First Mover, Policy Framing and Theoretical Empirics of Trade: It is much more than Literacy


By Amar Yumnam

When the Classical period of the grand thinking of the Adam Smith and his followers was over, and particularly after the high rise of the post-Classicals, grand theories became dominant rather than grand thinking. Rising inequality and financial crises in recent years have made the world return to the period of grand thinking; it is no longer just the look but the empirical performance of the thinking that becomes paramount today. The period when theories of economic policy were considered to be aloof from empirical realities is now gone for good. In the earlier times, theories would be propounded and somebody later would think of testing the validity of the theory. It is no longer so. Any theory today should be inevitably linked with empirical realities, founded on empirical realities and capable of predicting the dynamics of realities. Grand thinking is now back in a very comprehensive way with incorporation of contemporary multidimensional dynamics.

There was also a time when it was thought that democracy is enough to address the problems of poverty and inequality. Now the Political Economic understanding is that it was quite naïve a thinking. It has been found globally that the poor do not frame policies but the wealthier do. Even if the wealthier do not hold political power directly, they can buy policies in their favour. The potential collapse of the WTO talks centred on Food Security issues is a live example. The recent news in Manipur that students pursuing medical studies were found to be drawing salaries somewhere as school teachers is another instance. There have been many stories of tangible tribal benefits being sold out in the non-tribal areas without ever making the target groups aware of it. The items of the Public Distribution System have been also items of widespread marketing. Such phenomena happen even in federal relationships. There are already ample signs of “markets in everything” in Manipur despite the low level of development as per traditional understanding of development.

This earlier period was also a time when technology was considered to be a very neutral kind of phenomenon. Technology was just being looked upon in awe, sought to be imitated or imported. The vested interests of the innovators was never brought into consideration of the evolving dynamics. The world did not understand earlier that the innovators themselves would indulge in strategies for continual dominance for exploiting the benefits of being first mover – reaping dividends while incapacitating others from emerging as challengers. It was as if a kind of technological colonialism. Now there is a strong move globally to continue this colonialism through “digital colonialism”. The ongoing debate, protests and pressures relating to Internet Neutrality are attempts and counter-attempts relate to digital colonialism.

All these traditional ways of looking at things and attempts at policy making are undergoing a fundamental change today for various reasons. First, the rise of China as a leading player in the global political economic arena has established the emergence of a world away from a unipolar one. Second, the global financial crisis of the first decade in the new century has taught lessons which were never thought of both in terms of theory and empirical dynamics. Third, the emergence of knowledge and control of knowledge as a key determinant of economic dynamism and global competitiveness has given a new understanding of the significance of technological innovation. In the olden days when cross-border relationships were low and did not have much implication for domestic political-economic dynamics, the benefits arising from being a first mover were not considered very seriously. But with the deepening of cross-border relationships (read globalisation), the fundamentality of protecting first mover benefits as the best route to ensure dominance is being realised. This is more so with the rise of the global size of the market and the volume of potential benefits in this world of global value chains; to be in control of the chains is now the most sought after strategy.

It is exactly at this juncture that the world is now into a stage of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With technology and internet becoming as key characteristics of the new globalisation processes, the world has now shifted to the multidimensional routes for industrialisation. In the earlier times, globalisation and cross-border relationships were being conceived only in terms of the tangible items. It is definitely no longer so. Further the payments and receipts mechanism has also undergone big change with e-commerce now dominated by GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) and the imperative for new routes for global e-commerce (Alibaba of Jack Ma of China) in order to reap the benefits of expanding economic relationships. The ongoing tug of war on Net Neutrality and E-Commerce media in Asia in particular and the world in general is of utmost significance here.

It is exactly in this context that we should be thinking of Manipur’s Industrialisation (what it should mean contextually) and Act East Policy (Manipur’s participation). While attempts are visible for reaping first mover benefits domestically at the country level, there is no visibility of contextualising any intervention. In fact, literacy is visible and it is painful to see absolute lack of contemporary educatedness in the visible talks and indicated policy dimensions. Manipur needs to own her Industrialisation Dynamics and participation in Act East Policy (whatever it is).

Source: Imphal Free Press


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