Revisited: World’s smallest economies meet

TRENTON, New Jersey – Representatives of nations in the B-20 met this weekend in Conference Room Number 2 of the East Brunswick Township Fairmont Suites to talk about the challenges they face as the smallest countries in the world.

The summit of the world’s tiniest states comes in the wake of the recent meeting of the G-20 in London, where President Obama joined other leaders of the largest economies to discuss global financial matters, the banking crisis, and environmental and security issues. The B-20 group, on the other hand, met to address concerns that they alone share, including where everybody in the country was supposed to sit, and what to do about citizens who can’t seem to keep their hands to themselves.

The B-20 (the “B” stands for “bottom”) group finished their three-day conference late Saturday, and issued a joint communiqué on the results of their discussions.

“We come away from this meeting with many mutual understandings,” said Uday Maranathan, prime minister of the Seychelles (area: 107 sq. mi.; pop.: 69,000; you probably thought it was: French for “seashells”). “We have a fresh resolve to work together to solve our many unique problems.”

Conferees addressed a number of concerns that they face back home, including the issue of rising sea levels among the island nations, the need for a more diverse economic base, and the lack of awareness among much of the world that they even exist.

“I think just the publicity we got from having this meeting will go a long way toward helping us,” said Nelson Johnson, premier of Turks and Caicos (area: 166 sq. mi.; pop.: 30,000; you probably thought it was: a sandwich). “If we can just get more tourism dollars into our economies, that would make a big difference in our gross domestic product.”

The leaders were also looking for ideas on how to improve agricultural techniques among their native farmers so that the nations could move closer to self-sustenance, rather than relying on their larger neighbors for take-out.

“Most of the member states have a severe shortage of dirt,” said Heinrich Schwess, foreign minister of Liechtenstein (area: 62 sq. mi.; pop.: 29,000; you probably thought it was: a Hebrew sausage). “That makes it very hard to grow things. We’re going to be working together as a group to see where we might find some common ground. I hear they might have some at Lowe’s so I’ll be stopping by their lawn and garden center before heading back to my country to pick up several bags.”

Countries that have found a way to maintain at least a small agricultural base are hoping to move away from traditional cultivation of bonsai trees, baby corn and frosted mini-wheats to the kind of plants that can more easily be converted into other products. This would not only aid farmers but also allow a food-processing industry to emerge that could employ those who are unable to work in the fields.

“Tourism and agriculture seem like natural fits for relatively underdeveloped states such as ours,” said Dominic Arazanno, prime minister of San Marino (area: 24 sq. mi.; pop.: 25,000; you probably thought it was: former quarterback of the Miami Dolphins). “But I also think there’s a chance we can support at least a small amount of manufacturing or perhaps even some high-tech research facilities.”

Though most of the B-20 members have populations that are uneducated, there are a few that have a relatively large percentage of their people with a college-level education.

“We’re very proud of the skills that exist in our work force,” said cultural affairs attaché Philippe Ponduro of Malta (area: 122 sq. mi.; pop.: 362,000; you probably thought it was: a kind of milkshake). “Those two kids can really ramp up the production when they have the right incentives.”

Peaceful cooperation among the member states could continue to be a challenge if the league wants to work together to solve all the problems they share. Though they lack any kind of standing army, that didn’t prevent two governments from engaging in a recent skirmish in the south Pacific. Palau (area: 191 sq. mi.; pop.: 16,000; you probably thought it was: rice) and Tuvalu (area: 9 sq. mi.; pop.: 9,700; you probably thought it was: 2007 Ultimate Fighting Champion) fought a bitter battle over rights to large stone located halfway between them. Palau’s rowboat eventually defeated Tuvalu’s three guys in life preservers but not before both sides spent large portions of their national treasuries on the campaign.

“We must make peaceful coexistence our number-one priority,” said B-20 chairman Manaloa Huvanaram, a parliamentarian from Tonga (area: 289 sq. mi.; pop.: 112,000; you probably thought it was: a toy truck). “We shouldn’t even pick on someone our own size.”

One option raised in the communiqué was the possibility that several of the tiny lands could merge to form larger entities. A few that have already tried this option – Antigua and Barbuda (area: 171 sq. mi.; pop.: 83,000; you probably thought it was: two separate countries), and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (area: 150 sq. mi.; pop.: 109,000; you probably thought it was: a doo-wop group from the fifties) – held a convocation Saturday to give tips to the other members. One leader said he’s already made a tentative agreement along these lines to increase the profile of his minuscule nation.

“We had a very promising discussion with (Canadian rock icon) Neil Young, and I think we laid out enough economic incentives for him to consider joining us,” said president Herman Lodgeworth of St. Kitts and Nevis. “If we can rebrand ourselves as ‘St. Kitts, Nevis and Young,’ I think a lot of business leaders will sit up and take notice.”

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