Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Truth About Land Reform in Zimbabwe

From the BBC,

Zimbabwe's often violent land reform programme has not been the complete economic disaster widely portrayed, a new study has found.

Most of the country's 4,000 white farmers - then the backbone of the country's agricultural economy - were forced from their land, which was handed over to about a million black Zimbabweans.

The study's lead author, Ian Scoones from the UK's Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University, told BBC News he was "genuinely surprised" to see how much activity was happening on the farms visited during the 10-year study. "People were getting on with things in difficult circumstances and doing remarkably well," he said.

When Zimbabwe announced its radical agrarian reforms aimed at redistributing white owned farms to black workers, the Western media initiated a demonization campaign against the government of Robert Mugabe. The reforms were defined as bad economic policy, reverse racist and black farm workers were blamed for lower productive outputs. The study discussed above puts to shame the core arguments of Western critics and validate the necessity for radical land redistribution in other Southern African countries. Not surprisingly, there has been a lack of significant coverage of the facts on the ground. The reason is because the relative success of land redistribution in Zimbabwe invalidates the free-market orthodoxy to which Western sources say there is no alternative.

And that is exactly the reason why we should spread this story as far as possible.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Obama's Visit to India

President Obama is in India today courting one of the world’s growing economic powers on issues of trade, counter-terrorism and nuclear proliferation. The image of President Obama and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, signing agreements and addressing the “defining challenges of our time” are supposed to be a signal of international cooperation and democratic values but I can’t help but wonder how the most widespread issue facing the vast majority of people in both countries is off the agenda?

According, to the Hindustan Times of India,
“India has been ranked among top 10 global countries on income gain but widening disparity between rich and poor and gender inequality have been identified as major challenges in a United Nations report released on Thursday. The Human Development Report 2010 said India gained 15 positions on global Human Development Index (HDI) because of a high income growth since 1970. However, on overall HDI, Nepal, being the second fastest HDI gainer globally, did much better.”
India is not alone. As corporate profits soar and the burden of economic recovery is placed onto the backs of workers and the unemployed, the gap between the rich and poor is growing in nearly every country around the world including the United States. If wages internationally are declining and unemployment rising as corporations heighten exploitation and roll back social protections, then the only logical expectation is greater social instability, conflict and death at the hand of treatable diseases. In other words a decline in human well-being even if economies grow slightly.

The United States and India should be trying to bridge the rich-poor divide in their own countries and cooperating to ensure greater accountability among multinational corporations who skirt labor and environmental standards. Manufacturers, petroleum companies, and investors operating in North America and South Asia should be forced to follow unified codes of conduct that puts the breaks on ruthless competition. There should also be a coordinated attempt to promote fairer trade agreements between the two countries that create quality jobs in both nations and raise incomes.

There are a number of very important issues on the table during the President’s visit in India. But unfortunately, the most critical problem has been overlooked.