Jumat, 05 Oktober 2007

THE MECHANISMS OF INEQUALITY

The unequal distribution of the worlds resources is created, maintained and increased in many ways. This is a brief outline of what is a complex subject in it's own right.

CASH CROPS
Although the impoverished nations seldom lack agricultural resources, these resources are rarely used for their own benefit, or even basic needs. Much of the fertile land in Third World countries is used to grow export or 'cash' crops, the profits from which do not go to those who toil to produce them. Coffee. cotton tea, animal feed, tobacco sugar, vegetables, fruit, heroin, rape seed, soya. cocoa. . the list is endless, and closely linked to the long legacy of colonialism. The farmers and labourers who produce these crops have little or no control over what is grown, or who it is sold to. They are usually paid poverty or even starvation wages, and so they remain poor.

"The global consumer society
casts a particularly long shadow
over forests and soil. El Salvador
and Costa Rica, for example, grow
export crops such as bananas,
coffee and sugar on more than
one-fifth of the crop land."
UN Food & Agriculture
Organisation, cited by Alan Thein
Durning

UNFAIR TRADE
The prices for global trade are controlled by the rich nations, through the commodity markets, the stock exchanges, international trade agreements, tariffs and quotas... Impoverished countries, let alone individuals, do not have the economic leverage to influence these systems to their benefit. Simply opting out is not a practicality - whole social systems are reliant on the import of Western technology, which poor countries lack the industrial infrastructure to manufacture for themselves, because they have been kept poor by unfair trade Turning their backs on the West has almost always been followed by boycotts and vast international pressure How then do you reorganise a society to produce for local need unless it can be done overnight? And if it can't be done overnight, how do you escape from this vicious circle?

DEBT Almost all Third World nations owe money to the rich nations, who enthusiastically and irresponsibly encouraged them to borrow during the 1970s. Interest rates rose dramatically, and as a result, those countries have been left paying interest bills that in many cases have now exceeded the value of the original loan.
Little of this money reached the poor, (except perhaps in the form of bullets from a dictator's internal security forces) but it is they who are now having to pay. Countries unable to meet their debts have had Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes forced upon them by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, both of which are controlled by, and have their headquarters in, the USA. (ESAP is a euphemistic acronym translated by African campaigners as 'Eat Shit And Perish'...) ESAP's require the debtor nations to 'tighten their belts', and cut back on social and welfare programmes, education, health care and food subsidies, with disastrous consequences for the poor. Emphasis is then placed on earning foreign exchange for debt repayments by- you guessed it- yet more cash crop production, and the dropping of trade protection barriers.

In 1993, for every #1 given in
aid, rich nations took back #3 in
debt payments"
World Development Movement

The net effect of all this is that economic power flows from the poor to the rich. . . and we end up in a situation where the richest fifth of the worlds population is able to monopolise 83% of its wealth, while the poorest fifth is left to subsist on only 1.5%. The gap continues to rise, and the consequences of this appalling situation regularly appear on our TV screens in the form of famine reports, wedged in the middle of adverts telling us that nothing is ever enough.

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