboutus.html had been established in 1980, in Jamaica, where its statutes were adopted and signed by the member governments of the Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee (CDCC). As readers would see by accessing the link, the declared objectives of the CCST make no mention whatsoever of scientific & technological education nor of the minimum 1% of GDP, that should be invested in Sc &Tech, nor of the high priority that should be accorded to Sc & Tech because of its critical importance to the region’s economic development. I reluctantly came to the conclusion that the region’s political leaders probably shared Seaga’s “perspective” on Science and Technology.
I decided that I would do my utmost to change that perspective, although I did not hold out much hope of success. During the entire four-year period (1985-1989) I was Unesco Representative to the Caribbean, I conducted a one-man campaign to persuade Caricom governments of the critical importance of science and technology, and scientific and technological education, to the development of their individual countries and the region as a whole. My position gave me ready access to Caricom government ministers who held portfolios in the areas of Unesco’s competence.
My first initiative, in the above respect, after assuming duties as Unesco Representative was to persuade the government of T&T to include a scientist in the T&T delegation to the LAC Regional Conference on Science and Technology (Brasilia, August 1985), organized by Unesco. I learnt, to my dismay, that T&T had designated a member of its Embassy in Brasilia, who had no scientific training, as its sole delegate to the ministerial-level conference. Not only would the person in question (a young lady), whom I met at the Conference, be unable to make a contribution to the debates but she also did not possess the knowledge to discuss conference issues with other LAC delegates, which the latter would have soon discovered.
T&T had no Ministry for Science and Technology, and the minister responsible for that portfolio was low down the government pecking order. So I sought and obtained an appointment with the Minister of External Affairs, whose ministry was almost always involved in decisions re participation in international meetings. I underlined some of the key issues to be discussed at the Brasilia meeting and suggested that it was in T&T’s interest to help shape the decisions that would determine regional policy in Science and Technology. The minister bought the argument and he asked to suggest a scientifically qualified person, which I immediately did. He accepted my suggestion and assured me that he would take care of it, which he did. That was how T&T had a qualified scientist on its delegation to the most important Sc & Tech conference held, so far, in the region. That incident told me that Snow’s Two Cultures were alive and well in Caricom.
I was invited to attend all Caricom regional meetings of ministers in the areas of Unesco’s competence and, whenever there was an opening ceremony, I was always invited to make an address. I used those opportunities, when the issues on the table permitted it, to emphasize the importance of culture (taken in the large sense of the term) to development. I also underlined the critical importance, to the region, of Sc & Tech education, local R&D, a local capacity for scientific and technological innovation (STI), and the application of Sc & Tech to development. Any meeting on education or culture (e.g. scientific culture) could provide an opportunity to deliver that message. I delivered a similar message, tailored to the occasion, at the many national seminars, workshops, conferences, to which I was invariably invited to give an address in the opening session. I also regularly held discussions, on those issues, with senior ministry officials, in a number of which the minister participated.
Shortly after I had given a brief address at the opening ceremony of a Caricom regional meeting of Ministers of Education and Culture that took place in Georgetown, in late 1988 or early 1989, the St Lucian Government invited me to deliver the Keynote Address at the opening ceremony of its week-long celebration of the country’s Tenth Anniversary of Independence in February 1989. In an oral communication, I was asked to make my favourite themes – culture and development, and the importance of science and technology education in such development – the subject of my address, which I readily did. That invitation told me that at least one Caricom country was open to my message. Whether St Lucia did anything concrete about it, I don’t know.
The PNP won power in Jamaica shortly before I left the region to return to Paris to assume new duties. P. J. Patterson (who occupied the room “next-door” to mine, on the top floor of Block D, Chancellor Hall) was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, with responsibility for Science and Technology, among other duties. I wrote P.J. a personal letter to congratulate him on his appointment, and took the opportunity to underline the importance of science and technology, expressing the hope that his government would make it a priority. P. J. immediately replied to say that he agreed with me on the importance of Sc & Tech and he intended to make it a government priority.
I sent a similar personal letter to the minister whom T&T’s Prime Minister, A.N.R Robinson, appointed either that year or the previous year, with responsibility for Science and Technology and the Environment (I think). I won’t mention his name because I don’t know him well enough to be able to determine whether he would mind it or not, although I first met him when I was a student at Q.R.C. and he was a Lieutenant in the Cadet Corps. But the minister replied in essentially the same terms as P.J. I remember clearly one sentence in his response: “Mervyn, you are pushing at an open door.” Because of my crusading zeal on the topic, I must have been pushing the envelope! Anyway, I left the Caribbean knowing that I had done everything humanly possible to persuade Caricom decision-makers of the critical importance of Science and Technology to the region’s development, occasionally overstepping the bounds in doing so. In that respect, I readily assumed personal responsibility, as I have done in others, in matters concerning the region.
Caricom, Science, Technology, Innovation and Globalization in the 21st Century
Here is OECD’s point of view on the importance of scientific and technological innovation (STI) in meeting the challenges of globalization. Although it is written from an OECD perspective, it underlines the negative impact of globalization on emerging economies. I consider it very relevant to Caricom and other developing “non-emerging” economies:
“The pace and scale of globalisation is unprecedented. Its distinctive features are increasing international trade, deepening economic integration, especially in emerging economies, and greater geographic fragmentation of production processes generating ever more complex global value chains. In this new geography of growth, international competition from new players is eroding the lead of more established economies. Environmental pressures challenge the sustainability of development models. Longer life expectancy is putting a greater strain on the capability of health systems to meet the needs of an ageing population. Innovation is increasingly seen as being critical for effectively meeting these challenges. It will play a major role in lifting economies out of the downturn and finding new and sustainable sources of growth and competitiveness.” (OECD Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2011).
Here is UNCTAD’s policy recommendation for meeting the challenges of globalization:
“Science, technology and innovation are essential ingredients in the industrialization and sustainable development of nations. The importance of these ingredients as crucial factors in the economic growth and competitiveness of countries has become all the more evident in the face of globalization, trade liberalization and the emergence of knowledge-based industries. Globalization has brought with it a more intense competitive environment and new requirements for sustained competitiveness. This new competitive environment has fuelled the growth of knowledge-intensive production by increasing scientific and technological interactions and the need for innovation. The active search for continuous improvements has created an urgent need to rely even more on scientific and technological innovation and to adjust policies and practices at both the enterprise and government levels.” (UNCTAD, “Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Review”
This IDRC document does not mention globalization specifically but it emphasizes the role science and & technology innovation (STI) in driving economic growth and solving development problems:
“Science, technology, and innovation (STI) can drive economic growth, help solve social and environmental problems, and reduce poverty. All countries need to develop the capacity to produce and use science and technology themselves, and adapt knowledge to their needs and contexts.” (IDRC, “Leveraging Science and Innovation for Development”).
The United Nations underlined the importance of science education and STI in promoting sustainable development:
“Knowledge accumulation in all countries depends on steady investments to increase science education as well as to improve the STI policy environment to foster endogenous innovations, through all means of learning, including research and development. Some lessons stand out in this regard. First, incorporating science education in the curricula from primary and high school levels to the encouragement of research poles around existing universities is one key step.” (U.N. “Science, technology and innovation for sustainable development in the global partnership for development beyond 2015”, pp.6-7).
Are Caricom countries making the necessary investments in Science and Technology (Sc. & Tech. education, R&D and STI) to halt the steady reduction in the value of their products and to make them more competitive in international markets “in the face of globalization, trade liberalization and the emergence of knowledge-based industries”?
Let’s examine Caricom in respect of R&D investment and the development of STI capacity. This is what a UWI document has to say on the subject:
“Caribbean countries invest little in research and development (R&D). Throughout the region R&D expenditures are estimated to be an average of 0.13% of GDP. Table 2 below [in the UWI document quoted] shows the case of Trinidad and Tobago. It shows that although R&D expenditures have been rising in absolute terms the share of GDP has remained low. This level of investment is considered extremely low by developing countries standards. Indeed, the Caribbean Council for Science and Technology recommends that Caribbean governments should spend at least 3% on active R&D programmes which is the median between that of Small Island Developing States and developed countries” (“Science and Technology Innovation in the Caribbean”, Keith Nurse, Director, Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services, UWI, Cave Hill, page 9, 2007). http://vi.unctad.org/files/papers/nursepaper.pdf
The UWI paper states that an alternative means of measuring the level of Caribbean investment in STI is to look at the registration of patents abroad by Caribbean nationals. According to the paper, of the top Caribbean countries that registered patents in the US, in the period 1965-2006, the Bahamas (378) had the highest number of registrations, followed in descending order by Cuba (162), Bermuda (147), Jamaica (90), Trinidad and Tobago (89), Dominican Republic (72) and Barbados (39). Other Caribbean countries that registered patents in the US, registered less than a combined total 20 patents in the same period. (Nurse, 2007, p.11).
The UWI paper underlined the very low number of Caribbean patents by comparing the entire region’s patent registration of with that of Singapore: “Singapore like many Caribbean territories had patent registration in the single digit numbers in the early period, 1965-1969, with small increases in the 1970s to 52 and 1980s to 144. Singapore‘s growth in patent registration occurs in the period 1990-1999 (1755) and in 2000-2006 period when patent registration triples to a total of 5937.” (Nurse, 2007, p.12).
Let’s put those patent registration numbers in comparative perspective. In the period 1965-2006, Caricom countries registered a combined total of 763 patents. In the period 1970-2006, Singapore registered a total of 7,888 patents, more than ten times as many.
The UWI paper summed up the reason’s for the Caribbean’s failure to cope with globalisation: “In summary, the Caribbean region is faced with the reduction in value of its products on the global market and the concurrent reduction in share of global trade with major partners. The negative balance of trade in goods and services in the region since the mid-1980s can be considered an indication of the inability of Caribbean industries to innovate and increase the competitiveness and appeal of Caribbean products on a global scale. This inability to maintain market share and industry competitiveness can be linked to the region’s lack of focus on science, technology and innovation and hence inadequate STI policies to engender the quality of innovation needed for these sectors.” (Nurse, 2007, p.9).
Other science, technology and innovation indicators
I shall make a comparative analysis of other STI indicators to further illustrate the striking cause-effect relationship between a country’s investments in science (including science education), technology and innovation, and its economic growth and wealth creation capacity. I extend the comparison to two other developing countries (China and South Korea) both of which had a lower per capita GDP (that is to say, lower wealth creation capacity), in 1960, than almost all Caricom countries: T&T ($637); Jamaica ($429); Barbados ($379); Guyana ($304); St. Kitts/Nevis ($242); St Vincent ($170);
Singapore ($395), South Korea ($155), China ($92). (World Bank: per capita GDP (nominal) – 1960 (current value.)
The comparative figures cited below are from the World Bank: World Development indicators: Science and Technology (2013) http://wdi.worldbank.org/table/5.13
R&D expenditure (% of GDP) (2005-2010)
T&T (0.05%). No data for other Cariocm countries
Singapore (2.43%); Korea (3.74%); China (1.70%).
“High-technology exports (% of manufactured exports” (2011)
Barbados (13.7%), T&T (0.1%), Guyana (0.1%), Jamaica (0.6%).
Singapore 45.2%), Korea (25.7%), China (25.8%).
Patent applications filed in 2011 (residents)
Jamaica (20), T&T (1), Barbados (1).
Singapore (1,056), Korea (138,034), China (415,829).
Number of Scientific and Technical journal articles (2009).
Jamaica (51), T&T (48), Barbados (13), Guyana (3).
Singapore (4,187), Korea (22,271), China (74,019).
Full time Researchers (R&D) per million population – (2005-2010)
Singapore (6,173), Korea (5,481), China (863).
No data for Caricom countries but Nurse (2007), p.15, cites 678 for T&T (2003)
Singapore, South Korea and China are governed by three distinctly different political systems, respectively, a “guided” democracy, a democracy, and a Communist state with a capitalist system. Those striking political differences clearly demonstrate a country’s successful wealth creation/economic growth because of its investments in science and technology education and R&D is the result of its political will, not its political system. None will question my political designation of either Singapore or China. In anticipation of possible objections to South Korea’s designation as a democracy, I did so after consulting Freedom HOUSE 2013 rankings, which I do not normally do for reasons I have explained elsewhere. South Korea is designated “Free” – 1 for political rights (PR) and 2 for civil liberties (CL). If one accepts Freedom House rankings, South Korea is more “democratic” than Jamaica -PR (2), CL (3); T&T – PR (2), CL (2); or Guyana – PR (2), CL (3).
An authoritarian government can decree its country’s level of investment in science and technology but it can neither decree the number of its patentable inventions nor the number of its sc & tech articles that would be accepted in peer-review journals. Caribbeans who attribute Singapore’s stunning economic development and its considerable scientific and technological achievements, to its authoritarian political system will find sufficient evidence in the above figures to discard that belief.
One of the participants in a recent internet discussion made the following observation: “True, as obtains there [Singapore] and in countries such as China, India, Malaysia, etc., they have produced inventors and innovators. But their real strength, hence wealth, comes more from cheap or regulated labour than from intellectual prowess.” Nothing is further from the truth, in so far as China and Singapore are concerned. On the contrary, it is those two countries’ intellectual prowess (and that of South Korea), as reflected in their high percentage of hi-tech exports, their large number of patentable inventions, and the high number of peer-reviewed Sc & Tech journal articles, which the United States perceives as a serious technological threat.
The United States expressed its concern at the serious threat (which it likens to a “Gathering Storm”) that the emerging economies, particularly those in East and S.E. Asia, pose to the competitiveness of his hi-tech exports and its technological superiority, throughout the “Gathering Storm” document. Here is a relevant excerpt:
“Many nations also are investing more aggressively in higher education and increasing their public investments in R&D…In China, national spending in the past few years for all R&D activities rose 500%, from $14 billion in 1991 to $65 billion in 2002. US R&D spending increased 140%, from $177 billion to $245 billion, in the same period. The rapid rise of South Korea as a major science and engineering power has been fuelled by the establishment of the Korea Science Foundation—to enhance public understanding, knowledge, and acceptance of science and engineering throughout the nation…Some consequences of this new global science and engineering activity are already apparent—not only in manufacturing but also in services. India’s software services exports rose from essentially zero in 1993 to about $10 billion in 2002.”
“In broader terms, the US share of global exports has fallen in the past 20 years from 30 to 17%, while the share for emerging countries in Asia grew from 7 to 27%. The United States now has a negative trade balance even for high-technology products. That deficit raises concern about our competitive ability in important areas of technology…results, new trends emerge from close examination of the data. From 1988 to 2001, world publishing in science and engineering increased by almost 40%, but most of that increase came from Western Europe, Japan, and several emerging East Asian nations (South Korea, China, Singapore, and Taiwan).” (The Gathering Storm, 2007, pp.72-77).
What action is Caricom taking or proposing to cope with the Gathering Storm of Globalization?
The Caricom Secretariat issued a press release on 31 July 2013, “CARICOM courts increased funding from International Development Partners”, which stated that the http://www.caricom.org/jsp/pressreleases/press_releases_2013/pres169_13.jsp
Secretary-General articulated the Community’s position at the Third High Level Forum on Donor Coordination in Guyana, where representatives of CARICOM Member States, Community Institutions and IDPS were gathered for talks over a day and a half. The Secretary-General’s articulation of the Community’s position is more comprehensible in the following Caribbean 360 Newsletter “Global crisis impacting heavily on the Caribbean.” http://www.caribbean360.com/index.php/news/guyana_news/869457.html?utm_source=Caribbean360+Newsletters&utm_campaign=5246064a95-Vol_8_Issue_138_News7_31_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_350247989a-5246064a95-39334756#axzz2bMl6VQRB
“Secretary General Irwin La Rocque Tuesday said that the global economic crisis is having a severe impact on the region resulting in stagnation or declining growth rates… “Stagnant or declining growth rates, high per capita debt, falling fiscal revenues, diminishing fiscal space and increasing unemployment have been a prominent feature of some of the economies of CARICOM member states, particularly over the past few year.”
“That situation has severely challenged the capacity of most CARICOM states to self finance their own development.” He said grant financing and access to concessionary financial resources to finance development are becoming increasingly more important to CARICOM states, particularly at this time… La Rocque said that in addition, the region is confronted with the “troubling and vexing issues of differentiation and graduation which deny many of our countries access to such funding. “To graduate CARICOM member states from access to grant aid, concessionary financial resources or technical assistance, on the basis of per capita income cannot be right.”
“He said regional leaders at their summit in Trinidad earlier this month had instructed the Guyana-based Secretariat to design a Resource Mobilisation Strategy to ensure adequate financing of regional and national priorities to catalyse and ignite growth in CARICOM states. La Rocque said the two-day meeting here ‘is a step in the design of such a strategy.’ “We will familiarise you with our development plans, strategies and priorities. We will jointly examine priority areas in which you can be of assistance to us. We will map out approaches intended to ensure that your assistance will facilitate development in our areas of priority and we will address how we can optimise the use of scarce resources.”
Readers would have grasped the essentials of Caricom’s official strategy for coping with “Stagnant or declining growth rates, high per capita debt, falling fiscal revenues, diminishing fiscal space and increasing unemployment…” is to beg international donors for more external assistance and to plead with them not to deny Caricom member states “access to grant aid, concessionary financial resources or technical assistance.” Regional leaders had approved that globalization strategy, with its grandiose title, Resource Mobilisation Strategy at a Summit meeting in POS, earlier last month.
Readers would also note that there is no mention whatsoever, of Science and Technology education, R&D or STI, which all the competent international authorities have concluded is only effective way to deal with “Stagnant or declining growth rates etc., resulting from globalization. In his book “Science and Government” (1963), in which he further elaborated his “Two Cultures” thesis, C.P. Snow pointed out that we live in an age when vital political decisions have to be made for which specialist scientific understanding is essential, but for which those charged with taking the decisions have not been prepared. If Snow were alive today and happened to learn of Caricom’s “Resource Mobilisation Strategy” for coping with the existential threat posed by globalization, he would have cited it as a perfect illustration of what he meant by the above statement.
Despite the overwhelming amount of published information and empirical evidence that STI is the most effective path to economic growth, at every level in Caricom and in every sector of Caricom society – political, intellectual, media, NGO’s- we persist in our refusal not only to acknowledge it but even also to mention the S&T word(s). It is as if a virus, which has programmed us to deny the very existence of STI, has collectively infected us. I don’t recall the issue of science and technology (Sc & Tech education, R&D, STI) in being the subject of any public debate on Caricom development (politicians, print and visual media, addresses by public intellectuals, academic/intellectual meetings), internet discussions, web postings etc. in the past five years.
Caricom academics and intellectuals appear to have been infected by the same virus of denial. Given the international organization reports (Unctad, Unesco, UN, IDRC, OECD), a major Sc & Tech policy document by prestigious US Institutions, compelling empirical evidence provided by the success of S.E. Asian countries, the widely publicized views of eminent scientists like Abdus Salam and C.P. Snow, and our own Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services (UWI, Cave Hil), I cannot comprehend how a recent Salises meeting (2011?) on globalization could fail to mention Science and technology education, STI etc. (“CARICOM economies and the Challenge of Globalization: Special considerations for the small state seeking development under globalization.” (http://salises.mona.uwi.edu/sem1_10_11/SALI6010/M4Caricomstructureandchallenges_6010.pdf)
I read the entire 8-page Salises report, looking in vain for any reference to the following terms Sc & Tec education, R&D, STI. There was none, not even under the heading “What is to be done?” (page 5). We are inundated by evidence of the power of science and technology innovation to transform our daily life. We cannot imagine how life was, only a few years ago, without the computer, internet, the mobile telephone (with built-in movie camera), the microwave oven, the i Pad, GPS etc. We have witnessed the enormous wealth creation capacity of the new information technologies, which have permitted Apple and Microsoft to generate untold wealth. Apple, which was founded in 1976, is the world’s largest company by market capitalisation, which has just surpassed $500 billion. If the IT company (in more than one sense of that acronym) were a “country”, it would be the 25th biggest economy in the world – bigger than Taiwan ($505 billion GDP) Norway, Argentina, South Africa, Denmark, Venezuela, Kuwait or the United Arab Emirates. (“Apple: If Market Cap Were GDP, iPhone Maker Would Be World’s 25th-Biggest Economy”, 10 August, 2013) http://www.ibtimes.com/apple-if-market-cap-were-gdp-iphone-maker-would-be-worlds-25th-biggest-economy-214178
Apple’s market capitalization would be more than seven times the GDP ($77 billion) of all Caricom countries combined ($97 billion), such is the transformational power of STI. Individual GDP’s are T&T ($24 billion), Jamaica ($14.9 billion), Bahamas ($8.1 billion), Haiti $(7.8) Suriname ($4.7), Guyana ($2.8 billion), Barbados ($3.6 billion), other islands ($6.6). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_(nominal)
Caricom’s “Resource Mobilisation Strategy” might, at best, partially compensate for the steady decline of the competitiveness of the region’s exports in world markets. Concessionary financing will slow the increase in national indebtedness, but it will not reduce its high level (in Jamaica, for example). The Resource Mobilisation Strategy will not slow the pace of the decline, and it most certainly will not generate economic growth. What the region desperately needs is a strategy that will not only generate economic growth but also fundamentally transform our economy in a way that would neutralize the existential threat we face from globalization. Only science and technology is capable of bringing about such a fundamental transformation but, most astonishingly, the transformational power of technology, so evident around us, has not impinged on our individual or collective consciousness. We have no strategic conception of science and technology. We continue to ignore it, to our peril, in all our prescriptions for Caricom’s development.
The three prestigious US national institutions jointly proposed how the US should meet the challenges of globalization: “Today’s challenges are even more diffuse and more complex than many of the challenges we have confronted in our past. Research, innovation, and economic competition are worldwide, and the nation’s attention, unlike that of many competitors, is not focused on the importance of its science and engineering enterprise. If the United States is to retain its edge in the technology-based industries that generate innovation, quality jobs, and high wages, we must act to broker a new, collaborative understanding among the sectors that sustain our knowledge-based economy—industry, academe, and government—and we must do so promptly.” (The Gathering Storm, p.106, 2007).
To paraphrase the authors of that authoritative document, today’s challenges are even more diffuse and more complex than any of the challenges we have confronted in our past. The attention of Caricom political leaders, academics and elites (those with a university education), unlike that of many competitors, is not focused on the transformational power of science and technology education, R&D and STI. If the Caricom region is not to remain “hewers of wood and drawers of water”, we must foster a new collaborative understanding among the sectors that can promote a knowledge-based economy—industry, academe, and government—and we must do so promptly.
Underlining the long-term nature of science as applied to development, Abdus Salam observed, in his 1988 address to the South Conference: “We are not likely to see the benefits for a long time. The year 2000 would be a good year to aim at if we start today.”
Salam envisaged a 12-year period for adequate investments in science and technology to generate desired economic growth. If Jamaica and other Caricom countries had begun making such investments after CASTALLAC 11, in 1985, for example, eighteen years later (one and a half times the transformational period envisaged by Abdus Salam) Caricom would not need to go cap in hand with a begging bowl to international Aid donors. Neither would Jamaica be deemed “a very inefficient economy with little or no growth in output since the 1970s”:
“Currently, approximately 55 per cent of government spending goes to service the debt. After paying public-sector wages, less than 22 per cent remains for capital expenditure and government programmes. Continuous lack of proper infrastructural development reduces the country’s ability to adopt new technology, reduces its ability to increase productivity, resulting in a very inefficient economy with little or no growth in output since the 1970s. (“Here’s Why Things Are So Bad In Jamaica Today”, The Gleaner, 12 December 2012 http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20121212/lead/lead6.html
There is a tendency in Caricom to consider Caricom and its culture unique, which almost by definition excludes the possibility of learning from the development successes of other countries. The uniqueness (“intrinsic value” of the West Indies was, reportedly, the reason why the members of the West Indian Commission concluded, implicitly, that the region could learn nothing from the development success of the Asian Tigers, and Singapore that was relevant to the West Indies: “West Indians offer a rare creation – a people of many nationalities, many races, many faiths, and different cultural heritages.” Those countries (and their development successes) were mere “reference points”.
We should disabuse ourselves of the “uniqueness” of West Indian culture. All cultures are unique, and to consider one culture more unique than another culture is a contradiction in terms. For reasons that are not quite clear, some Caribbeans resent any comparison with Singapore. Comparisons of Caricom’s (and other developing countries’) development trajectory with that of Singapore is perfectly natural. Unesco did so in the major policy document cited in this article and so did the Director of the Centre for International Trade Law, Policy and Services (UWI Cave Hill) in his paper “Science and Technology Innovation in the Caribbean.”
Such a comparison is very natural because of the comparable situation of both at Independence, in many respects. We share the same history of colonial exploitation; our populations are not very dissimilar in size – if Haiti (10.4 million) is omitted, Singapore’s population (5.3 million) would be approximately 70% of Caricom’s total population (7 million). If Haiti is included, Singapore’s population would be equivalent to one-third of our total population. Also, apart from the three continental Caricom countries, Singapore shares our island status, which has special development disadvantages. As was demonstrated above, the nature of a country’s political system is not, per se, a material factor in the application of science and technology to development.
The political system of Sri Lanka, another island economy with a similar history of colonial exploitation, is very different from that of Singapore but has not prevented a Sri Lankan academic economist from suggesting that her country can and should learn from Singapore’s development successes: “SriLanka has key lessons to learn from Singapore.
One country cannot be a model of another country. But any country can be inspired by another. Singapore is a good example for Sri Lanka…” (“The Singaporean Economy: Lessons for Post War Sri Lanka”, June 2010). http://blogs.worldbank.org/endpovertyinsouthasia/singaporean-economy-lessons-post-war-sri-lanka
Singapore’s successful experience in neutralization of the globalization threat should be of particular interest from Caricom. Singapore has tamed the globalization monster to such an extent that it can afford to have the most open economy in the world. “With Singapore being one of the most business-friendly economies in the world it becomes clear that the complaints concerning business in Singapore are more or less sophisticated whining. As of 2002, the average tariff in Singapore is below 1%, as more than 99% of goods enter duty-free.” (“Summary of Barriers to Trade and Services in Singapore”, January 2010). http://www.fccsingapore.com/fileadmin/template/documents/News/Summary%20of%20Barriers%20to%20Trade%20and%20Services%20in%20SINGAPORE%202010.pdf
That is a telling indication of the competitiveness of Singapore’s products which, unlike Caricom products, do not need preferential treatment. Why? Because Singapore has moved its products so high up the value chain that 45.2 % of its manufactured exports are hi-tech. That is the fruit of sustained investments in science and technology education, R&D and STI.
Beginning from Zero at independence in 1962, Singapore became an Aid donor in 1992, establishing joint-cooperation programmes, with a large number of international organizations, to provide technical assistance to third countries under the Singapore-UNDP Third Country Training Programme framework. To date, more than 1,200 government officials from 86 countries, including countries from the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa, have participated in the joint training programmes, in areas such as civil aviation management and environmental health. Most recently, Singapore and the UNDP collaborated on a UNDP-commissioned book entitled “Virtuous Cycles: The Singapore Public Service and National Development”, which captures lessons from Singapore’s public governance experience that could be useful to other countries.” (“Singapore Cooperation Programme: Third Country Training Programmes with Partner Countries”) http://www.scp.gov.sg/content/scp/training_partnersagencies/training_partners.html
In view of the central role that the government plays in national development, I suggest that Caricom countries and the Caricom secretariat itself take advantage of Singapore’s public governance experience in promoting the country’s stunning successful development. Such experience is especially needed in view of Caricom’s tendency to exclude (wittingly or unwittingly) an entire policy subject area from consideration when formulating national or regional policy. Science and technology, for example, has always been systematically excluded from policy considerations re problems of globalization. To the best of my knowledge, the excellent UWI analysis of the reasons why Caricom products have lost their competitiveness (“Science and Technology Innovation in the Caribbean”,) has been totally ignored, by Caricom officials and academics alike.
The same Caricom tendency to exclude an entire policy subject area from consideration when formulating national or regional policy was reflected in the Regional Food Security and Nutrition policy, which excluded all reference to organic agriculture, including an excellent CDB paper, which proposed that the region make a wholesale change over to organic production. I suggest that Cariocm thinkers, who are capable of critical self-examination, should ponder that puzzling issue, because it constitutes a very serious handicap for Caricom.
I conclude this commentary with the following excerpt from the excellent Unesco document: “Towards Knowledge Societies”:
“Knowledge societies depend on the requirement of public proof. It helps to guide thinking. Since scientists are used to handling formal demonstration, emphasis should be on discussion and public argument – while avoiding the snares of specialist controversy as far as possible. Let us be clear: by “argument” we do not mean any mere verbal dispute. An argument only deserves the name if it takes account of the rational responses of those taking part…Distinguishing good arguments from bad and building a valid argument for oneself are by no means natural skills, but ones that must be acquired…Public argument is thus a way of communicating one’s opinions and judgements so as to construct jointly-accepted positions, a necessary precondition for the ethics of a knowledge society.”
“The general public does not necessarily need to have all the science in every textbook at its fingertips, but it must at least be capable of assessing the relevance of arguments put forward by experts and understanding the possible consequences of the authorities’ proposed measures on the economy, conservation or health. This applies not only to the general public and civil society, but also to the decision-makers themselves, who must not allow themselves to substitute the technical opinion of experts, even official ones, for political decision-making.” (Unesco, 2005, page 125).
“Inclusion of a scientific culture in the training of government decision-makers and officers might even prove an extremely beneficial step for developing countries, where innovation is sometimes held back by the difficulty these decision-makers often have in grasping scientific and technological issues and their importance. Training in scientific culture aims not so much to give people a particular body of facts as to make them capable of actively taking part in the governance of societies more and more influenced by science and technology. (Unesco, 2005, p.129).
Note by Fitzgerald Yaw:
See this link for a useful commentary supporting Claxton’s paper: http://www.economist.com/news/business/21584307-new-book-points-out-big-role-governments-play-creating-innovative-businesses
 Mervyn Claxton is a Trinidad and Tobago born consultant and former international civil servant with UNESCO who has written widely on the subject of Culture and Development.