Eyes are on Peru this week, and this time they aren’t the ever-watchful eyes of NGOs monitoring fair and just elections, nor are they the eyes of the bulldog military that are constantly on guard against drug trafficking. Peru is striving to enter en force on the international trade scene and, ten years after becoming a member of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), secured the opportunity to host the 2008 APEC forum. A huge honor for Peru which, when compared with some other APEC member economies like the United States, Japan, and China, is still a relative nobody in the Asian-Pacific economic market. Nonetheless, Lima’s hospitality and show of economic growth (Peruvian GDP is up 9% despite the global financial ills) are a very positive sign for the future of the country and the possibilities the free market holds out for lifting this country from the category of “developing” to “developed” country.
A visit to Peru’s capital in support of the U.S. presidential visit to Lima for today’s speech to APEC heads of state afforded me with a unique opportunity to catch the city cleaning up its act and putting its very best foot forward in preparation for visiting dignitaries from some of the world’s most powerful leaders. City sanitary workers swarmed the streets to pick up garbage and dirt while colorful posters and banners unfurled themselves with flare from every other available light post along the main Limean thoroughfares.
Peru is still a developing country with a GDP of $107 billion (U.S.) and an average per capita income of $3,826 (U.S.) and a poverty level of approximately 40%. However, it has 125 countries ranked below it on the IMF’s 2007 GDP list and is projected to keep growing, especially as it moves towards the free market and continues its fight against political corruption.
With the opportunity to showcase it’s growing economy, the city was abuzz with an excitement that worked its way down from the halls of government and the glassed-in conference rooms of big business to the smaller vendors in the services industries. A shop owner next to the fascinating Museo de Arquelogia, Antropologia, y Historia Natural rolled her eyes and said things were going to get very busy over the next few days, all the while smiling as she anticipated a boom in her own profits. Whether or not the excitement and optimism will last remains to be seen, however President Bush encouraged Peru and Latin America to press forward with their free market policies,
Over the decades, the free market system has proved the most efficient way and the just way of structuring an economy. Free markets offer people the freedom to choose where they work and what they want; offers people the opportunity to buy or sell products as they see fit; gives people the dignity that comes with profiting from their talent and their hard work. Free markets provide the incentives to lead to prosperity — the incentive to work, to innovate, to save and invest wisely, and to create jobs for others. And as millions of people pursue these incentives together, whole societies benefit.
“No region of the world demonstrates the power of free markets more vividly than the Asia Pacific. Free markets helped Japan grow into the world’s second-largest economy. Free markets helped South Korea make itself one of the most technologically advanced nations on Earth. Free markets helped Chile triple its economy and cut its poverty rate by more than two-thirds over the past two decades. And last year, free market policies helped make Peru’s economy the second-fastest growing in APEC.”
In the midst of the turmoil and fear surrounding the global “crisis” and the accompanying calls for greater government involvement and protectionism, it is wise to look outside the usual American and European markets where one can be reminded that free market policies, capitalism, and democratic principles are astoundingly successful in raising the quality of life of entire nations and bringing a new level of peace, well-being, and stability—all of which lend themselves to the good of the individual and the world.
While some complain that the APEC summit is nothing more than a week-long vacation for world leaders and results in little more than niceties and platitudes being bandied about, the overall increase of trade between Latin America and Asian nations, and the accompanying reduction of poverty, leaves me optimistic that the free market may do more the world than the most stringent military platforms or strident calls for global socialism.