Socialist Worker

System that enforces poverty and death

Issue No. 1860

GEORGE BUSH'S visit to Africa last week was a grotesque spectacle. Nowhere else on earth has suffered so much from the policies he and those he represents push across the world. His visit came as a United Nations (UN) report showed how in over 50 countries, many in Africa, society has been plunged backwards in the last decade.

That is the reality behind talk of corporate globalisation raising people from poverty and bringing prosperity to all. The enforcers of that globalisation, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and World Trade Organisation, press for privatisation, trade liberalisation and 'structural adjustment'.

The result was spelled out in the United Nations Human Development Report, published last week. It showed that:

  • In 54 countries average income declined in the 1990s.
  • In 21 countries, most in Africa, society went backwards on measures by the United Nations human development index, which takes into account factors such as income and life expectancy.

Among the countries worst hit are some held up as models of the success of the neo-liberal agenda. Zambia was hailed by bodies like the IMF throughout the 1990s. Its people are paying a grim price as the country slides backwards on every measure of human development.

Zambia is one of two countries which have seen two decades of relentless decline, measured in death, disease and poverty for its people. Africa is the most gruesome face of what the global system means. But it is not just in Africa that things have got worse throughout the last ten years of 'globalisation'.

In Latin America, countries like Ecuador, Venezuela and Paraguay have seen living standards fall over the last ten years. Throughout the old Russian Empire the same has happened as they have embraced the market and opened up to the global corporations. Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Russia itself have all seen society slide backwards.

The human cost behind talk of a falling 'human development index' is chilling. Every day, says the UN report, 30,000 children die of preventable disease across the world. In the 1990s some 13 million children were killed worldwide by diarrhoea, which costs just a few pence to treat. That is more than all the people killed in armed conflict since the Second World War.

In country after country people are dying younger, as diseases like AIDS and the effects of poverty take their toll. The UN report was backed up by a study in the Lancet, the doctors' magazine in Britain, last week. The Lancet report showed that nearly 11 million children around the world do not live to see their fifth birthday each year.

This is due to a lethal combination of malnutrition and mostly preventable diseases. 'Every single day an attack against children occurs that is ten times greater than the death toll from the World Trade Centre,' says Professor Jean-Pierre Habicht, one of the authors of the Lancet study.

'We know how to prevent these deaths - we have the biological knowledge and tools to stop this public health travesty - but we're not yet doing it,' he says. The global gulf between rich and poor has grown wider too in the last decade. The richest 1 percent of people in the world now have as much income as the poorest 57 percent, says the UN report.

The reports by the UN and in the Lancet show how right all those in the global movement are to proclaim 'Another world is necessary', and how right we are to fight to win that world.

THE UN report found that the following countries had slipped backwards: Armenia, Belarus, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Lesotho, Moldova, Russia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tajikstan, Tanzania, Ukraine, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

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Sat 19 Jul 2003, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1860
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