The Guardian April 19, 2000


End Third World Debt

Last week 122 heads of state and other representatives of Third World 
countries met in Havana, Cuba for the G77 Summit. "It was the most 
important meeting of these countries ever assembled", said Fidel Castro who 
opened the conference. "Never before did mankind have such formidable 
scientific and technological potential, such extraordinary capacity to 
produce riches and well-being but never before were disparity and inequity 
so profound in the world."

Castro continued:

Two decades of so-called neoliberal structural adjustment have left behind 
economic failure and social disaster. Crises, instability, turmoil and 
uncertainty have been the most common words used in the last two years to 
describe the world economic order.

The deregulation that comes with neoliberalism has a deep negative impact 
on the world economy where speculative transactions amount to no less than 
three trillion US dollars daily.

The International Monetary Fund is the emblematic organisation of the 
existing monetary system and the United States enjoys veto power over its 
decisions.

It is high time for the Third World to strongly demand the removal of an 
institution that neither provides stability to the world economy nor works 
to deliver preventive funds to the debtors to avoid their liquidity crises. 
Rather, it protects and rescues the creditors.

Who takes responsibility when the adjustment programs bring about social 
chaos, thus paralysing and destabilising nations with large human and 
natural resources, as was the case in Indonesia and Ecuador?

It is of crucial importance that the Third World work for the removal of 
that sinister institution, [the IMF] and the philosophy it sustains, to 
replace it with an international  regulating body that would operate on a 
democratic basis and where no one has a veto right.

A viable way to do this would be by establishing a minimum one percent tax 
on speculative financial transactions which would permit the creation of a 
fund  in excess of one trillion dollars every year  to promote the 
real, sustainable and comprehensive development in the Third World.

Third World debt continues to feed on itself in a vicious circle where 
money is borrowed to pay the interest.

The debt is not an economic but a political issue and demands a political 
solution. It is impossible to continue overlooking the fact that the 
solution to this problem must basically come from those with resources and 
power, that is, the wealthy countries.

Today, the external debt is one of the greatest obstacles to development 
and a bomb ready to blow up the foundations of the world economy at any 
time during an economic crisis.

The resources needed for a solution that goes to the root of this problem 
are not large when compared to the wealth and the expenses of the creditor 
countries.

Every year 800 billion US dollars are used to finance weapons and troops, 
even after the cold war is over, while no less than 400 billion go into 
narcotics and one additional billion into commercial publicity which is as 
alienating as narcotics.

As we have said before, the external debts of the Third World countries are 
unpayable and uncollectable.

The neo-liberal discourse recommends commercial liberalisation as the best 
and only formula for efficiency and development. But the participation of 
the underdeveloped countries in world exports was lower in 1998 than in 
1953, that is, forty-five years ago. 

With an area of 3.2 million square miles and a population of 168 million, 
Brazil is exporting less than The Netherlands with an area of 12,978 square 
miles and a population of 15.7 million.

If Cuba has successfully carried out education, health care, culture, 
science, sports and other programs despite four decades of economic 
blockade, it has been thanks to its privileged position as a non-member of 
the International Monetary Fund.

In Seattle there was a revolt against neoliberalism. Its most recent 
achievement was the refusal to accept the imposition of a Multilateral 
Agreement on Investment.

This shows that the aggressive market fundamentalism, which has caused 
great damage to our countries, has met a strong and deserved worldwide 
rejection.

The technological gap between the North and the South tends to widen with 
the increasing privatisation of scientific research and its results.

The developed countries with 15 per cent of the world's population have 88 
per cent of Internet users. In the United States alone, there are more 
computers than in the rest of the world put together.

The developed countries control 97 per cent of the patents the world over 
and receive over 90 per cent of the international licence rights. For many 
South countries the exercise of  intellectual property rights is non-
existent.

The murky social results of this neoliberal race to catastrophe are in 
sight. In over 100 countries the per capita income is lower than 15 years 
ago. At the moment, 1.6 billion people are faring worse than at the 
beginning of the 1980s.

Over 820 million people are undernourished and 790 million of them live in 
the Third World. It is estimated that 507 million people living in the 
South today will not live to see their 40th birthday.

In the Third World countries represented here, two out of every five 
children suffer from growth retardation and one out of every three is 
underweight; 30,000 who could be saved are dying every day.

Two million girls are forced into prostitution; 130 million children do not 
have access to elementary education and 250 million minors under 15 are 
bound to work for a living.

The world economic order works for 20 per cent of the population while it 
leaves out, demeans and degrades the remaining 80 per cent.

As for the Group of 77, this is not the time for begging from the developed 
countries or for submission, defeatism or internecine divisions. This is 
the time to rescue back our fighting spirit, our unity and cohesion in 
defending our demands.

The world can be globalised under the rule of neoliberalism but it is 
impossible to rule over billions of people who are hungry for bread and 
justice.

It is the duty of responsible politicians to face up to this predicament by 
taking the indispensable decisions to rescue the Third World from this 
blind alley. Economic failure is evident.

Another Nuremberg is required to put on trial the economic order imposed on 
us that is killing of hunger and preventable or curable diseases more men, 
women and children every three years than all those killed by World War II 
in six years.

Castro concluded: "In Cuba we usually say: `Homeland or Death!' At this 
Summit of the Third World countries we would have to say: `We either unite 
and establish close cooperation, or we die!'"

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