Socialist Worker

Hollow promise of debt relief for poor

Issue No. 1889

TWO OF the world's richest countries are strangling one of the poorest countries with debt. Germany and the US are crushing Ethiopia. They are applying pressure through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to block debt relief. Gordon Brown spoke this week about the horrors of world poverty. But as a director of the IMF he is helping to strangle Ethiopia.

This has been revealed by the anti-debt organisation Jubilee Research. Even the World Bank and IMF admit that $700 million of debt relief is needed to help Ethiopia become 'sustainable'.

If this does not happen, Ethiopia will be forced to spend an estimated $35 million in debt service each year. That is more than a quarter of the country's entire health budget. This is a far cry from the Cologne meeting in June 1999 where the US and other G8 countries promised debt relief.

Ann Pettifor, the director of Jubilee Research, said, '20 years ago, Bob Geldof argued that 'doing nothing for Ethiopia would mean you were complicit in murder'.

'Today, the world's creditors are 'doing nothing' for Ethiopia-denying the debt relief to which she is fully entitled, according to creditors themselves. This too is complicit in murder.' This is after the Ethopian government met the tough economic conditions imposed by the IMF and World Bank.

In this week 170 years ago - 1834

THE Tolpuddle martyrs were arrested.

Their crime was to form a union of agricultural labourers to fight for better wages and conditions. The martyrs were sentenced to be transported to Australia and Tasmania. A wave of solidarity among early trade unions and a 100,000-strong demonstration in London forced the government to back down eventually, years after they had been transported.

So choc bars are healthy?

MANY OF us like to nibble on a bar of chocolate. But should we believe the headline 'Chocolate Makes The Heart Go Stronger'? This appeared after Dr Norman Hollenberg's speech at the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

Hollenberg was discussing research showing that 'flavonoids', chemicals found in chocolate, could help keep the heart healthier and improve blood flow. He has made claims in talks and scientific papers about chocolate's health benefits. How independent is Doctor Hollenberg's research?

He is closely associated with the 'Chocolate Information Centre' (CIC). This was set up by the Mars Incorporated multinational, supposedly to 'dispel common misconceptions about chocolate'.

Oh no, it's a crank caller

IMAGINE ONE night during 2005 picking up your telephone and hearing, 'Good evening. This is Tony Blair and I'd like to share with you my views on some of the key issues facing Britain today.' This new US electioneering technique is known as 'targeted retail communication'. New Labour is thinking of using it in the general election next year.

The system asks voters who they plan to vote for and then analyses the results. It allows the party to target the undecided. The big advantage for New Labour would be avoiding having to scour for constituency activists who might be prepared to go out and canvass.

I talk to the trees...

PICTURE THE scene. A group of beautiful pines swaying in the breeze. But before you stop to admire them, watch out. They could be undercover mobile phone masts. It is the latest plan by phone companies who are desperate to come up with new ways to hide unpopular phone masts.

Envirocom has already disguised some masts as pine trees, which are being used in, of all places, national parks in Britain. There are 40,000 mobile phone masts across Britain. People's fears over the radiation they emit have triggered a number of campaigns. Campaigners argue that the masts may cause cancer, brain damage and a number of other ailments. They have succeeded in forcing some companies, including Orange, to take down the masts.

But a further 10,000 more masts could be needed when 'third generation' mobile phones start to become more widely used. BT is planning to install 15 centimetre long 'minimasts' inside road signs and lamp posts. These will be small enough to avoid the attention of both campaigners and the planning laws.

Pumping out profit

ANTI-WAR campaigners will not be surprised to hear more revelations about Halliburton, the company that was headed up by US vice-president Dick Cheney. It is known for grabbing $9 billion of contracts to rebuild Iraq. It is also being investigated over allegations of $180 million in bribes paid to Nigerian government officials while Cheney ran the company.

Now Halliburton faces a new investigation-over business dealings in Iran, part of Bush's 'axis of evil'. It appears that Halliburton set up a subsidiary company, registered in the Cayman Islands, in order to break the US-imposed embargo.

Figure it out 50p

The amount by which Ryanair said it would raise its ticket prices if forced to provide wheelchairs for disabled passengers. The actual cost to the company, which made £148 million profit last year, is just 2p a ticket.

Who says?

'He was as sincere as believers in the flat earth were sincere. History will show him to have been a sincerely dangerous man.'

MICHAEL HOLROYD, biographer on Tony Blair

'It was very obvious to the countries involved in the discussion on Iraq that we were being observed and that our communications were probably being tapped. The information was being gathered to benefit the US.'

ADOLFO AGUILAR ZINSER, Mexico's representative to the United Nations on attempts by Britain and the US to prevent other UN Security Council members from averting war on Iraq

'Suspect and useless. Cops dealing with their snitches check out the information better than the Bush administration did.'

US intelligence sources on information provided by Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress before the war

'It was as if we won a football match five-nil but the reporters covering it decided it was a draw and a couple of days later decided we'd lost.'

PETER MANDELSON disgraced former minister and Blair ally on the response to the Hutton report in the media

'I have real concern for him.'

LORD WOOLF the Lord Chief Justice on Lord Hutton

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Article information

Inside the System
Sat 21 Feb 2004, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1889
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