Journal Highlights: Roads I Have Traveled ... Transition Journal Excerpt # 2

(continued): Indianapolis , 1984: Shortly after the Chicago meeting, and because I had attended the meeting, I was invited to participate in a special economic focus meeting held in Indianapolis, Indiana, sponsored by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. In the welcoming speech of the gathering we were told, “You are all economists and we have brought you together to brainstorm on how to develop practical economies for Lesser Developed Countries. You are asked to be just as creative as possible with such economic components as counter trade and barter, cottage industries, micro lending, incentive credits, or anything else you can think of. There are no holds barred as you put your economic models together.” 

The meeting hosts went on to explain that the people living in the Lesser Developed Countries would remain in bondage as long as they were controlled by repressive and manipulated governments. Some changes would need to take place to free them from the systems of closed and oppressive economies. 

We were divided into teams, seated at large round tables, and instructed to “get to work.” After going through the expected steps in the grouping process so that we could all comfortably work together, we really began having fun. We played with the concepts of scarcity-choice-cost; land, labor, capital, and the entrepreneur; supply and demand; as well as methods of fiscal responsibility and closed economies vs. free markets. We discussed the need to have a responsible government that could guarantee the enforcement of contracts and agreements. We built in a component for the necessity of having exclusive rights of private property to hold or transfer, and free enterprise with the possibility of personal incentives and profit. At our table we included anything else we could think of to work into the mix. 

At one of the coffee breaks, a woman came up to me and said, “I really like what you have been saying. It makes a lot of sense to me. My name is Maxine Partee and I am the personal representative of Mr. Robert Mugabe, the new president of Zimbabwe in Africa. In the past you probably knew our country as Rhodesia. As you may be aware, we just recently took over the government of Zimbabwe from the Ian Smith regime, and we have great plans and hopes for the future of the country. In fact, many of the Whites, including Mr. Smith, are staying in some of the government positions so that we can have good continuity.” 

Then Mrs. Partee went on: “As I listened to you I thought, he needs to come to Harare and help us. Would you ever consider coming to Zimbabwe and working with Robert Mugabe’s Cabinet? You see, we have discovered that we don’t know very much about running the economy of a government.” 

When I regained my balance, I smiled and asked, “But Mrs. Partee, just what is it that I would be expected to do?” 

“Oh, I really don’t know for sure what you would do, but I do know for sure that you are the one who needs to come and help us.”

“Well,” I replied, “let’s correspond about this and see what happens.”

True to her word, Mrs. Partee fired back a letter to me just as soon as she returned to Africa and had a chance to talk to the president. After an exchange of messages, Mr. Mugabe sent his nephew, Mr. Chickowore, who was on the president’s Cabinet as Minister of Transportation, and a financial man of Indian descent, Mr. Mukadam, along with Mrs. Maxine Partee to visit me in Colorado. They stayed in the US for about a month, and while they were here I helped them purchase burlap sacks that they needed, and other items for Zimbabwe. 

One of the things that Mr. Chickowore had requested I help him locate for Zimbabwe was medical supplies and equipment for their district and local hospitals and clinics. When he made his request, it jogged my memory that back in 1984, two other African men had also requested that I help them find medical goods for their countries in Africa. One man was Mr. Edward Wilson, a member of one of the royal families in Kenya. He had returned to Africa and had been assassinated before I could help him. The other had been a Mr. John Matthews, who not only wanted medical goods but also for me to come to Africa and teach economic seminars. 

We took the Zimbabwean group to a facility called Lake X-Ray in Michigan and introduced them to David Davis, who specialized in selling over-stocked medical inventories and used medical equipment. While my visitors from Zimbabwe and I were in the Michigan and Indiana area, we also visited typical industrial locations and fabricating plants in the South Bend, Indiana area introducing them to manufacturing representatives and production suppliers for future contacts. While there they also asked to tour some typical American hospitals and clinics in the areas. 

Before we made our way to Evergreen, Colorado, we flew the group to Albuquerque, New Mexico to visit an electrical power generating plant that was being remodeled. The generating equipment that was being replaced was being offered for sale, and we were all curious to see if it would be feasible to procure the used equipment and transport it to Zimbabwe. 

We had lots of opportunity to talk and get acquainted with Mr. Chickowore, Mr. Mukadam, and Mrs. Partee while we traveled together. When they returned to Africa a short time later, I returned to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, with them. 

Next Week: My economic consulting stint in Zimbabwe with President Mugabe. 

© Dr. James W. Jackson  
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