Yes, Globalisation, No
By Sirajul Islam
11 April, 2007
was in discussion yesterday at a seminar at the World Bank Dhaka Office
looking for making it work for the developing world, viz. Bangladesh
and other similar countries. Many foreign and local experts including
ministers, diplomats and economists explored the possibilities to get
more opportunities from globalisation, and identifying the constraints.
Our finance adviser said, "Inequality is increasing due to the
global trading pattern… then, of course, we need a compensation
mechanism on how do we compensate the losers" (The Daily Star,
April 9th). He talked in the language of economics while the key-note
speaker British High Commissioner Anwar Choudhury highlighted the dark
side of globalisation, saying it could bring threats of global crime
and terrorism that could be organised and spread with devastating impact.
Yes, all of them, and other
speakers, were perhaps right in their intentions to make globalisation
work, but let me analyse globalisation with a different perspective.
We know globalisation involves complete economic liberalisation, i.e.,
opening doors to big businesses. Multinational corporations are at the
forefront. Globalisation wants the governments around the world to create
an environment that is as conducive as possible to its growth of business.
Regional groupings like APEC, GATT and WTO are totally committed to
the same goal. The connection between big businesses, governments and
regional and international institutions to create an environment for
globalisation is not an accident. It has historic roots in colonisation,
and as such, the dominant forces behind globalisation are based in the
developed world. Nonetheless, it would be wrong to describe globalisation
today as a replica of the Western colonial experience only. This is
because one of the centres of power is based in Japan. Other centres
of control in Northeast and Southeast Asia are emerging.
Globalisation, however, is
not a process of capital, goods and savour flowing from certain centres
to the rest of the world. While there are certain centres of control
in the West, there is a reverse flow, as well as other flows at different
levels. It is this complex process we should evaluate from a social
and cultural perspective.
Globalisation is not all that bad either. There are some positive aspects
of it. Some of them are:
- Foreign Direct Investment
(FDI) has helped to reduce poverty by creating jobs and improving incomes.
- The expansion of trade
and foreign investment has accelerated social mobility and strengthened
the middle class.
- New communications and
information technology have helped disseminate knowledge in many fields
of study and disciplines.
- Communication is cheaper
and easier. Costs of telephone calls as well as travel have fallen.
This makes it easier to understand one another. Communities although
heterogeneous, can be more cooperative now that are more means of understanding
- Globalisation makes it
possible for humanity to have compassion for each other when calamities,
natural or man-made, affect others.
- Issues such as human rights
and public accountability are brought to the fore.
- The rights of women are
highlighted and the problems many women face are now addressed.
However, with the positive
aspects stated above, there are some negative ones. Those are:
- Environmental degradation
due to unrestrained activities of multinational corporations whose sole
aim is to multiply profits.
- Although poverty has been
reduced to a certain extent, new economic disparities have been created.
There are stark regional disparities in poverty.
- Basic necessities in life
are set aside in favour of profits. Many developing countries have been
occupied with facilitating foreign investment in industries that are
lucrative to foreign markets and discarding the most fundamental needs
of the people.
- Globalisation aids the
removal of national controls over cross-border financial flows. Dramatic
outflows of capital from one country to another have caused havoc in
some currencies, particularly in Southeast, and South Asia including
- Advances in technology
aggravated by the outflow of capital to low cost production sites in
the developing countries has caused growing unemployment in the developed
countries, which is an cause offence to human dignity.
- Globalisation has popularised
the consumer culture. Consumerism has given birth to materialism where
people are more interested in what they have rather than the essential
aspects of humanity.
is now forming a homogeneous global culture where rich indigenous cultures
of many developing countries are being replaced by cultures with vibrant
- Formal education systems
are emphasising technical and managerial skills responding to market
demands and leaving aside traditional academic subjects. This means
that education is nothing more than acquiring specific skills and techniques
to do business and less emphasis on development of social or basic sciences.
- Although the IT boom has
given rise to an expanse of information there is a lot of information
that is useless and meaningless causing people to be pre-occupied with
- Double standards are present
in the human rights aspect of the present world where they are used
as part of many governments’ policy but only when it suits them.
In reflecting on the good and bad sides of globalisation we find that
whatever good has come out of it is actually a by-product. The very
motive, maximising profit is responsible for its bad sides. So, globalisation
may well be one of the most serious challenges ever to the integrity
of human civilisation. As a citizen of an underdeveloped country, Bangladesh,
how can we deal with this challenge? Since society and culture hold
some positive aspects it is important that it is not completely rejected.
Ethics and moral standards should be injected into some economic activities
as a short-term and medium-term strategy. The market should be regulated
by ethical principles. The challenge is to devise ethical economically-sound
policies built into the globalisation process that are in keeping with
values. I mean, the economic dimensions of globalisation are not the
only factors that need reconsidering. Culture should be guided by moral
universal values whereby a strong ethic of restraint is within one culture
is applied to prevent the dominance of another culture. The internationalisation
of the ethical values within the consciousness of the individual and
the community could be the only hope for humanity. It is almost impossible
to effectively censor all information through the Internet, satellite,
etc. The individual who derives his/her value-system should be guided
by time-honoured principles of what is right and wrong. Such individuals
are the real antidotes to the bad effects of globalisation.
For such humans and societies
to emerge, there must be a real makeover. It should be a long-term struggle
but beginning with our own reversals practiced nowadays in Bangladesh.
Justice, sanity and honesty that are part of all goodness should propel
righteousness rather than appearance, formal procedure and representation.
For the first time in our history we have the opportunity to convey
to the world that we can do it. Instead of allowing the backboneless
corrupts and people without ideals to monopolise, why shouldn’t
our men and women with a universal outlook come forward?
is a social sciences researcher and consultant, and now works in INAFI
Asia/Bangladesh as an Adviser (International Network of Alternative
Financial Institutions), a global microfinance network headquartered
in Dakar, Senegal and registered in The Hague. He worked in the NGO
sector in Bangladesh for long 26 years, and has specialisation in community
development, gender, environment and microfinance. He wrote three books,
the first two were compilations of cases on local resource mobilisation
practices of NGOs in Bangladesh, and on change management. His latest
book is on microfinance, a compilation of articles he wrote in different
times. He is also a columnist, and contributes regularly in a number
of Bangladesh press. His present interests include microfinance, as
well as politics and society. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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