The Guardian 9 February, 2005

Voices of the World Social Forum

"Filipino migrants are all over the world. Why? Because they cannot make enough money to care for their families in the Philippines.

"The government spends less than 1 cent per person per day on health care. Hospitals are now charging for services that used to be free. Just a short time ago, a man with diabetes got complications and rather than be a burden to his wife and children he took his own life.

"Public health is becoming a commodity. 'Cost effectiveness' is becoming the criteria for determining who gets health care.

"We are organising on the grassroots level, establishing community health programs that include traditional medicines. What we are seeing is a global policy, a worldwide effort to privatise health care. It's important, therefore, to build a global response."

Dr Ana Marie R Leung, director, Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region, northern Philippines

"A big plan to privatise health, education, and water was stopped by a general strike of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. It was a long battle, and included sit-ins in wintertime on the steps of the National Assembly. These sit-ins lasted 45 days and on many of those days were sub-zero temperatures. Our organisation and others gathered a half million dollars last year to support the Iraqi people. It's important to connect the anti-privatisation movement with the anti-war movement."

Policy director of an association of 7000 physicians and other health care workers, South Korea

"The relatively new government of the Democratic Republic of Congo came to power after 32 years of a corrupt dictatorship. Our country faces big problems of infrastructure, education, and health. We have a big hydroelectric plant that provides power equivalent to 2000 kw/hr to industrial plants, but the general population has no electricity at all.

"We have debts amounting to $8 billion and then another $13 billion, yet we have no health program, no services to speak of.

"The tsunami killed 200,000 people. But in the recent years of war in the Congo we have lost four million people, the equivalent of 20 tsunamis. Many other nations have participated in these wars, and have backed warlords in the quest for gold and diamonds. The effects have been catastrophic. We have millions of child soldiers, for example, and more than two million refugees inside and outside the country.

"Now the international lending institutions want to install a government of these warlords in order to further wreck and plunder the economy. And they are pressing us to borrow up to $17 million more.

"We face a serious food problem, too. Because of the disasters of war we cannot produce enough food locally.

"It is the World Bank that supported the dictatorship and other actions against the Congo, but is now pressing us on these debts. We need cancellation of the debt. It's the only way to begin solving our problems. We want to increase our partnership and co-operation with others around the world on this issue."

Victor Nzuzi, affiliated with Committee to Annul the Third World Debt, Democratic Republic of the Congo

"We have no jobs, there's not enough money for schools. On top of that we have been subjected for many years to repression. There are many disappeared, many in prison. This is a problem of the region. Under the neo-liberal order, our finance minister took money offered to him by the international financial institutions, through corrupt negotiations. The policies of the big banks and corporations lead to hunger."

Nora Cortinas, of Madres de Plaza de Mayo, Dialogo 2000 and Jubilee South, Buenos Aires, Argentina

"The Paris Club has spoken about suspending debt payments for a few months to tsunami-affected countries. That's a moratorium, not a cancellation. "Nothing short of the complete cancellation of all multilateral and bilateral debts will provide relief. Debt is a tool of domination. We need to send a message to the creditors: Justice means cancelling the debt!"

Neil Watkins, coordinator, Jubilee USA Network, a coalition of over 70 churches, unions, and environmental groups, Washington, DC.

"Not only is another world possible, but socialism is also possible. And not only is socialism possible, it is vital and necessary."

Tran Dac Loi, vice-president of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisations

Compiled by Mark Almberg, People's Weekly World

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