Circling the planet at low altitudes for the last five weeks has left me breathless at times, unimpressed at others, and hopeful overall. My voyages have taken me to Japan, India, China, Greece, Spain and Australia.
With great appreciation from myself, my energies have been solicited by a fascinating array of sources. This includes national and local governments, NGO's, corporations and non-profits, academic and decidedly non-academic players and religious and decidedly unreligious players.
For my services I have at times been compensated well, at others times . . . "not so much" – there have also been a couple of freebies. One wag snidely commented that he figured the work I did gratis was the only work in which the customer got what he paid for. Hopefully my paying customers disagree.
Linked with these trips I have delivered public and confidential reports, oral presentations, dire warnings and enthusiastic endorsements.
En route back to beautiful, beloved British Columbia after an absence of too many sleeps, I put together a series of snapshots. And I offer you the following guarantee: If you begin to make investments guided by the subtle hints I am about to share with you, then you could become a millionaire in a relatively short period of time.
A city of 20 million people, hopelessly congested, smog obscured most days, untold thousands upon thousands living in tin and cardboard shanties. Invest here now!
Am I crazy? Some say, "Yes," but I'm still right on this one. Why? A few reasons.
First, all of the above negatives are accurate, but every one of them is less prevalent than when I was in Mumbai less than two years ago. Running through the often smelly alleyways early every morning, or winding through jammed streets every evening, certain images stand out: Hardly anyone is begging, even among the poorest of the poor. There are far more begging in downtown Vancouver, it seems, than in downtown Mumbai.
Emerging out from under the cardboard low-rises in the early morning light each day at the crack of dawn are children. They are clean, many crisply clad in school uniforms, books in hand, chattering and laughing as they pick their way down the cluttered back streets they call home.
They are on the move, all across India, in the hundreds of millions. Their older brothers and sisters are graduating university and technical schools in numbers nobody dreamt of even 10 years ago.
Schools of economic thought have shifted, policy has changed. India has largely broken free from the suffocating and despairing leftist mantras that crippled nations as large as the former Soviet Union and as small as the tiny island countries of the Caribbean.
The great leviathan of government still breathes far too heavily down the necks of this refreshingly enterprising cast of millions. But the move is on. These people will not be denied middle-class status and the consuming power that goes with it. And through hard work, education and investing, they are achieving that status at a rate of increase never before seen in history.
Attending the World Economic Forum in Mumbai, I was astonished to hear Indian government officials calmly detailing the need for 200 new cities to be built over the next 25 years to accommodate this rising tide of economic growth.
Read that sentence one more time. 200 cities.
It is difficult to fathom the demand for the products and services that go into the necessities for a modern city: condos and houses, streets, water treatment facilities, cars, trains. And this emerging generation that is building their own tomorrows is insisting it is done through new technologies that are friendly to the environment.
Am I willing to wager on India and on those kids who are determinedly striding through their crowded streets every day, on their way to a future now within their grasp? You bet I am, as I am for China, which is right now on a similar track to prosperity.
The next group to watch
The students in the Sauder School of Business at UBC. I mention this group specifically as I was able to witness their efforts first hand at the annual international business forum that they plan and sponsor. And yes, there are equally impressive initiatives at B.C.'s Simon Fraser University, Western in Ontario, as well as some other universities across the country.
Track these students, find out where they are applying to be hired post-graduation, and bet on the companies or organizations astute enough to engage them. They recognize there are weaknesses in free market economic systems. But my interaction with them showed me that they recognize a basic, historically proven reality.
The type of phenomenal growth that raises the hopes and prosperity levels of people across society will only be achieved through the pursuit of free markets, open trade, and healthy competition. This is the best way for governments to generate the types of revenues, which can lead to generous and essential social programs.
The so-called tent city 'Occupiers'
These people have the right to vigorous open demonstration and protest. They show their disregard for the rights of others by illegally occupying and degrading properties that are paid for and serviced by their fellow citizens.
They also have the right to propose policies that are proven to bring less prosperity and more poverty to society overall. We have the right to expose those policies as possibly well intended, but utterly without hope for a general increase in prosperity across society.
Winston Churchill wryly observed that the problem with capitalism is that its blessings are spread unevenly, but that socialism spreads its miseries equally to all.
The policies of the "Occupiers," in each nation I have visited over the last month, are rarely articulated. But when they are, I am convinced even more so that they offer no hope. Not for the students on the march to progress in the alleyways of India, nor for the students planning and building the cyber highways of China.
My optimism for the future is based on the pragmatic reality of history's lessons. And on the determination in the hearts of millions of young people from the sidewalks of Mumbai to the boardwalks of Chongchin: invest now, and just watch them.