Sunday, July 13, 2008

Washington's Unraveling Consensus

America and it’s prized post-World War II economic institutions (World Bank, International Monetary Fund) are loosing their grip over the developing world. At least thats what Harvard political economist Dani Rodrik believes. Rodrik makes the compelling argument that the cookie-cutter economic liberalization and privitization reform packages of the past are beginning to loose their supremacy. With the volatlity of global financial markets exposed, and poor nations wallowing under the continuing food crisis there is a general movement towards cynicalism.
In the past, politicians could brush off anti-globalization sentiments as blanket radicalism but today, even more prominent international development economists are looking for alternatives.
“There was a time when global elites could comfort themselves with the thought that opposition to the world trading regime consisted of violent anarchists, self-serving protectionists, trade unionists, and ignorant, if idealistic youth…What makes news nowadays is the growing list of mainstream economists who are questioning globalisation’s supposedly unmitigated virtues.”

The paradigm shift in international development isn’t limited to theories alone. Development practicioners are looking for specific policy frameworks which, emphasize pragmatism and promote governments to be more experimental in their approaches. Rodrik highlights a new report entitled the Spence Commission On Growth and Development, designed to let developing countries develop in their own ways.

“The new policy mindset starts with relative agnosticism about what works. Its hypothesis is that there is a great deal of “slack” in poor countries, so simple changes can make a big difference…Rather than comprehensive reform, it emphasizes policy experimentation and relatively narrowly targeted initiatives in order to discover local solutions, and it calls for monitoring and evaluation in order to learn which experiments work.”
While many developing countries are seeing enormous growth in the global economy, they are achieving it in ways free-marketeers in developed capitalist countries like America and Britain said they never could. If the Washington Consensus is on it’s way out, will developed countries fight to save it or let it fade into the dust-pin of history?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Colombian Hostage Freed

The Colombian military delivered 15 hostages from the leftist guerilla group FARC by employing an apparent modern day trojan horse. Colombian armed forces crafted an ”elaborate ruse” tricking the guerillas into turning over the hostages including 3 American’s and French politician Ingrid Betancourt. Betancourt had been in captivity since 2002. Speaking briefly after her rescue she offered some words of hope.

“I believe that this is a sign of peace for Colombia, that we can find peace.”

The Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has been fighting in a ruthless civil-war against the government in the name of Colombia’s poor. Today, the group appears to be reeling after a series of defeats by a strengthened Colombian military backed by the United States. Three of the organizations top leaders have either been captured, killed, or deserted the rebel ranks. A few weeks ago their most important political supporter Venezuela’s Socialist President Hugo Chavez called for an end to the armed guerilla struggle. Nevertheless, the militia continues to have several remaining hostages and it remains to be seen how the deception of the Colombian military will effect future negotiations between the two parties.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The EU's Race Problem

The persistent violence against ethnic minorities thoughout Europe is one indicator that European Union leaders do not handle diversity whether it be of color, religion, or culture, very well. While Javier Solana and other EU leaders are quick to point out human rights violations around the world they have been less candid about "discrimination, entrenched disadvantage, racist violence" under their own jurisdiction. A European rights agency is accusing EU member states of failing to safeguard against entrenched racial disadvantages and ultra right-wing violence against minority groups. While Britain and France were credited with using measures to fight racism most other EU members including Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, and Poland have done little. "Effective and dissuasive sanctions are crucial to fight ethnic and racial discrimination..without these, discriminatory attitudes and behavioral patterns are unlikely to change and victims remain defenseless."In addition to it's purported racism, a controversial new EU immigration policy is raising important questions about the Union's future. Peru's conservative president Alan Garcia joined the chorus of Latin American executives who are condemning the new immigration pact. Garcia and others are looking to create a united front against Europe's policy, which they say is a drastic abuse of migrant rights. The debate over the Libson treaty continues but the most important question about the future of the EU remains unanswered; how will the EU value migrant workers and minorities who live and raise families in member countries?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Food Crisis for Thought: Neoliberalism Fails to Deliver Food Security

For decades technocrats and politicians in Washington D.C. have paraded Milton Friedman and Robert Nozick's 'minimal-state' as the undisputed champion of modern political economy---the narrow path to prosperity and increased living standards in post-colonial countries in the developing world. But the Washington Consensus has failed to deliver the most basic human necessities to the poor and the current food crisis in the global South is a text-book example of what Egyptian economist Samir Amin has identified as a "Liberal Virus".

Sky high food prices, climate change, an increasingly nugatory dollar, and Western subsidies towards the production of biofuels have created a "perfect storm" against the poor world-wide. There is no part of the developing world left unblemished by the current food crisis and countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Argentina, Haiti, and Senegal have reported riots and other forms of social upheaval in response.

Facing pressure from their populations, many nations are fasting from vulgar classical economic liberalism to alleviate the effects of global market-failure by protecting their own domestic food industries. In Asia some of the largest rice exporters in the world including India, Cambodia, China and Vietnam, are either dramatically cutting back or have completely banned exports of rice in a last ditch effort to provide some semblance of food security for their citizens.

In Africa however, there is no such option. A food crisis that may be new for some in the global economy has been intrinsic in this continent for decades and has only worsened in recent months. The structural adjustment policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund demanded the whole sale abandonment of large scale domestic agricultural production for a "competitive advantage" in the extraction of cheap natural resources such as oil, diamonds and fish. African nations, dependent on food imports and aid from the West are reeling with social unrest and riots as the poor and middle-classes simply cannot afford enough food for daily consumption. In Sierra Leone the price of food has risen by 300 percent.

The World Bank has been obliged to join the growing chorus of international organizations warning of a deepening global crisis over the rising cost of food. The current head of the World Bank Robert Zoellick has asked rich nations to commit at least $500 million to the UN World Food Program to fight hunger in emergencies. Zoellick said prices of rice have risen a whopping 75 percent over the last two years.

“This is about recognizing a growing emergency, acting and seizing opportunity, too. The world can do this. We can do this. We can have a new deal on global food policy."

The "New Deal", referred to by Zoellick is needless to say a call for agrarian sectors in emerging countries to be more productive and competitive in global markets. But the broken record skipping from zonked Bretton Woods institutions is likely to be cut in the coming months ahead by post-colonial nations in Asia and Latin America looking to avoid political unrest---offering temporary concessions to the poor in the form of price controls and export protections. For the Bush Administration the food crisis will add fuel to a fire of domestic and Latin American hostility to the proposed Colombian-U.S. free-trade deal--- currently stalled for a vote in the Congress by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Russia-1, Neocons-1

"Extend the circle of freedom."

- President George W. Bush

President Bush's plan to extend NATO membership to Ukraine and Georgia, thus isolating Russian influence in the region, has fallen flat on it's face---for now. During his recent trip to Ukraine, President Bush and the orange "revolutionary" Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko posed for the international media cameras and announced their strategic plan for Ukranian membership into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. President Bush announced,

“Your nation has made a bold decision, and the United States strongly supports your request...Helping Ukraine move toward NATO membership is in the interest of every member in the alliance and will help advance security and freedom in this region and around the world.”

The membership of eastern European countries like Ukraine and Georgia along with a proposed anti-missle defense system, are part of a larger plan by the Pentagon to spread American influence and hegemony in eastern Europe.

But at a recent summit prominent nations within NATO, fearing increasing tensions with Russia, backed off the plan and have denied Georgia and Ukraine membership into the organization. Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister was quoted as saying after the announcement,

"Georgia's and Ukraine's membership in the alliance is a huge strategic mistake which would have most serious consequences for pan-European security."

The decision of the summit to postpone membership to Ukraine and Georgia is a small yet significant blow to the expansion of the U.S. dominated military alliance. But NATO endorsed the Pentagon's plans to establish a missle defense system in the Czech Republic and Poland. However, Russia should not fear the missle defense system, which according to the Bush Administration is aimed against Middle-East countries like Iran.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Everybody LOVES Bush in Africa. Right?

If you have watched any of the major news networks in the United States or Great Britain lately you have probably witnessed President Bush's messianic descent on his adoring disciples in "Africa" (Tanzania) every half hour. Forgive me for being frank but isn't George Bush the most unpopular man on the face of the earth? Besides his abysmal approval rating at home it seems like every where he goes, (Australia, Colombia, Malaysia) throngs of protesters come to greet him with Molotov cocktails and the nearest rock or glass bottle. But what in the hell is going on in Africa? According to the press this is Bush's last horray, returning to a continent where he is widely popular and reaping the benefits of his "compassionate" foreign policy. ABC reports "They love George W. Bush in Tanzania. Everywhere he goes thousands of people line the streets and cheer."

I guess they forgot to mention the thousands of Muslims who marched through Tanzania's capital Friday burning U.S. flags and calling for an immediate end to the occupations of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Maybe they were out to lunch when a host of Tanzanian social activists and intellectuals held a rally in opposition to the new U.S. Africa Military Command and unfair trade policies aimed at destroying Tanzania's agriculture sector. It is no secret that during his tour President Bush has skipped conflict areas even in East Africa including Kenya ripped apart by ethnic violence, and the Sudan. Whats surprising is the cuddly relationship between the dominant media and the Bush Administration who have without blinking considered President Bush a success in "Africa" despite widespread evidence to the contrary.

Put the fact the U.S. expects one-quarter of its oil imports will come from Africa by 2015 aside. Pretend that President Bush and the Pentagon didn't invade Somalia a year ago, remove the government and militarily back an Ethiopian onslaught Human Rights Watch says resembles a "systematic extermination". Lets face it, the Bush Administration has given aid to a handful of countries who adopt favorable economic trade arrangements to U.S. interests, and allow the U.S. military to nestle in. Yet, the media continue to claim Bush's victory in "Africa" as if it were a small country. Could you imagine Bush making a deal with China and the media reporting his victory in Asia?

Only a racist and paternalistic news media like ours could ignore resistance and portray President Bush's visit as the return of Christ to save the savages from themselves. Why do we watch this stuff? Television...The only thing left to decide is when will we turn the damn thing off.