Socialist Worker

Reject the poisoned crumbs thrown by the rich

by Charles Abugre, head of policy and advocacy at Christian Aid
Issue No. 1969

There were some glimmers of progress, but overall the tone of this summit has been bleak and depressing.

Never was there such a chance to improve the lives of millions. Never was there such a mean spirited and self interested response from the rich and powerful.

A progressive agenda will look beyond aid to other ways to finance development that are more empowering.

There are several, including taxation, which has served developed countries well as a means of redistribution and as a source of investment capital. However it has been undermined through the enforced deregulation that has promoted tax competition, tax avoidance and tax havens.

Developing countries also bleed from general capital flight.

Over the past 30 years Africa has been a net capital exporter, transferring several times more capital abroad than it has received in aid loans and foreign direct investment.

Some estimates suggest Africa’s accumulated stock of capital transferred abroad between 1970 and 2000 amounted to over $280 billion. Add to that cumulative losses due to terms of trade of non-oil producing Sub-Saharan African countries — estimated by the World Bank to be in the region of $400 billion.

A progressive agenda will approach the issue of debt and trade justice from the view that even poor countries have the ability to force change, not simply act as compliant recipients of goodwill.

The evidence suggests that poor countries get more fundamental change in their favour when they act or threaten to act against the interests of the powerful.

The task of progressive civil society is to persuade and support finance ministers to develop the courage that the trade ministers found at the Seattle and Doha conferences to lead the walk out that has since fundamentally changed the World Trade Organisation negotiating dynamics.

For now, it will be a grave mistake for anyone to rejoice over the poisoned crumbs thrown to a few poor countries.

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