The politics of economic restructuring in the Pacific with a case study of Fiji : a thesis presented in fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Department of Social Policy and Social Work, School of Social and Cultural studies, Massey University, Albany Campus, Auckland
The subject of this thesis is the politics of economic restructuring, euphemistically termed 'reform' in the Pacific. Although structural adjustment policies are essentially neoliberal economic policies, the project of global economic restructuring, and its supposed end, a global regime of free trade, is a political one in several respects. It involves the wielding of economic power over developing countries by powerful multilateral institutions, developed countries and private corporate entities to such a degree that it is considered by some to represent the disciplining/subjugating and dis-empowering of developing states. It is supported by a successfully propagated ideology that combines economic growth theories (held to be infallible), 'good governance' rhetoric (with which no-one can reasonably disagree), and new notions of equality and 'non-discrimination' - the 'level playing field' and 'national treatment, in WTO parlance (which have been enshrined in enforceable global trade rules). It entails redefining the role of the state, transferring public ownership of assets to private hands, and removing subsidies that protect domestic industries and jobs, all of which are strongly contested. Successfully implementing 'reform' is widely acknowledged to require not only 'reform champions' but also 'ownership', and thus broad acceptance and legitimacy, yet commitments to restructuring are often made by government ministers without reference at all to national parliaments. National economic summits are used to rubber stamp or legitimate policies in a fait accompli. The thesis begins by situating the global regime of structural adjustment within the political context of North-South relations in the 1970s, the debt crisis of the early 1980s, and the collapse of socialist regimes and consequent discrediting of the socialist economic model and other variants of state-led development. It shows the key role of the World Bank in advocating the neoliberal model and setting the development aid agenda, and its abdication of this lead role after 1995 in favour of the World Trade Organisation and its agenda of global trade liberalisation. The thesis then examines the origins, agents and interests behind structural reform in the island states of the Pacific before focusing on how a regional approach to achieving regional wide economic restructuring and trade liberalisation is being taken, using a regional political organisation of Pacific Island states (The Pacific Islands Forum), and regional free trade agreements. It then illustrates the path of economic restructuring embarked on by Fiji following the 1987 coups, examines the implementation of 'economic reform' concurrently with policies to advance the interests of indigenous Fijians, and discusses some of the less acknowledged dimensions of reform.