Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Global Justice

I said on a  previous post  that I must come back to Johann Hari's
against the extreme and undemocratic neo-liberalism imposed on much of the world’s poor by the IMF and World Bank; there is no freedom in a sweat-shop
It's very easy to make points about the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO being a Washington-based conspiracy. However, I heard on the BBC a month or so ago that the WTO were criticising subsidies to European sugar farmers, which were making life impossible for farmers in Mozambique, a country, remember, recovering from decades of civil war. Subsidies to North American farmers are just as bad, of course.    (I could not find any recent link, but the following ones give some of the background.)

Where then does that leave arguments against 'extreme neo-liberalism' ? Well, with a little bit of truth. 'Yesterday the World Bank admitted it should have condemned subsidies in rich countries, while it was telling poor nations to deregulate.'  (Newsnight, 28 August, 2002) '. Or this : 'The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Horst Koehler ... said "The IMF will not insist on building ... conditionalities which are not in the countries' interest and will not help the countries solve their problems."  Correspondents say this appeared to be seen as a softening of the IMF's position. ...The IMF and the World Bank have also forced Mozambique to scrap a surtax on imported sugar...'  (IMF boss's promise to Africa, 7 July 2000 )

The main problem though is the quotas and tariffs which Oxfam says  'set Europe's sugar prices at almost three times the world market price, meaning huge subsidised surpluses are dumped annually overseas' From Newsnight again, 'Eight hours spent stripping sugar cane pays 99p. The workers would earn more if their sugar was selling in European and American markets, but Western producers get subsidies which enable them to cut their prices. Anyway, there are strict rules limiting the amount of sugar the West imports.'

See also this and this. That's just sugar. Similar things can be found for cotton.

I noticed an advert on Harry's Place for a book by Christopher Hitchens called Orwell's Victory. I don't think he would have seen much 'victory' in a situation where Africa is probably worse off now than it was in 1960. OK, I can't think of a better title for the book and maybe you can have victories in some battles. (If it's not obvious, here is the link again.)

As for 'undemocratic', it is all done according to the will, or at least the compliance of democracies in the West or North. The unpalatable truth is that it is imposed on poor countries by some very rich countries.

One country, New Zealand, has abolished all farm subsidies.They seem to be managing all right and are developing their wine-making industry, for example.

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