The centrepiece of chancellor Gordon Brown’s “Marshall Plan for Africa” came under fire from the World Development Movement (WDM) last week. Far from helping the world’s poorest, it will actively undermine the campaign to end global poverty.
A report by the WDM states that Brown’s International Finance Facility (IFF) will lead to aid levels falling after 2015. Treasury figures show that IFF will result in a net reduction of $108 billion in aid over the lifespan of the scheme.
Under IFF, aid will increase for the first ten years of the scheme, borrowed on international bond markets. But after 2015 aid budgets will be used to pay back the bonds, which charge between 5 and 6 percent interest each year.
WDM campaigners say Brown is pushing his scheme at the expense of more radical plans that would make new money available for Africa. They are also concerned that aid flows brought forward by IFF will fail to benefit the poor, because they will be linked to neo-liberal economic diktats, such as water privatisation.
Washington’s neo-conservatives were quick to welcome the resignation of Lebanon’s pro-Syrian government as the first step in their dream of a “velvet revolution” sweeping the Middle East, inspired by the “liberation” of Iraq. The reference is to the uprisings in 1989 which toppled the Berlin Wall and the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile election rigging has taken place on a vast scale in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, two former Soviet republics. But unlike after the vote in Ukraine earlier this year, there’s been little hue and cry from US and British governments over last weekend’s elections in the two republics.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are run by tyrants hailing from the Soviet era. Both threw their weight behind Bush’s wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, and provided the US with military bases.
So it’s an extended line of foreign credit and a bit of gentle criticism from the US state department for them. “Regime change” only applies to those regimes the US dislikes.
Liberal Democrat attempts to pose as a left alternative to New Labour are fast coming unstuck. The party’s conference this weekend plans to discuss a leadership proposal to ban strikes in “essential services”.
Such an anti-union law would go further than Margaret Thatcher and the legislation New Labour has kept from her era. Firefighters, health workers, transport workers and many others would be denied the right to collectively withdraw their labour—a right that distinguishes a worker from an outright slave.
Last week, Liberal Democrats in the Scottish parliament refused to vote against the introduction of ID cards. And they continue to support Tony Blair in the occupation of Iraq.
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