Gone are the days when globalization based on Washington consensus was hailed as a new dawn in the history of mankind. It was claimed that the emergence of the New Economy would make business cycles ineffective, and people from Henry Kissinger to Thomas L. Friedman pontificated that countries adopting American way of life and foods and drinks would never fight among themselves and, above all, Francis Fukuyama had declared that history would come to an end and violent systemic changes would become a thing of the past. In short, globalization had heralded a never-ending era of peace and tranquility on our planet.
All these claims seem to be just flights of fancy or fashionable nonsense, propagated by the media. This emerges from a recently released study of the Development Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC), a Directorate General within the UK Ministry of Defence. It is entitled "The DCDC Global Strategic Trends Programme: 2007—2036". It claims to present "an independent view of the future". In his Foreword, Rear Admiral Chris Parry, the director general says, "this piece of work seeks to identify and examine likely patterns in order to suggest reasonable broad-order possibilities and potential outcomes, whose risks, effects and extremes it might be necessary to mitigate or avoid."
During the thirty-year period, covered by the study, human activity is to be dominated by three pervasive "Ring Road issues", namely, climate change, globalization and global inequality. During the next three decades, there will be constant tension between growing interdependence and heightening competition among the nations. As a result, all aspects of human life will change at an unprecedented rate, throwing up new features, challenges and opportunities. Three areas of change, or Ring Road issues, will touch the life of every human being on our planet and will aggravate climate change, globalization and global inequality.
The increasing pace of climate change will alter the physical environment in which a rapidly growing population will live and its access to habitable land, food and water will be under strain. The world economy will expand at an unprecedented rate and its different segments will become more and more integrated, "creating globalized interdependencies and enabling multiple supra-national linkages in all areas of human endeavour."
The study admits that this will not benefit all strata of the society in equal measure. There will be gainers and losers. While a sizable section of the society will see substantial improvement in its material living conditions, others will continue to face hardship and even deterioration in their plight. To quote the study, they will have to suffer from "fluctuations within a globalized market-based economy" making their lives full of uncertainties. It goes on to add: "In all but the most affluent societies, rapid, large shifts in global markets, which are increasingly sensitive to uneven supply and changing demand, will result in potentially dramatic change in personal fortune and confidence. Globalized communications will feel aspirations, heighten expectations and will serve to expose differences in advantage and opportunity, stimulating grievance and raising the significance of global inequality as a social and political issue."
During the next three decades, thanks to globalization, the volume of world trade will rapidly expand cutting across national barriers and overcoming distance. This will lead to internationalization and integration of markets for goods, services and labour. Even though this will boost the pace of economic growth, it will bring risks for national markets of developing countries, as they will be exposed to destabilizing influence of global market. The ups and downs in the global market will impact national markets, as they will be transmitted through new and more efficient means of telecommunications. Labour will come under intensive pressure. It will be "subject to particularly ruthless laws of supply and demand." The study goes on to add the following words by way of warning: "Socially, looser forms of political, cultural and economic association will multiply, whose existence will be largely virtual and dissociated, linking members who are physically dispersed, but who share common interests and seek competitive advantage of association. Politically, globalization will raise levels of interdependence between states that are increasingly integrated within the globalized economy."
Notwithstanding the increasing global production and improving material conditions of for most people, the income disparities will widen and poverty will continue to be an insurmountable challenge. To quote the study, "Despite their rapid growth, significant per capita disparities will exist in countries such as China and India and smaller, but traditionally more affluent Western economies. In some regions - notably areas of Sub-Saharan Africa - a fall in poverty may be reversed. Differentials in material well being will be more explicit through globalization and increased access to more readily and cheaply available telecommunications. Disparities in wealth and advantage will therefore become obvious, with their associated grievances and resentments, even among growing numbers of people who are likely to be materially more prosperous than their parents and grandparents. Absolute poverty and comparative disadvantage will fuel perceptions of injustice among those whose expectations are not met, increasing tension and instability, both within and between societies and resulting in expressions of violence such as disorder, criminality, terrorism and insurgency. They may also lead to the resurgence of not only anti-capitalist ideologies, possibly linked to religious, anarchist or nihilist movements, but also to populism and the revival of Marxism." Obviously, turbulent days are ahead for globalizers.
By 2035, the world population is expected to increase from 6.5 billion at present to 8.5 billion. Most of the increase is likely to take place in the areas that have been lagging in economic growth. According to the UN, the population of Sub-Saharan Africa will increase by 81 per cent, reaching 1.3 billion by 2035. As much as 15 per cent of this will be without adequate nourishment and basic amenities. In spite of all the advances in medical science, not only several communicable diseases will continue to ravage but several old ones like tuberculosis, malaria and cholera, will also return. The study points out, "The social, economic and human costs of contagious and communicable diseases will remain high and are likely to slow economic growth drastically in the worst affected regions for at least the first half of the period."
Increasing population along with growing migration to urban areas in search of better and sufficient opportunities of employment will lead to a substantial rise in the number of urban-dwellers. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the world population will be living in cities and towns by 2035. This will result in a fast growth of shantytowns, making the earth a planet of slums, a la Mike Davis. The division of every urban settlement into two mutually exclusive parts with glaring differences in the availability of infrastructure and other civic facilities is bound to give rise to several disastrous consequences. Organised international crime, illicit trade and transnational terrorism are feared to continue their expansion despite all actions to counter them. To give just one example to underline the frightening dimension, the annual global market for illicit drugs was estimated at $322 billion in 2005 and it exceeded, if one takes into account the retail turnover, the GDP of 88 per cent of the countries of the world.
Obviously, the days ahead are going to be very terrifying notwithstanding the tall claims of the apologists of the ongoing globalization. Thus there is an urgent need to inform the people at large and make them aware of the disastrous consequences and mobilize them to strive for a better alternative.