My Suggested Price-Tags

By August 11, 2009Article, Atlantic Eye

MALMO, Sweden, Aug. 11 (UPI) — The U.S. economic bailout is for the birds. Meanwhile, the United States continues to spend $16 billion per month — $50,000 per minute — in Iraq. I am an advocate for more troops and diplomacy. But public policy is ineffective when it is not financially efficient and sound. The savings would be better spent fostering public policy worldwide. Here are some suggestions.

Let the companies, institutions and their collaborators that nearly destroyed the U.S. economy go under. If we are going to accept quasi-socialism, better to directly pay the employees and their pensions for two years while they retrain.

The trillions being thrown at — not invested in — the economy will have about as much effect as putting a Band-Aid on an Ebola virus.

In the end, the bailout will not save jobs, it simply delays the inevitable. It will do nothing for suppliers or for small- and medium-sized enterprises. I await with breathless anticipation the name of the bank that has lowered interest rates, is supporting SMEs and is helping to stabilize those most hurt by the meltdown by providing loans, credit and support at non-usurious rates. Suggested investment: $1 trillion — which is more efficient and targeted to those in need — versus $3 trillion now — inefficiently targeted to those who mostly brought about the crisis.

Former President Bill Clinton’s “unofficial” visit to North Korea was an important step. It is always a difficult decision whether to engage corrupt and despicable leaders. In general, engagement and pragmatism are important public policy tools. Had the Bush administration allowed Christopher Hill, now U.S. ambassador in Iraq and formerly assistant secretary of state for Asia, to engage the North Koreans earlier, there might have been more movement.

Of course the gap allowed Global Panel to enter the fray with our North Korea Initiative/Korean Peninsula Investment Fund, which engendered meetings offline. A bit of financial incentive for the 500 or so “leading families” in North Korea and plane tickets out of the country would go much further than the wastage produced elsewhere. Some have calculated the actual cost of unification to be $3 trillion to $5 trillion. Where this capital is to come from no one yet knows. Certainly, South Korea does not have the capital to go at it alone. Suggested price tag: $250 million to get the DPRK regime out. $300 billion to invest.

In Zimbabwe President Mugabe continues to be a despot. His Vice President Joseph Msika — and heir apparent — has just died. A power struggle has broken out in Zanu-PF, Mugabe’s political party. Morgan Tsvangirai, the prime minister and head of the MDC, is about as effective as an elephant in a glass shop — infinitely less intelligent and about as corrupt as Mugabe. (Tsvangirai was recently forced to leave a hall at Zimbabwe House in London when his own supporters booed him down.) Water is impure. Healthcare is non-existent. There is a massive food shortage. Rhodesia, later Zimbabwe, was once the breadbasket of Africa. Farms are now moribund. Suggested price tag: $100 million to get the Zimbabwean regime out. $20 billion to $30 billion to invest.

South Africa has a new president in the controversial Jacob Zuma. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met last week with both Zuma and F.W. de Klerk, the architect of ending Apartheid, a good friend and member of Global Panel’s Advisory Board. Zuma might just be what Southern Africa needs. He is a strong man. He dislikes Robert Mugabe and his ilk. He might make good decisions. So this columnist will give him a chance. F.W. de Klerk’s Foundation continues to address issues that are important for South Africa. His goal for a pluralistic South Africa is well on its way. But there are still problems with corruption, and the school system is desperate for an overhaul. Suggested investment: $10 billion.

The Middle East. I have written about this before, and Global Panel has been — along with President Havel’s Forum 2000 Foundation — working on the issue of water and energy security. Meetings have been held with representatives of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. Meetings have also been held offline with the leaders of tribal and regional groupings. Suggested investment: $5 billion to $10 billion.

Myanmar/Burma. Only somebody in a permanent coma would not know about this country run by one of the world’s despicable military regimes. Aung San Suu Kyi, the opposition leader jailed for years who won the last elections before having them stolen, is again being subjected to a show trial. It is time to take the fight directly to Burma. Suggested price tag: $100 million to get the military regime out. $10 billion investment.

Another $400 billion to $500 billion should be invested in Rwanda, Somalia, Georgian Republic environs, Bulgaria & Romania environs, Albania environs, Pakistan, Afghanistan environs and Russia.

And for financing to creatively tackle terrorism and high-seas pirating.

Total price tag: about $900 billion.

Let the attacks on me begin.

(UPI International Columnist Marc S. Ellenbogen is chairman of the Berlin, Copenhagen and Sydney-based Global Panel Foundation and president of the Prague Society. A supporter of the anti-communist underground, he has advised political candidates and is a founding trustee of the Democratic Expat Leadership Council.)