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Tibet - Poverty Alleviation

posted Jul 4, 2012, 8:11 AM by The Tibetan Political Review

By Tsewang Namgyal

Today, much of the headline news about Tibet is related to political demonstrations and crackdowns. However, it is likely that economic forces will most change the face of Tibet. Unless we Tibetans are able to compete with the rest of the world it would be difficult for us to survive as an ethnic community.

The world population has now crossed the 7 billion
population mark. In 1959, the population was around 3 billion. In 2050, it is estimated to increase to 9 billion. Immigrants will continue to enter Tibet and Tibetans will likely continue to spread across the globe looking for opportunities.

One very interesting book titled The Quest by Daniel Yergin (winner of the Pulitzer Prize for The Prize) I would like to recommend every Tibetan to read. There are many lessons 
we can learn from the book but I would like to bring to fellow Tibetans' attention to the chapter - China’s Rise. 

This chapter discusses how in the 1990s the Chinese government instructed the management of state-owned enterprises (SOE) to go public (IPO). This was revolutionary from the command and control, centrally planned economy of Mao Tse Tung. By going public, management was forced to become responsible not only for senior authorities in Beijing but also money managers in New York (and other financial hubs). Whole new sets of values and norms had to be inculcated into the organization.

The Chinese SOE management found the process of getting ready to go public harder than they managed but the result speaks for itself. Today, China has become the largest lender to the United States. It is claimed that since reforms began in 1979, more than 600 million Chinese people had been lifted out of gripping poverty. 

There is no doubt that economic progress came at huge cost especially for the environment and occupied territories like Tibet. In addition, I do note that Tibet has no plans to exactly emulate China on a number of aspects. However, the courage that it took the Chinese government to economically liberalize to alleviate poverty is admirable. As a student of Chinese history, it is clear that the quality of life in China today in general is much better than during the Mao era.

Just as the Chinese has taken risk, it is critical that we think carefully on our own policies to alleviate poverty within our community. The old strategy of seeking donations has served us well especially in the education and health care arena. However, in the area of economic sustainability we are far from independent even in exile despite the millions of donations that we have received.

Taking the inspiration of the Chinese, one of the best Tibetan sectors in exile that has the potential to sustain Tibetans in exile is Tibetan medicine. Respectfully, carving out certain products to commercialize and forming Joint Ventures with successful social investors has tremendous potential to sustain Tibetans in exile.

I share these thoughts not to minimize the political sacrifice made by Tibetans. I have much awe for their efforts not only demonstrating against Chinese government policies but also to set up political institutions in exile. It is in particularly very exciting to see the success made in the separation of religion and politics in our society. I hope slowly we will also be to think of economics on its own terms and not look through the narrow lense of politics or culture. I believe once we are able to mature where we Tibetans are politically, economically and culturally empowered this will bring us closer to freedom.

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