Socialist Worker

The poor get short changed

Issue No. 1776

Clare Short announced a £20 million package to help poor countries 'engage in the World Trade Organisation' during its meeting in Qatar last week. Trade minister Baroness Symons claimed this was a 'package of new measures'.

But this is the third time the package has been announced. It was first pledged in December 2000 and then again in March 2001. The campaigning group Christian Aid forced Short's international development department to admit that the £20 million was part of the previously announced packages.

'Announcing this money as 'new' during the WTO meeting suggests that more is being offered to poorer countries than is really the case,' says Mark Curtis of Christian Aid.

Lord Ashcroft, the outgoing Tory treasurer who has been investigated for his business dealings in Belize, has been appointed chancellor of APU university in Cambridge.

This appointment obviously has nothing to do with the £5 million that Ashcroft gave APU to build a business school. Ashcroft has donated £500,000. It will be used to fund scholarships to APU for students from Belize.

Red rose wilts

New Labour members are dropping out of activity and leaving the party, despite the government winning a second term. 'In many parts of the country, particularly areas where we are strongest electorally, the level of activity in the local party is very low and membership is declining seriously,' said Charles Clarke, Labour's national policy forum chair.

'If the party and the government were to drift apart, as happened to us in the 1970s and to the Tories in the 1990s, that is a recipe for political disaster.' Around 50,000 people left the Labour Party last year. Its official membership is 311,000, the lowest since Tony Blair became leader.

Dr Who cut off

BT IS planning to scrap thousands of public phone boxes in areas of social need because it is not making enough profit. Many people in poor inner city or rural areas still rely upon phone boxes as their only access to a phone. BT doesn't care.

It has already increased the minimum charge from 10p to 20p. It has also given failed chairman Peter Bonfield a £14 million payoff. Oftel, the industry regulator that is supposed to protect the public interest, supports the 'thinning' of call boxes.

Saudi model?

The Independent ran a four-page advertising feature on the wonders of Saudi Arabia last week. It praised King Fahd's regime for '20 years of change and continuity', its plans for privatisation and improving the environment. Yet King Fahd is a dictator. His regime executed 123 people last year, including people found guilty of 'sodomy'. The article didn't mention the repression women in the country face, a model followed by the Taliban. Women in Saudi Arabia are excluded from the vast majority of jobs and are not allowed to drive or to travel alone.

Muslim Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr Khalid Mahmood wrote a pro-war article in the Observer two weeks ago 'proving' that most Muslims were not opposed to the bombing of Afghanistan.

But did he write it? The article was originally sent to Rochdale's Lord Ahmed by Dennis McShane, a foreign Office minister. Ahmed refused to sign it because he is anti-war. McShane then moved on to Mahmood.

The MP had signed an anti-war statement and then withdrew his name. McShane, a former left winger, wrote a book in 1979 called Using the Media.

Pay more get less

More proof that New Labour's PFI privatisation schemes for the NHS cost more and provide less healthcare. Three hospitals in Halifax were merged in association with the private company Catalyst.

In the first six months after the new hospital was launched the NHS trust announced a £15 million loss. This was reduced to £4 million after an NHS handout.

The number of people waiting for treatment was 275 under the old hospitals. Under the PFI hospital it is up to 975.

Shop a cop

Not much changes in the force. Public complaints upheld against the police rose by over 25 percent last year. Across England and Wales 903 complaints were upheld against the police in the year 2000 to 2001-up from 714 the year before.

Over 100 of the complaints were related to assaults and 67 were for unlawful or unnecessary detention. Eighteen cases were due to racially discriminating behaviour. Some 240 of the crimefighting boys in blue were themselves convicted of criminal offences.

Things they say

'WE HAVE a situation where 20 percent of the world's population have 80 percent of the wealth. That's a situation that leads to instability that conveys itself through migration, wars within countries, and through crime and terrorism.'
JAMES WOLFENSOHN, president of the World Bank

'Conditions in one part of the world can affect us in the world behind that imaginary wall. Afghanistan can land in New York or on the Pentagon.'

'TWENTY million people are not going to get out of poverty. A lot more kids will be dying because of a lack of healthcare and a lack of nutrition. That's the problem for people in poor countries. They live on the edge. When you live on $1 a day it's a question of life and death.'

'AID FROM rich countries to poor countries is $50 billion a year but the West spends seven times that on agricultural subsidies that prevent products from poor countries being sold to the developed world.'

'IT IS not a primary concern of the West whether the Northern Alliance are more brutal than the Taliban.'

'He looks like a pimp and acts like one.'
KHALED ZAKROUD, a 17 year old Palestinian who lives in a refugee camp in Gaza, on Tony Blair and his trip to the Middle East

'His criminal offence is a matter of the past.'
ARI FLEISCHER, the White House spokesperson, on the appointment of Elliot Abrams as head of the US office for democracy and human rights. Abrams pleaded guilty about lying to the US Congress about the US's dirty wars in South America in the 1980s

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Article information

Inside the System
Sat 24 Nov 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1776
Share this article


Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.