Monthly Article

July 2014 Monthly Article – Image is Everything

By Jerry Pacheco

As a westerner and an American citizen, it is hard for me to understand the role that extreme religious viewpoints play in other parts of the world.  I read a report of violence in the industrial city of Gujranwala, Pakistan, that stemmed from a posting on Facebook by a member of the minority Ahmadi religious sect. This group, which considers itself Muslim, recognizes a prophet after the death of Mohammed, and as such is not looked upon as Muslim by the Pakistani government. While crowds were demanding that the police react to the posting – considered a blasphemy – a mob group attacked and killed a lady Ahmadi and two of her granddaughters. 

Reading the article, I couldn’t help but think that Pakistan, a poor country in desperate need of development, is not helping itself with these brutal attacks on members of its own minorities. Sadly, countries that need outside investment to help spur their economies also seem to be countries that do not adequately take steps to demonstrate to the world that they are a good risk for foreign investors to take.

Money is like water – it seeks the least path of resistance to find its course or resting place. Foreign investors do not want to invest in a country where there is a great risk of financial or human loss. Investors work hard to minimize their risk and place their money where it makes the most sense. International scandals and controversies are a given for any country, but how it handles them on the global stage goes a long way in assuring investors that it is safe to invest their money there.

Think of nations such as Nigeria, which for years suffered accusations of being anti-democratic and corrupt. The country became infamous for the number of fraudulent financial/banking schemes emanating from that country. Nigeria’s economy is on an upswing and is now the biggest in Africa, having overtaken South Africa, but years of strife, instability and political corruption have impeded this country from achieving its potential. While its economic future has improved considerably, it now has to contend with the maniacal outlaw militia Boko Haram, which is harassing villages, killing innocent people and kidnapping female children.

Russia is a country blessed with some of the largest abundances of natural resources in the world. It is famous for its scientists and high technologies. However, does it help its case as a stable country to do business and invest in based on the issues it has created with Ukraine?

Mexico is one of the world’s economic success stories and is predicted by analysts to move into the top 10 world economies list by 2020. While it is making huge steps in growing its economy, it finds its efforts hampered by pockets of lingering violence related to the drug wars, and a feeling that the country is not doing enough to rid itself of institutionalized corruption.

Even generally non-controversial countries such as Canada and Switzerland have their global image challenges. Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s substance abuse and behavior problems have brought unwanted negative press to Canada. His escapades have become regular fare in the press and the Canadian government cringes every time his name is linked to Canada.

Switzerland, a famously neutral and peaceful country, is not immune to international controversies. Several years ago, it took some major hits for its role in the sequestering and storage of Nazi loot and money, stolen from Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

As can be seen in the press, the U.S. is no angel when it comes to global image, even when it comes to religion in our supposedly tolerant country. It was as recent as the presidential election of John F. Kennedy that the nation debated whether a Catholic would be loyal to the U.S. or to the Catholic Church. Other religious groups such as Mormons and Jews have been discriminated against and they themselves have discriminated. Each of us has or own beliefs or non-beliefs, but incidents of violence are generally rare and isolated when religion is concerned. If a religious crime occurs in the U.S. it is widely publicized and prosecuted. Perpetrators are often convicted and cast as an aberration in the public eye.

Our allies in Europe such as Germany are still irritated by the discovery that the U.S. has spied on their leaders. At present, our handling of the influx of Central American émigrés at the Mexican southern border is a topic around the world.

Countries can overcome crises, scandals and challenges by quickly and honestly addressing the situation. Nations that let religious and corruption issues fester will be the countries that struggle to attract badly-needed investment from foreign sources. This will impede their ability to provide better lives for their citizens in the future.