I want to take just a moment to thank those at Twitter who have tweeted and retweeted some of my posts leading to several thousand visitors to the blog. That came as a completely unexpected surprise. I appreciate the references very much. At the least, I need to say, “Thank you!” I hope you continue to find something useful here to pass along.
I have mentioned briefly in the past the Shift that is going on in the global community. It is a shift from dependence on the Old World of the North Atlantic to the New World (everyone else, basically). Unfortunately, the Old World is so wrapped up in its own problems that it could be several years (or more) before it recovers and can offer leadership globally.
In the meantime, I find that some of the folks in the Old World think that the others are waiting for them to get their act together before launching any new initiatives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Here in Panama, I have watched my Panamanian friends, who have long respected the US for its leadership in so many areas, sit and wait for Americans to sort themselves out and get moving again. That was three years ago. Then came the fear that it would be as harmful to the rest of us as it has been in the past when the Old World has had troubles. But that was not the case for more nations than you might imagine, including my current home here. In Panama, we have completed 34 quarters of continuous positive GDP growth (8 and a half years) and, after a slow-down to under 4%, we are now steaming along again. We should have had about 6 1/2 to 7% growth in 2010, once the final figures are out, and appear to be on our way to 8% or more this year.
I can’t tell you exactly when as there was no “date” for this, but perhaps a year or so ago, my Panamanian friends in business stopped talking about the US, Obama, the Tea Party and so forth, and simply got on with their lives. It is not an “anti-American” attitude at all. Why waste our breath criticizing the US? Americans do that non-stop and at the top of their lungs. It is just that the US situation isn’t worth worrying about. “The Americans will eventually take care of themselves, but we have to get on with our lives and our growth. We can’t wait for them.” became the general opinion and it is now standard.
The Shift is well underway and continuing. It has a long ways to go and the nations of the New World are going to make plenty of mistakes on their journey. A few remain “basket cases” and others are limping or stuck in 20th century habits, but many are recovering or, like Panama, never really got hurt to begin with and are really growing. There is a sense of excitement about and hope for the future that is so very difficult to find in North America and Europe these days.
I am and always will be an American and I have great faith that we will pull out of the mess we have made for ourselves, but we are going to have to earn respect now and in the future, not live off our past, no matter how great that past has been. For the moment, Americans visiting here tend to spend much of their time trash-talking themselves, then becoming very touchy and defensive if anyone else says anything the least bit critical. It’s a phase and we will get through it.
In the meantime, I may be an American, but I am a resident of this New World and delighted to see its growth. You can’t express this in statistics alone. Although they hint at the Shift, you have to live here and really get involved to fully comprehend what is happening. So it can be hard to get the point across to those who lack that experience.
But once in awhile, something pops up that demonstrates the changes going on outside the Old World without saying a single bad word about that Old World. Quite the contrary, the New World is learning to reach out to the Old in a way similar to the past when it was the US offering a new home and hope to others. Let me share one example with you.
Our friends further south in Chile have created a “Start-Up Chile” project that has completed its first year very successfully and is now expanding. Chile is famous now in many Old World nations for its “miracle in the mine” that was such a welcome shot of good news in a world seemingly full of bad news, at least from the northern perspective. But Chile is more than mines; it has minds, good ones, as well.
Chile noticed that there were quite a few bright entrepreneurs in other nations, including the US, who were having difficulty in finding financing and support, so they set this program up and it has completed its first year. In a nutshell, after passing through a tough competition, entrepreneurs from other nations are given $40,000, a year’s visa, and a support network in Chile to get their businesses up and running. Because so much money is found outside the Old World these days, there is substantial venture capital available too. The program has been a success and is now being expanded.
Rather than try to summarize it all here, the Chilean government’s announcement of the project’s expansion can be read here in Spanish or a rough Google machine translation here, but perhaps the best way is to visit the project’s site (in English, the international language). Clicking on “The Program” under the “About” section will give you a good overview and the rest of the site provides interesting comments as well.
The point is simple. Not only are things changing, they have already changed more than many people realize. Chile, a nation known in the past for its military dictatorship, is a functioning democracy with a great deal of spirit, as is true of many other nations. They understand the importance of partnerships with the Old World, but they are leaving any sense of inferiority behind and striking out on their own. The US has benefited hugely from the arrival of the young and the entrepreneurial of other nations. Chile is now beginning to practice the same and they are very pleased with the results. More power to them! I am doing my best here in Panama to encourage a similar effort.
This is only one example of several I could share where New World nations are taking the lessons learned from Old World nations in the past (but which seem to have been forgotten by some) and applying them to their own development. This is not bad for the Old World, just a reminder that we started this. We can restart. But let’s take a moment to appreciate what others are already doing and perhaps gain some new inspiration from that.
We certainly could use some inspiration.
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