Globalization or Neo-Colonization http://english.irib.ir Mon, 29 May 2017 22:42:10 +0000 en-gb What "free trade" has cost the world? http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134914-what-free-trade-has-cost-the-world? http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134914-what-free-trade-has-cost-the-world? What

In the capitalistic world it is believed that unilateral free trade is a winning proposition for globalization. Thus, there was no need to be concerned about things like subsidization of key foreign industries or loss of capability in these fields, and hence no need for trade measures that might upset delicate geopolitical relationships.

Setting workers against workers enabled a few people to get really, wealthy and powerful and use that wealth to become even more wealthy and powerful. The U.S is in decline, burdened by massive trade deficits because the ones with vested interests in cheap labor won't take on the mercantilists, because those vested interests have bought low taxes and government subsidies. Other countries also suffer from similar stresses. Out of this situation a new global elite has emerged, contemptuous of democracy and government and any power but the power of their own money. In country after country, these top few won't share the proceeds with their own, either, while they keep the world from approaching solutions.

It is dogma among economists and right-thinking members of the political and business elite that globalization is good and more of it is even better. That is why they invariably view anyone who dissents from this orthodoxy as either ignorant of the logic of comparative advantage or selfishly protectionist. But what if it turns out that globalization is more of a boon to the members of the global elite than it is to the average people?

Dani Rodrik’s famous book titled: ‘The Globalization Paradox’ demonstrates that those questions are more than hypothetical and that they describe the world as it really is rather than as it exists in economic theory or in the imagination of free trade framework. The starting point of Dani Rodrik’s argument is that open markets succeed only when embedded within social, legal and political institutions that provide them legitimacy by ensuring that the benefits of capitalism are broadly shared.

The Globalization Paradox’, as Rodrik sees it, is that globalization will work for everyone only if all countries abide by the same set of rules, hammered out and enforced by some form of technocratic global government. The reality is, however, that most countries are unwilling to give up their sovereignty, their distinctive institutions and their freedom to manage their economies in their own best interests. Not China. Not India. Not the members of the European Union, as they are now discovering. Not even the United States.

In the real world, Rodrik argues that there is a fundamental incompatibility between hyper-globalization on the one hand, and democracy and national sovereignty on the other.

In the capitalistic world it is believed that unilateral free trade is a winning proposition for globalization. Thus, there was no need to be concerned about things like subsidization of key foreign industries or loss of capability in these fields, and hence no need for trade measures that might upset delicate geopolitical relationships.

This economic doctrine has been based upon the assumption of Anglo/American economics that economies of scale either don't exist in most traded products and industries or are relatively unimportant. That this assumption is severely and obviously wrong and not accepted by most of the non-Anglo world has not deterred its application to the making of much American and its global trade policy.

(By Dave Johnson, political activist and columnist; Common Dreams)

 

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Globalization or Neo-Colonization Wed, 13 Apr 2011 16:28:35 +0000
A global call for sharing and justice http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134837-a-global-call-for-sharing-and-justice http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134837-a-global-call-for-sharing-and-justice

Calls for an end to austerity measures, more progressive taxation and the cancellation of debt in the developing world all reflect the need to redistribute wealth and political power downward.

As many analysts are now pointing out, the savage austerity packages being unleashed across Europe mirror the fate that many developing nations have faced for decades. Scores of indebted countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia have long endured the savage IMF structural adjustment programmes that Ireland, Greece and other EU countries are now suffering. Zambia, for example, made extreme cuts in government spending throughout the 1980s and 1990s under pressure from the IMF, yet the cuts failed to prevent the country's debt from doubling while its economy plunged into recession.

A similar logic was applied to Asian countries following the financial crisis in 1998; foreign private lenders were bailed out, government spending was severely cut back, public companies were further privatised, yet the economy still continued to decline. And not only is private debt paid for by the public, but the cut-backs in public spending by no means guarantees a reduction in national debt. In effect, ordinary people are forced to pay for the reckless behaviour and mistakes of the financial sector - a reality that is now shared and understood by citizens in both the Global North and South.

A major difference for people in the South is that there is often no guaranteed state provisions or social safety nets that exist for them in the first place. Even in those developing countries still experiencing economic prosperity, most notably in the globalization "success stories" of India and China, rapid GDP growth is being matched by deepening inequalities and social insecurity. As we know from the World Bank's global poverty statistics, at least 80 percent of the 1.1 billion people who live in India somehow manage to survive on less than 2 dollars a day.

In China, still 36 percent of its population survives on less than 2 dollars a day, while the rural-urban income gap has continued to widen alongside increases in inequality of health and education outcomes. As what some call "the greatest migration in world history" continues across China, rural migrant workers arriving in industrial areas often find themselves trapped in abysmal working and living conditions, many without basic health and safety protections.

This definite growth in inequality and the lack of economic opportunity and social security that underpins it has long been a recurring theme across the world. A recent UN report revealed that there are now twice as many low-income countries than there were 30-40 years ago, and twice as many poor people living in them. Even more indicative of this worrying trend in global inequality is the evidence that a new ‘bottom billion' of the world's poor live in middle-income countries - a dramatic change from just two decades ago when the majority of the poor lived in low-income nations. A growing gulf between the rich and poor is also continuing in many high-income countries, not least in the United States where the top 20 percent of wealthy individuals own about 85 percent of the wealth, while the bottom 40 percent own very near 0 percent. As the Economist magazine is keen to point out in a special report, there is an ongoing rise in the share of income going to the very top - the highest 1 percent of earners - who constitute a global power elite or ‘super class' in many countries. At the other end of the scale, evidence suggests that the number of people living in relative poverty could possibly be 4 billion and rising.

Whilst Mubarak left office in Egypt with a reported 70 billion dollars of stolen public money, citizens remain saddled with 30 billion dollars of debts despite a poverty rate of 1 in 4 and a recurring food crisis. Tunisia, a regional poster child for the success of pro-market reforms, is in a similar predicament with crippling graduate unemployment rates of up to 46 percent, despite strong GDP growth.

In every country, the widespread outcomes of debt, austerity, poverty injustice and inequality are the product of political choices - the consequences of a disastrous neo-liberal approach to managing a nation and its finances. What we may be witnessing in the popular responses to these hardships is an emerging global consensus in favor of a fundamental reordering of government priorities. In the space of barely a few months, the rapid growth of anti-austerity demonstrations across Europe and massive anti-government protests all over the Middle East indicate the potential for public opinion to take on an international dimension. Given the determination of policymakers across the globe to continue with business as usual, the strengthening of a world public opinion in favor of a more equality, economic and social justice is the first step toward meaningful reforms.

As this increasingly global call for justice unfolds across several continents, an underlying demand being voiced by protesters in different countries is the urgent need for redistribution. Calls for an end to austerity measures, more progressive taxation and the cancellation of debt in the developing world all reflect the need to redistribute wealth and political power downward. An implicit understanding common to all these demands is that governments are better able to secure basic human needs for their citizens through the provision of more effective welfare and social services.

The question that remains is whether the need for economic justice can be recognized at the international level where the unequal distribution of power and resources manifests in extreme differences in living standards between the richest and poorest nations. If the case for international sharing captures the public imagination as quickly as the calls for economic justice in individual countries, the elimination of global poverty could finally become a realistic possibility.

(By Adam Parsons the editor and Rajesh Makwana the executive director at Share the World's Resources, a London-based NGO campaigning for essential resources)

 

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Globalization or Neo-Colonization Wed, 06 Apr 2011 17:39:55 +0000
Rethinking the global economy http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134774-rethinking-the-global-economy http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134774-rethinking-the-global-economy Rethinking the global economy

The world communities urgently need a new paradigm for human advancement, beginning with a fundamental reordering of world priorities: an immediate end to hunger, the securing of universal basic needs, and a rapid safeguarding of the environment and atmosphere.

 No longer can national self-interest, international competition and excessive commercialization form the foundation of the global economic framework.

The first true political expression of our global unity was embodied in the establishment of the United Nations in 1945. Since then, international laws have been devised to help govern relationships between nations and uphold human rights. Cross-border issues such as climate change, global poverty and conflict are uniting world public opinion and compelling governments to cooperate and plan for the man collective future. The globalization of knowledge and cultures, and the ease, with which the man can communicate and travel around the world, has further served to unite diverse people in distant countries. But the fact of our global unity is still not sufficiently expressed in the political and economic structures. The international community has yet to ensure that basic human needs, such as access to staple food, clean water and primary healthcare, are universally secured.

This cannot be achieved until nations cooperate more effectively, share their natural and economic resources, and ensure that global governance mechanisms reflect and directly support the man common needs and rights. At present, the main institutions that govern the global economy are failing to work on behalf of humanity as a whole. In particular, the major bodies (the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation) are all widely criticized for being undemocratic and furthering the interests of large corporations and rich countries. Establishing more inclusive structures of global governance will only remedy one aspect of a complex system. Another key transformation that must take place is in the man understanding and practice of ‘economics' so that government policies can become closely aligned with urgent humanitarian and ecological needs.

The ‘neoliberal' ideology that institutionalized greed and self-interest was fundamentally discredited by the collapse of banks and a world stock market crash in 2008. As a consequence, the global financial crisis reinvigorated a long-standing debate about the importance of morality and ethics in relation to the market economy. If humanity is to survive the formidable challenges that define the man generation - including climate change, diminishing fossil fuels and global conflict - it is necessary to forge new ethical understandings that embrace the man collective values and global interdependence. The world communities urgently need a new paradigm for human advancement, beginning with a fundamental reordering of world priorities: an immediate end to hunger, the securing of universal basic needs, and a rapid safeguarding of the environment and atmosphere.

No longer can national self-interest, international competition and excessive commercialization form the foundation of the global economic framework.

The crucial first step towards creating an inclusive world system requires overhauling the outdated assumptions about human nature, reconnecting the public life with fundamental values, and rethinking the role of markets in achieving the common good. In line with what its now known about human behavior and psychology, integrating the principle of sharing into the economic system would reflect the global unity and have far-reaching implications for how the man distribute and consume the planet's wealth and resources.

Sharing the world's resources more equitably can allow building a more sustainable, cooperative and inclusive global economy - one that reflects and supports what it really means to be human.

(By Rajesh Makwana, the director and Adam Parsons the editor at Share the World's Resources)

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Globalization or Neo-Colonization Wed, 30 Mar 2011 12:35:49 +0000
Roads to 21st century capitalist development in Latin America (Part 2) http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134674-roads-to-21st-century-capitalist-development-in-latin-america-part-2 http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134674-roads-to-21st-century-capitalist-development-in-latin-america-part-2

While important differences still persist between heterodox and orthodox roads to capitalism, the tendency is for these to diminish.

The orthodox faced by the world recession resorted to greater state intervention to prop up the economy while the heterodox increased their pursuit of greater market shares by broadening their appeals to international investors.

The new argument between the heterodox and orthodox focused on how “globalization” could be harnessed to national growth and made to work for all classes via appropriate distributive mechanisms.

Coming out of the crises and breakdown of neo-liberalism at the turn of the century, the state emerged with a stronger and more active role in the economy, particularly with regard to regulating overseas financial flows. Several regimes increased the state’s role in revenue sharing with foreign MNC that is: (Brazil, Bolivia, and Venezuela). Others partially or wholly nationalized a few troubled enterprises that is: (Venezuela, Bolivia, and Argentina.)

Still others paid off their debt to the IMF, in order to end its “supervision” over fiscal and macro-economic policy for instance in (Brazil and Argentina). Most states adopted economic stimulus policies to reactivate the economy, reduce unemployment and accommodate some of the social demands of labor. All governments adopted policies designed to maximize income and revenues from the rising prices of commodities, by investing in and promoting the exploitation of agro-mineral production.

To cushion against future external economic shocks, the states adopted conservative fiscal policies, accumulating budget surpluses and increasing foreign reserves.

Not withstanding the expansion of the state’s role and its timely intervention to maximize benefits from world demand, it remains a subordinate partner to private capital. Even in Venezuela where several important industries were nationalized, state enterprises accounts for less than 10% of the GNP.

Equally important the state and economy, public and private, is subordinate to a global “colonial division of labor” in which Latin America, exports agro-mineral products and imports finished goods. The emphasis on extractive industries, encourages large scale foreign investments, while stable, orderly, fiscal balance sheets, large scale foreign reserves and relatively high interest rates attracts financial capital.

The appearance of a strong state, however, is belied by several historical and structural factors. While some regimes purged a few of the top military and police officials from the previous dictatorships, there was not institutional transformation, including the process of recruitment, training and political reorientation. Moreover all governments continue to collaborate with and join in military exercises and training missions with US military advisory programs, with a notorious history of being the “schools of the coup-makers.” Equally dangerous to state stability, the new development strategy depends on and promotes business elites, who in the past sought out military officials and fomented coups, when and if they felt their profits or interests, were threatened.

The current stability of the Latin American states rests in part on potentially volatile commodity prices and demand, military institutions with many carryovers from the past and too many links to Washington coup-masters and a private sector willing to abide by the rules of democratic capitalism, as long as they continue to exercise hegemony over the society and economy.

By force of circumstances, namely the economic crises of neo-liberalism, the new “post neo-liberal” regimes adopted a series of populist measures to ameliorate poverty, reduce unemployment and reactivate the economy. All of these changes meant active state intervention to rectify the failures of the ‘market’, while seeking to secure the interests of the capitalist class.

These measures were accompanied by a strong dosage of anti-neo-liberal rhetoric to accommodate popular rage against the inequities of the system.

In some cases these changes were accompanied by a vague reference to “socialism” without central planning, public ownership or worker management. The trajectory of regimes pursuing the heterodox type company instead of orthodox type economy began with populist welfare measures, which were gradually diluted over time as social pressures and unemployment diminished and re-activization took hold. By the end of the decade, the post neo-liberal regimes turned more and more toward “developmental modernization”. The latter approach was driven by a high powered campaign to maximize private, especially foreign investment, especially in the high growth export sectors.

The reordering of the post-neo-liberal state stopped well short of anything beyond replacing “neo-liberal” technocrats with others more attuned to the new heterodox leadership. For the most part, efforts were made for greater flexible accommodation of domestic and foreign social partners via conciliation of ‘moderate’ trade union and social movement leaders and the business elite.

The crises of neo-liberalism generated a variety of political outcomes; with the possible exception of Venezuela, the popular revolts which took place in the immediate aftermath of the crises all led to capitalist outcomes, albeit sharply divergent ones.

For the majority of Latin American states it meant a sharp increase in state intervention, even temporary takeovers of bankrupt or near bankrupt banks to save depositors and investors: a kind of “statism” by capitalist invitation (or obligation).

The new statism became the bases for the emergence of 21st century capitalism. In historical perspective, statism, was from the beginning,a necessary first step toward the reactivation of capitalism. The apparently radical “first steps” were in fact the end game of the popular rebellions of the turn of the decade. Over time, especially with the economic recovery and the commodity boom, capitalism experienced a take off by the middle of the decade. Heterodox capitalism began to shed some of its distinctively several welfarist features in favor of a straight developmentalist perspective. Technocrats emphasized large scale long term foreign investments and “economic modernization.” This meant public-private investments in infrastructure, to accelerate the movement of commodities to world markets.

The sustained growth of the heterodox model put an end to the radical debate on globalization, by adopting it with a vengeance. The new argument between the heterodox and orthodox focused on how “globalization” could be harnessed to national growth and made to work for all classes via appropriate distributive mechanisms. In other words, the heterodox capitalists argued that greater global integration would deepen and increase the wealth available for social welfare. With the advent of adverse global conditions during the crises of 2009, intensified competition and a temporary decline in prices, the heterodox policymakers argued that global conditions prohibited increased social spending and wage and salary increases. With rapid economic recovery and the rapid rise in commodity prices by mid 2010, wage and salary tensions increased.

If the impetus for the onset of the new heterodox regimes was the crises of neo-liberalism, the subsequent economic success of the heterodox regimes set in motion the dynamic growth of powerful business interests seeking to refashion a more conservative rightist political configuration.

The latter would reduce the wage and social welfare cost of the export sector. In effect the success of capitalist heterodoxy and its trajectory toward high growth based on large scale capital inflows has set in motion a shift to the right, including right wing political alternatives.

While important differences still persist between heterodox and orthodox roads to capitalism, the tendency is for these to diminish. The orthodox faced by the world recession resorted to greater state intervention to prop up the economy while the heterodox increased their pursuit of greater market shares by broadening their appeals to international investors.

Clearly identifying the ‘dynamic’ road to 21st century capitalist development is problematic and the outcome uncertain. The question of whether the commodity boom is part of a long or short cycle may be a determining factor in shaping the possibilities for the reappearance of authentic 21st century socialism and globalization.

(By James Petras, who is a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University; Veterans Today)

 

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Globalization or Neo-Colonization Sat, 12 Mar 2011 16:25:53 +0000
Roads to 21st century capitalist development in Latin America (Part1) http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134493-roads-to-21st-century-capitalist-development-in-latin-america-part1 http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134493-roads-to-21st-century-capitalist-development-in-latin-america-part1

Twenty-first century capitalism, as we know its operations in Latin America, overlaps in some of its major features with the multiple variants of 20th century capitalism.

Twenty-first century capitalism has embraced the “open market” policies of the late 20th century neo-liberal model; that is: it has, promoted agro-mineral exports and importation of finished goods similar to the early 20th century colonial division of labor.

Over the better part of the present decade, Latin American stock markets have boomed. Overseas investors have reaped and repatriated billions in dividends, profits and interest payments. Multi-national corporations have piled into mining, agro-business and related sectors, without hindrance and with virtually no demands by local regions for ‘technological transfers’ and environmental constraints.

Latin American governments, have accumulated unprecedented foreign currency reserves to ensure that foreign investors have unlimited access to hard currencies to remit profits. The decade has witnessed unprecedented political and social demobilization of radical social movements. They have provided political and social protection for foreign and national investors as well as long term guarantees of private property rights.

Nary a single government in the region, with the unique exception of Venezuela , has reverted the large scale privatizations of strategic economic sectors implemented by previous neo-liberal governments in the 1990’s.

In fact, the concentration and centralization of fertile lands has continued with no pretense of land or income redistribution on the policy agenda.

Investors, speculators, multinational corporations and trading companies from Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East have, in recent years found virtue and value in the economic development policies pursued by recent Latin American leaders. In particular, they applaud the new found political stability and economic opportunities for long term, high rates of profits. In fact, Latin America is looked at as an outlet for profitable investments surpassing those found in the unstable and volatile markets of the US and EU.

Twenty-first century capitalism as we know its operations in Latin America overlaps in some of its major features with the multiple variants of 20th century capitalism. Twenty-first century capitalism has embraced the “open market” policies of the late 20th century neo-liberal model; it has, promoted agro-mineral exports and importation of finished goods similar to the early 20th century colonial division of labor. It has borrowed from the nationalist developmental strategy, policies of state intervention to ameliorate poverty, bailout banks, promote exporters and foreign investors.

As in most ‘late’ and ‘later’ developing capitalist countries, the state plays an important role in mediating between agro-mineral exporters and industrial capitalists in some of the larger countries like Brazil and Argentina.

Unlike earlier versions of liberal and neo-liberal capitalists which, in the first instance dissolved pre-capitalist constraints on capital flows and later labor and welfare demands constraining capitalist exploitation, current heterodox liberal (or “post-neo-liberal”) regimes attempt to harness and co-opt labor and the poor to the new export strategy. In part, 21st capitalism can pursue “free market” and welfare/poverty policies because of the favorable world market conjuncture of high commodity prices and expanding markets in Asia.

Increased activity by the state in regulating capital flows and “picking winners and losers”, promoting agro business over small farmers, exporters and large retail importers over small and medium producers and retailers – highlights the compatibility, indeed the importance, of state interventionism in sustaining the “free market” agro-mineral export model.

While some sectors of capital complained about potential deficits and rising public debts resulting from increased state spending on poverty programs and in raising the minimum wage, in general most capitalist view the current version of “statism” as complementary and not in conflict with the larger goals of expanding investment opportunities and capital accumulation.

The ideologues of Twenty-first century capitalism have played a significant role in securing the legitimacy of the system, especially in its initial period, by projecting images and narratives of “anti-imperialism”, “twenty-first century socialism” and in the Andean countries a new “indigenous” variant of a “democratic and cultural revolution”. Given the heavy reliance on the extractive development strategies and the strong presence of foreign corporations in strategic economic sectors and on lands, in or proximate Indian territorial claims, traditional Indian rituals and symbolic representations, anti-imperialist slogans and charisma plays a key role in greasing the wheels of Twenty-first century capitalism, in the face of rebellious popular constituencies (especially in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.(

The paradox of alleged “center left” regimes embracing the liberal ‘colonial division of labor’ in relation to the world market is to some degree obfuscated by the greater diversification of markets. “Coloniality” is identified with economic relations with the US while the new economic ties with Asia are presented as expressions of south-south solidarity and other such euphemisms, even as the latter mirrors the former in economic essentials. Nevertheless there are important political differences between the US and China, insofar as the latter does not engage in coups and secret operations and military interventions (at least in Latin America.)

Key to the Twenty-first century capitalism model is social stability, preservation of the liberal democratic political framework and civil supremacy – all of which pits these governments against the US backed coups in the continent, including failed coups in Venezuela (2002) and Bolivia (2008) and a somehow successful coup in Honduras (2009.)

If US style militarism is a potential external destabilizing factor, the growth of narco-capitalism in the economy and state is a major domestic threat, now mostly concentrated in North America e.g. (Mexico), Central America and the Andean countries e.g. (Colombia).

(By James Petras, who is a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York; Veterans Today)

 

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Globalization or Neo-Colonization Sun, 20 Feb 2011 11:53:36 +0000
"Feed the Future" plan repeats mistakes of the past http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134245-feed-the-future-plan-repeats-mistakes-of-the-past http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134245-feed-the-future-plan-repeats-mistakes-of-the-past

A basic implication of a globalized food system is that a number of factors impact prices, and prices in turn determine who can access food, regardless of how much is available.

Agricultural activity in South Africa has become consolidated onto larger, export-oriented farms while soaring unemployment and the decreasing availability of local food sources makes the majority of the population less food secure.

Periodical deadly riots in Mozambique momentarily renewed attention to the vulnerability of poor countries to shocks in global food prices. Subsequent reassurance that there are adequate fuel and grain stocks worldwide to prevent a disruption like that of 2008, in which rapidly rising food prices saw riots across the globe, has calmed much of this concern. That Mozambique is slated to begin receiving funding for agricultural development this year under Obama’s new global food security initiative further reinforces the impression that a crisis has been averted. Unfortunately, the price increase in Mozambique bears little relation to the global food supply, and the emphasis on increasing food production will thus have little impact on hunger and malnutrition in Mozambique or elsewhere.

Efforts of major donor governments and international institutions to address global hunger and food insecurity have gone through many iterations but a constant feature since the “Green Revolution” of the 20th century has been a paradigm that emphasizes increased agricultural productivity through the introduction of new seed varieties and agricultural technologies.

The 2010 Feed the Future FTF implementation plan for Mozambique follows from the Green Revolutions premise that farming by small-holders cannot achieve food security. Instead, the plan for “agricultural transformation” in Mozambique focuses on the commercialization of agriculture through technology transfer and public and private investment to support large-scale farming. Is this emphasis on commercial farming warranted? Roughly 75% of Mozambique’s population is currently involved in agricultural production, and many do indeed struggle to maintain livelihoods and produce sufficient crops absent government support and access to irrigation.

Under-investment in agriculture, however, is a direct legacy of the International Monetary Fund’s structural adjustment programs of the 1970s and 80s. International financial institutions urged African governments to eliminate subsidies for the peasant farmers who were previously the main source of domestic food production. Now, as food rights group FIAN International points out, these same international bodies and donors have begun to blame the failure of the Green Revolution in Africa on low levels of agricultural investment.

Recent policy shifts on the continent, however, are heavily skewed towards investment in the production of food for export. They also are friendlier to acquisition of land by foreign investors, a growing trend in Africa that is complicating land tenure systems and further dismantling smallholder farming systems. The distribution of land is a crucial factor in determining who has access to food, but it is one that is often minimized within the framework of “food security” through an emphasis on who is able to produce the most food.

Mozambique only produces about 30% of its wheat, and its status as a food importer is precisely what makes it so difficult to keep prices stable. A basic implication of a globalized food system is that a number of factors impact prices, and prices in turn determine who can access food, regardless of how much is available. Mozambique imports many of its staples from South Africa, and a recent strengthening of the South African rand against the Mozambiquan metical was most likely the key factor in the government’s decision to increase bread prices by 30%. South Africa, in turn, is generally considered a “food secure” country at the national level, but as many as half of South African households experience hunger regularly. This contradiction is inherently related to the state of land relations in South Africa, which remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. The country has a strong agricultural sector developed historically through expropriation of fertile land during colonization, subsidies from the apartheid government, and the exploitation of black labor.

The post-apartheid government’s plan to redistribute 30% of fertile land to black farmers has been excruciatingly slow, and farm labor remains plentiful and exceedingly cheap.

These historical inequities have been exacerbated by the moral assumptions and other general features of the globalized food chain. As South Africa has begun to import more processed foods, the agricultural sector has lost hundreds of thousands of low-paying farm-worker and processing jobs. Meanwhile, South Africa still sends primary commodities to Europe and elsewhere in Africa.

This results in a pattern in which agricultural activity in South Africa has become consolidated onto larger, export-oriented farms while soaring unemployment and the decreasing availability of local food sources makes the majority of the population less food secure. To export this model, which is literally built upon a colonial system of land relations, to other parts of southern Africa will likely result in an increased food supply which a decreased proportion of the population can afford.

(By Rebecca Burns, a master’s student in peace studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame)

 

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Globalization or Neo-Colonization Sun, 23 Jan 2011 11:35:41 +0000
Make hunger history http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134149-make-hunger-history http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134149-make-hunger-history Make hunger history

Global commitments and neo-liberal economic policies should not be allowed to interfere with the food security plan in the poor countries. The World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, the Free Trade Agreements and various bilateral trade deals should not be allowed to displace farming communities and play havoc with national food security.

Importing food for a country like India is like importing unemployment, thereby increasing the number of hungry.

The path to hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. The way to feed the hungry and impoverished in India also seems to be driven by good intentions.

The poor and hungry have lived in a dark abyss for over 60 years now, waiting endlessly for their daily morsel of grain. India’s new draft Food Security Bill, with its underlying promise of food-for-all, surely provides a ray of hope for the hungry millions. It could be a new beginning, if enacted properly, and could turn the appalling hunger in India into history.

There have been earlier attempts at fighting hunger.

Brazil’s Zero Hunger program launched by President Lula in 2003, for instance, was the result of a year of inputs from various stakeholders, and is still far away from alleviating hunger. It was launched with the objective of providing three square meals a day to an estimated 46 million people living in hunger and extreme poverty.

By 2005, Brazil had invested $12 billion in the Zero Hunger program, although President Lula was not satisfied and later criticized the program for being riddled with mistakes. Drawing inspiration from the Brazilian program, Egypt also launched a $2 billion program for a food insecure population.

There are further lessons to be drawn from Mexico’s Progresa-oportunidades human development program launched in 1997, which took one year to research and roughly two years to plan.

The program serves 4.2 million households, and costs almost $1 billion every year.

Even in the United States, which invests heavily in food stamp program, hunger is on the rise. More than 31.6 million people, or one in every 10 Americans, are either a beneficiary of the food stamp program or takes part in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program.

At present, the government of India provides 35 kg of food grains, including wheat and rice, to 65.2 million families classified as living below the poverty line. In other words, India’s Public Distribution Scheme technically caters to 316 million people.

Any program aimed at providing food-for-all on a long-term basis has to look beyond food stamps and public distribution schemes. India must move to a Zero Hunger program by attacking the structural causes of poverty and hunger. Creating adequate employment opportunities and promoting sustainable livelihoods by involving the village communities has to be woven into any long-term food security plan. Better health care facilities, access to safe drinking water and sufficient micro-nutrient intake will ensure that food is properly absorbed. An empty stomach cannot wait. With the passage of time it will inevitably lead to social upheavals, and the repercussions could be still more damaging to society at large.

The point is that in the poor countries agriculture is being sacrificed for the sake of industry, mining and exports, and land acquisitions are divesting Indian farmers of their only form of economic security by forcing them to quit agriculture. The proposed National Food Security Act cannot be a stand-alone activity. It has to be integrated with various other program and policy initiatives to ensure that hunger becomes history.

In a country where agriculture is the mainstay of the economy, all efforts must be directed towards strengthening low external input sustainable agricultural practices. There is an urgent need to revitalize the natural resource base, restore groundwater levels, and provide higher incomes to farmers. A monthly take-home income package based on land holdings has to be worked out for farmers.

Global commitments and neo-liberal economic policies should not be allowed to interfere with the food security plan in the poor countries.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements, the Free Trade Agreements and various bilateral trade deals should not be allowed to displace farming communities and play havoc with national food security. Importing food for a country like India is like importing unemployment, thereby increasing the number of hungry.

(By Devinder Sharma, New Delhi-based food and trade policy analyst; Dissident Voice)

 

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Globalization or Neo-Colonization Wed, 12 Jan 2011 15:14:30 +0000
The unaccountable G-8 http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134051-the-unaccountable-g-8 http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/134051-the-unaccountable-g-8 The unaccountable G-8

The emptiness of G8 leaders' words puts the world at risk. The G8 leaders promised last year to fight hunger with $22 billion dollars in new funds, but so far they are not delivering. They promised to fight climate change with $30 billion dollars of new emergency funds, but so far they are not delivering. And the US, has shown the largest gap between promises and reality too.

When hosting the 2010 G8 summit of major economies, the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, called for an "accountability summit" to hold the G8 responsible for the promises that it made over the years.

So let's make the account of how the G8 did. The answer, alas, is a failing grade. Of all of the G8's promises over the years, the most important was made to the world's poorest people at the 2005 G8 summit in Scotland.

The G8 promised that, by this year, it would increase annual development assistance to the world's poor by 50 billion dollars relative to 2004.

Half of the increase, or $25billion dollars per year, would go to Africa.

The G8 fell far short of this goal, especially with respect to Africa. Total aid went up by around 40 billion dollars rather than 50 billion dollars, and aid to Africa rose by 10 billion dollars - 15 billion dollars per year, rather than 25 billion dollars. The properly measured shortfall is even greater, because the promises that were made in 2005 should be adjusted for inflation.

Re-stating those commitments in real terms, total aid should have risen by around 60 billion dollars, and aid to Africa should have risen by around 30 billion dollars.

In effect, the G8 fulfilled only half of its promise to Africa. Much of the overall G8 increase in aid went to Iraq and Afghanistan, as part of the US-led war effort, rather than to Africa.

Since the G8 was off track in its aid commitments for many years, one wonders what the G8 would say in 2010, when the commitments actually fell due. In fact, the G8 displayed two approaches.

First, in an "accountability report" issued before the summit, the G8 stated the 2005 commitments in current dollars rather than in inflation-adjusted dollars, in order to minimize the size of the reported shortfall.

Second, the G8 summit communiqué simply did not mention the unmet commitments at all.

The G8 did not fail because of the current financial crisis. Even before the crisis, the G8 countries were not taking serious steps to meet their pledges to Africa. And isn't this what politicians like to do - smile for the cameras, and then fail to honor their promises?

First, the 2005 G8 Summit commitments might be mere words to politicians in the rich world, but they are matters of life and death for the world's poor. If Africa had another $15 billion dollars -$20 billion dollars per year in development aid in 2010, as promised, with the amounts rising over future years (also as promised), millions of children would be secure of an agonizing death from preventable diseases, and tens of millions of children would be able to get an education.

Second, the emptiness of G8 leaders' words puts the world at risk. The G8 leaders promised last year to fight hunger with $22 billion dollars in new funds, but so far they are not delivering. They promised to fight climate change with $30 billion dollars of new emergency funds, but so far they are not delivering. And the US, has shown the largest gap between promises and reality too.

Hosting this year's G8 summit reportedly cost Canada a fortune, despite the absence of any significant results. The estimated cost of hosting the G8 leaders for a day and a half, followed by the G20 leaders for a day and a half, reportedly came to more than $1 billion dollars. This is essentially the same amount that the G8 leaders pledged to give each year to the world's poorest countries to support maternal and child health.

It is absurd and troubling to spend $1 billion dollars on three days of meetings under any circumstances (since there are much cheaper ways to have such meetings and much better uses for the money). But it is tragic to spend so much money and then accomplish next to nothing in terms of concrete results and honest accountability.

There are three lessons to be drawn from this sorry episode.

First, the G8 as a group should be brought to an end. The G20, which includes developing countries as well as rich countries, should take over.

Second, any future promises made by the G20 should be accompanied by a clear and transparent accounting of what each country will do, and when. The world needs true accountability, not empty words about accountability. Every G20 promise should spell out the specific actions and commitments of each country, as well as the overall promise of the group.

Third, the world's leaders should recognize that commitments to fight poverty, hunger, disease, and climate change are life-and-death issues that require professional management for serious implementation.

The G20 latest meeting held in the November 10 this year in South Korea, a country which understands the utter seriousness of the global development agenda, and the poorest countries' needs: but sorrowfully the summit was fruitless as its former in Canada.

(By Jeffrey D. Sachs Professor of Economics and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University)

 

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Globalization or Neo-Colonization Mon, 03 Jan 2011 13:48:16 +0000
The food crisis is not about a shortage of food http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/133982-the-food-crisis-is-not-about-a-shortage-of-food http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/133982-the-food-crisis-is-not-about-a-shortage-of-food

Food shortages are seldom about a lack of food, there is plenty of food in the world, the shortages occur because of the inability to get food where it is needed and the inability of the hungry to afford it. These two problems are principally caused by, a lack of justice.

The food crisis of 2008 never really ended, it was ignored and forgotten. The rich and powerful are well fed; they had no food crisis, no shortage, so in the West, it was little more than a short lived sound bite, tragic but forgettable. To the poor in the developing world, whose ability to afford food is no better now than in 2008, and the hunger continues.

Hunger can have many contributing factors; natural disaster, discrimination, war, and poor infrastructure. So why, regardless of the situation, is high tech agriculture always assumed to be the only the solution? This premise is put forward and supported by those who would benefit financially if their “solution” were implemented. Corporations publicize their high technology genetically engineered seed and chemical packages, their genetically altered animals, always with the “promise” of feeding the world.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) supposedly works to achieve a food secure and prosperous Africa. While these sentiments and goals may be philanthropy at its best, some of the coalition partners have a different agenda.

One of the key players in The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, Monsanto, hopes to spread its genetically engineered seed throughout Africa by promising better yields, drought resistance, an end to hunger, etc. etc. Could a New Green Revolution succeed where the original Green Revolution had failed? Or was the whole concept of a Green Revolution a pig in a poke to begin with?

Monsanto giving free seed to poor small holder farmers sounds great, or are they just setting the hook? Remember, next year those farmers will have to buy their seed. Interesting to note that the Gates Foundation purchased 23.1 million dollars worth of Monsanto stock in the second quarter of 2010. Do they also see the food crisis in Africa as a potential to turn a nice profit? Every corporation has one overriding interest--- self-interest, but surely not charitable foundations?

Food shortages are seldom about a lack of food, there is plenty of food in the world, the shortages occur because of the inability to get food where it is needed and the inability of the hungry to afford it. These two problems are principally caused by, a lack of justice. There are also ethical considerations, a higher value should be placed on people than on corporate profit, and this must be at the forefront, not an afterthought.

In 2008, there were shortages of food, in some places, for some people. There was never a shortage of food in 2008 on a global basis, nor is there currently. True, some countries, in Africa for example, do not have enough food where it is needed, yet people with money have their pack no matter where they live. Poverty and inequality cause hunger.

The current food riots in Mozambique were a result of increased wheat prices on the world market. The UN Food and Agriculture organization, (FAO) estimates the world is on course to the third largest wheat harvest in history, so increasing wheat prices were not caused by actual shortages, but rather by speculation on the price of wheat in the international market.

While millions of people go hungry in India, thousands of kilos of grain rot in storage. Unable to afford the grain, the hungry depend on the government to distribute food. Apparently that's not going so well.

Not everyone living in a poor country goes hungry, those with money eat. Not everyone living in rich country is well fed, those without money go hungry. The people of the US are said to have the safest and most abundant food supply in the world, yet even here, surrounded by an over abundance of food, there are plenty of hungry people and their numbers are growing. Do Americans too have a food crisis, simultaneous with an obesity crisis?

Why is there widespread hunger? Is food a right? Is profit taking through speculation that drives food prices out of the reach of the poor a right? Is pushing high technology agriculture on an entire continent at that could feed itself a (corporate) right?

In developing countries, those with hunger and poor food distribution, the small farmers, most of whom are women, have little say in agricultural policy. The framework of international trade and the rules imposed by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank on developing countries, places emphasis on crops for export, not crops for feeding a hungry population.

Women, feed most of the worlds population, and the greatest portion of the worlds diet still relies on crops and farming systems developed and cultivated by the indigenous for centuries, systems that still work, systems that offer real promise.

The report of 400 experts from around the world, The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), is ignored by the proponents of a New Green Revolution, precisely because it shows that the best hope for ending hunger lies with local, traditional, farmer controlled agricultural production, not high tech industrial agriculture.

To feed the world, fair methods of land distribution must be considered. A fair and just food system depends on small holder farmers having access to land. The function of a just farming system is to insure that everyone gets to eat, industrial agriculture functions to insure those corporations controlling the system make a profit.

The ultimate cause of hunger is not a lack of Western agricultural technology, rather hunger results when people are not allowed to participate in a food system of their choosing. Civil wars, structural adjustment policies, inadequate distribution systems, international commodity speculation and corporate control of food from seed to table--- these are the causes of hunger, the stimulus for food crises.

(By Jim Goodman dairy farmer and activist from Wonewoc)

 

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Globalization or Neo-Colonization Mon, 27 Dec 2010 14:52:39 +0000
G20 distracted by 'currency wars' http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/133859-g20-distracted-by-currency-wars http://english.irib.ir/voj/globalization-or-neo-colonization/item/133859-g20-distracted-by-currency-wars

The most immediate threat to the world economy at present comes not from "currency wars" or protectionism, but from overly conservative, dogma-driven macroeconomic policies. Fears of protectionist battles over trade and exchange rates are overblown.

If the G20 is going to be nothing more than a talking shop on economic issues, they ought at least to talk about the economic problems that really matter, and the ones they can do something about. Not that currency values don't matter – they are actually very important. And it is interesting to see them getting some attention, after the media ignored, for example, the fact that an overvalued dollar was the main cause of the United States' loss of nearly a third of its manufacturing jobs over the last decade.

The most immediate problem facing the world economy is that the high-income economies – including the United States, Europe and Japan – are barely recovering from their recessions. The IMF pointed this out in their semi-annual World Economic Outlook, noting that the recoveries of the high-income economies "will remain fragile for as long as improving business investment does not translate into higher employment growth".

Unfortunately, this is everybody's concern because these countries make up the majority of the world's economy. Now, this is something that the G20 governments could actually do something about, not least because some of them are actively making things worse. The European authorities – which include the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF (which is subordinate to these authorities in Europe) – are choking off recovery in Spain, Ireland, Greece, Portugal, and other countries. Ireland's borrowing costs just jumped 3 percentage points – from 6% to a potentially explosive 9% – because its austerity policies are having the predictable effect of tanking the economy. Spain just racked up zero growth for the third quarter and hardly any for the whole year, with unemployment at 20%. In just the last six months, the IMF has had to lower the forecast for GDP growth in Greece from negative 2% to negative 4%, for the same reasons; and if all goes well according to their austerity plan, Greece will have a debt of 144% of GDP in 2013, up from 115% in 2009.

It is a great irony that any of these governments or authorities now complain when the US Federal Reserve actually does something right. The Federal Reserve's "quantitative easing" is exactly what any responsible central bank should do when its national economy is this depressed. Unfortunately, because long-term rates are already extremely low, the impact of an additional 600 billion dollars of purchases over the next six months is likely to be minimal.
But the Fed's action lowers the United States' net debt burden, since the interest payments on the debt that the Fed buys will now revert to the US Treasury. By "monetizing" this debt the Fed has created more space for President Obama and the US Congress to provide some badly-needed stimulus spending. If China, with an economy less than three quarters the size of the United States', can commit to 735 billion dollars of investment in low-carbon energy over the next decade, what do you think the United States could do to reduce climate disruption while providing some jobs for the 15 million US unemployed?

So, if anyone wants to complain about what the US government is currently doing, or not doing, to the world economy, complaints should first go to the US Congress and the US president, who have failed to provide the necessary fiscal stimulus – not the Fed. The best thing that the European Central Bank could do is imitate the Fed, and help the weaker Eurozone economies restore economic growth, rather than pushing them back toward recession.

Some countries are worried that the Fed's maintaining low long-term rates will send too much money into their own economies, seeking a higher return, and driving up the value of their currencies. But these governments can reduce these inflows with capital controls, including taxes on various forms of incoming investment.

This whole threat of "currency wars" and a plunge into the protectionist abyss is quite exaggerated. For more than a decade, Americans have been repeatedly warned of a protectionist nightmare, threatening to grind the world economy to the halt. But the negotiations to liberalize trade and commerce went nowhere, while world exports more than doubled in just the five years from 2002-2007. When the crash finally came, it had nothing to do with protectionism – if anything it had more to do with liberalization in the financial sector.

The most immediate threat to the world economy at present comes not from "currency wars" or protectionism, but from overly conservative, dogma-driven macroeconomic policies. It's a shame that this wasn't a major item on the G20 agenda.

(By Mark Weisbrot, who is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC)

 

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Globalization or Neo-Colonization Mon, 13 Dec 2010 16:44:50 +0000