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Patrick Saint-Jean
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Patrick Saint-Jean   My Press Releases

Economic realities and social consequence.

Published on 2/17/2012
For additional information  Click Here

The issue of illicit drug trade is one that has been in public debate for decades and a problem that the United Stated has been confronting during that timeframe. Yet, despite enormous efforts by the federal government and billions of dollars spent during that timeframe, the issue just doesn’t go away. If one were to research the annual budget of the federal government reserved for fighting the drug trade, it would be in the tens of millions of dollars every year. It is somewhat of an embarrassment for the federal government when confronted to explain what progress the law enforcement agencies have made in fighting the drug trade. They just can seem to give the public a definite answer and a definite result on the status of that effort; and why and how they plan to resolve that issue. Occasionally, the FBI, the coast guard, and other agencies would report success of a major drug bust, where they have succeeded in discovering truck loads of hidden cocaine or marijuana and confiscated them. But, these successes tend to be very temporary and short-lived because the very next day, or soon thereafter, another truck load of cocaine or marijuana is shipped to the US. Which begs the question, are we correctly addressing the issue of illicit drug trade and drug trafficking? This is critical because we can’t be doing the same thing, have the same results, and still the same problem persists. It seems to me that the issue or question of illicit drug trade or drug trafficking is much more fundamental that the government portrays it to be. The government as it so often does, is not being upfront and honest to the American people, it simply feeds the public lies and misinformation. An honest discussion on the issue would uncover certain information, certain truths which would help us to understand the problem better. We need to ask ourselves, what is it about the drug trade that makes it so annoyingly persistent? Undoubtedly, the answer to this question lies in the basic economic principle of Supply and Demand; it is perhaps that simple. The ironic thing is that the principle of supply and demand is rarely perfectly exemplified in normal daily market activities such as buying food and clothing; as well as other goods and services in the economy. There are usually always a factor or element in the market for these goods and services which either causes minor disruption, interruption, or a bump in the functioning of the system. But, for the illicit drug trade, the market seems to be functioning smoothly and harmoniously among the participants. This evidence would lead us to conclude that the issue is mostly an economic issue, and though it has a criminal element to it with respect to violence perpetrated by certain drug cartel; it is mostly an economic issue. This eliminates the number one and most critical assumption regarding the issue of drug trade. To reiterate, the observed and closely monitoring of the functioning of the drug trade shows a very smoothly functioning market system where the principle of supply and demand is perfectly adhered. We therefore need to address this finding and the economic issues associated with it. With respect to Columbia and Afghanistan, the two most important producers of illicit drugs such as cocaine, marijuana, and heroine; the facts speak for themselves. The overwhelming majority of the farmland in these countries is used to produce and manufacture drugs, cocaine in the case of Colombia, and heroine for Afghanistan. The producers of these drugs have a well established market for these drugs and developed a highly sophisticated network of delivery to their customers. Furthermore, evidence of a well functioning market, is the fact that prices in the illicit market operate effectively, the producers know what price to charge and the consumers know at what price to purchase it. And in cases where one producer or source of product acquisition may wish to raise prices to their advantage, competition and the availability of other suppliers make the consumer able to negotiate and come at an equilibrium price with the supplier. This works well in letting the producers of Colombia and Afghanistan know how much to produce and how much farming land they need to meet production requirements. On the consumer side of the equation, there is no doubt that drugs have terrible consequences, though the consumers of illicit drugs would argue that point. Some would say plainly that it does not kill them, if they don’t overdose. The fact is that drugs have social consequences. Among these consequences are the adverse economic choices that drug users would make in order to have enough money to buy their drugs. Drug users would make any and all sacrifices to ensure that they obtain a regular amount of the drugs to satisfy their body’s needs; because scientifically their bodies become dependent on the drugs. Drug users typically skip food in order to buy drugs, so often times they become malnourished, skinny and unhealthy. Afghanistan is a country of 15 million people in the labor workforce, produces mainly agricultural products such as wheat, fruits, nuts, wool, mutton, sheepskins, lambskins. The country also have small scale industries in textile, soap, furniture, shoes, fertilizer, hand-woven carpets, natural gas, coal copper. The unemployment rate in Afghanistan is 40%, but the country is a major recipient of development aid. Afghanistan’s number one export is Opium, and its largest exporting partners include the US at 25.8%, India 21.2%, Pakistan 20%, and Finland 4.1% (2005 figures). The social realities may not permit poor farmers in that country that seeks better life to make alternative use of the farmland, if the alternative will not provide him or her basic living. This is the dilemma that has to be addressed if truly Western nations want to curtail the production of opium in Afghanistan. The economics is all too simple, because apparently there is a strong consistent demand for opium here in the US, as well as in Europe and Asia. The Russians also imports opium from Afghanistan. So, it is unrealistic to expect these poor farmers to stop producing opium altogether without providing them viable alternatives. On the other side of the equation, how does a country like the US deal with the problem of demand for opium? That is an equally important side to the opium trade. This same logic also applies to Colombia, the reasons for producing cocaine and shipping it to the US and Europe is the same reasons why the Afghans produce and sell opium to those markets. Addressing alternative production for farmland in Afghanistan is an economic development concern that would require billions of dollars from Western nations, a cost that most of them don’t really want to take on. For Columbia, that same approach is a lot more complicated because of strenuous relations the US has had with that country for decades now. Providing food stamps or food aid to women and children is simply not enough, because it would no where compare to the current income that opium produces for the Afghan population. Patrick Saint-Jean E-mail:
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