The chickens are coming home to roost in many ways for Western economies. As the Global South gradually resists the West’s hegemonic moves, it seems there is nowhere to hide anymore. In addition to a conspiracy of geopolitical circumstances realigning international relations, the West is suffering from self-inflicted wounds from years of misadventure in other parts of the world.
For instance, sanctions against Russia have actually hit Western economies hard by denying them cheap gas which they now desperately need for both domestic and industrial purposes. Seeking alternative sources of gas from Russia has been an extremely expensive exercise due to the infrastructural gap in non-traditional sources. Moreover, these alternative sources do not offer the massive economies of scale enjoyed before.
Indeed, there is no case that depicts the looming economic crises in the West more than the unprecedented crisis in the UK. The fundamentals of the UK economy have weakened drastically, destroying its resilience. Experts say that the West’s expansion and plunder has faced serious challenges and opposition, putting an end to the exploitation of hapless countries.
In an article published in The Guardian by Stryker McGuire on October 17 titled, “Economy in crisis, Tories in meltdown: how I have told the sad, strange story of Britain,” the columnist says that the reasons for the country’s economic meltdown are the same ones that led to Brexit and, lately, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Double digit inflation in the UK is back to what it was 40 years ago. In an unprecedented criticism of such a close ally, U.S. President Joe Biden said the abandoned UK tax cut plan – proposed by ousted British Prime Minister Liz Truss – was a “mistake.” Of course, Biden is projecting what is happening in his own backyard.
On October 16, the streets of Paris in France depicted a scene straight out of a poor country. Thousands of citizens, including Nobel laureate Annie Ernaux, went to the streets in protest against President Emmanuel Macron’s administration owing to spiraling inflation. The protesters were also demanding huge wage increases to cushion them from the high cost of living.
Although the U.S. is either in denial or is deliberately concealing the truth, the country’s economy is also in dire straits. The latest inflation report published last week by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said consumer prices in the country rose by 8.2 percent in the last year, the highest levels since the early 1980s.
Such dismal statistics of hitherto solid economies is a red flag that more grave challenges lie ahead as the global economy grapples with recession. The national economic policies have failed to shore up the economies of these major countries, which shows there is a need for global cooperation in tackling the escalating economic crisis across the world. The policies of many Western countries have become reactive rather than proactive, leaving little room for innovation.
The misfortunes of people from Western countries are a combination of the sins of their leaders, and global circumstances beyond their leaders’ control. Going forward, this wind of change will leave most of the Western economies dented beyond repair as new and irreversible realities set in.
The reason for the above ills is simple. The capitalist system in its gross form has resulted in economic polarization, economic, environmental and ecological crisis, and unbridled materialism. This is a system that has lost its soul, thus it is choking from its internal contradictions.
It is a case of darned if you do, darned if you don’t. Any way the West moves is fraught with challenges simply because the countries have entangled themselves with selfish interests. Many of their erstwhile allies, particularly in the developing world, have moved on to more compassionate and practical trade and economic partnerships.
Western countries are being locked out of lands that they had taken for granted, or thought that they had subdued to make them serve their selfish interests. For instance, African countries have for the last couple of decades changed their economic partners from the West to the East. Countries like China, India and Japan have become the preferred trading partners for the majority of developing countries due to fair terms of trade and value for money.
It is time the West finally admitted that it does not have all the answers either. The fact that the countries’ economies are now taking a hit shows a huge shift in the current global economic dynamics.
Rather than continue with unbridled capitalism, the West should not shy away from infusing their economies with a dose of socialism in order to cushion the growing number of vulnerable citizens.
Stephen Ndegwa is a PhD student in International Relations at the United States International University-Africa, and the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi-based communications development think tank. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily those of The Southern African Times.