The song When I’m sixty-four was a favourite track of mine on the 1967 Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. It is about a young man singing to his lover about his plans for growing old together.
Now I’m in my Sixties the commonly held assumption is I’m not only older but wiser. I still try to add value through the sharing of my experiences and providing advice. One subject I am very focused on is the speed of change we are all having to deal with. It is obvious some are dealing with change better than others.
I’ve had a look at some countries that are of a similar age to me and the European Union (EU) which is 69 years old. Western Europe has enjoyed the longest period of peace in over 2,000 years since the establishment of this union.
History tells us that war was a way of life in Europe. Although the end of the 30 Year War in 1648 resulted in the signing of the Peace of Westphalia agreement unfortunately there were 48 wars up to 1789. Things did get better, with only five wars between 1815 and 1914. There was a period of over 40 years before WW1 which was war free and resulted in a dramatic rise in economic productivity.
Since the establishment of the EU with no wars Western Europe incomes have converged towards those of the USA. This has been supported by the lifting of tariff barriers and during the first 23 years of the union the EU had the highest GDP per capita growth in the world, except for Japan.
A decline in violence helped economic growth and more was spent on social welfare and guaranteed security for EU citizens. The EU has challenges such as a declining population and less developed new members, but it is the most successful example of multilateralism ever. Just seven per cent of the global population produce 25pc of world GDP and spends 50pc of global spending on social benefits.
The EU has shown the world that with free trade, no wars and social responsibility, economic prosperity will ensue. President Trump complains about the low level of military spending in Europe, but you never hear about him complaining about the low levels of spending in the US on social welfare. If I was poor and sick I know which side of the Atlantic I’d rather live.
Sudan at 63, Ghana at 64, Myanmar and Sri Lanka at 71, Pakistan, India and Libya all at 72, Jordan at 73 and Indonesia at 74 are all similar in age to the EU. We cannot ignore the colonial past and the inherited baggage these countries have had to deal with. Some are doing great things and collectively they account for 21pc of global GDP and 27pc of the world’s population.
Can you imagine the economic benefits if India and Pakistan normalised relations? New Delhi and Lahore with a combined population of more than 25 million are a half an hour flight apart and are linked by two flights a week operated by PIA.
Europe has successfully buried the hate that resulted from two world wars in the first half of the last century with a combined death toll of 75m.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org