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writing for godot

DEVELOPMENT: Capitalist or Socialist?

Written by J.Kelvyn Richards   
Saturday, 18 February 2012 02:50
Once upon a time, I believed that 'development' and 'globalisation' were strategies designed by multinational corporations, the G8, the G20, the UN, and the World Bank,
to provide aid to poor countries of the world and help their people to improve their living conditions and enable more to survive and thrive. As a result of my English State schooling, I was even persuaded that colonialism as practiced by the British was for the benefit of the native peoples across the world.

I no longer believe these propositions.

The richest countries, as represented by the G8, and more recently the G20, and the multinational corporations that drive 'free market capitalism', have exhausted most of the resources of the 'developed world', and are now looking everywhere else for new sources of key materials.
Capitalist development is the exploitation of resources and materials so as to gain maximum profits for shareholders and corporations in the home country. Globalisation and development and colonialism and slavery, are strategies of intervention by these countries and corporations for the benefit of shareholders, not the world's poor!

International Development : legacies of Slavery and Colonialism:
and Imperial Hegemony.

What are the legacies of slavery and colonialism ?
Analyses carried out by researchers at the Centre of International Development of Columbia University; by Anup Shah of Global; Greenpeace International, and reporters with Corporate Watch, Ethics World, Global Witness, and Aljazeera, the Congo Week among others, reveal that enslavement and colonialism have resulted in the dislocation of communities, the imposition of colonial inequality, the perpetuation of long term debts, the constant introduction of virulent diseases, as well as the permanent failure of cooperative partnership.

The peoples of Africa have suffered brutally at the hands of European and Arab powers for more than five centuries. A massive slave trade helped undermine state formation and may have depopulated Africa’s coastal regions.
In the nineteenth century, the slave trade was replaced by direct colonial rule leading to a century of exploitation by European imperial powers, which left very little behind in terms of education, health care, and physical infrastructure.
During the Cold War politics of the late twentieth century, many African countries found themselves to be battlegrounds in a global ideological struggle between capitalism and communism – what could be called ‘ideological colonialism’.
It is not surprising therefore that most of the countries in Africa are poor and indebted and bankrupt. For example, the World Bank identifies Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia as among the 40 most heavily indebted poor countries in the world [HIPC].
With very low domestic saving and low rates of market-based foreign capital inflows, there is little in Africa’s current dynamics that promotes an escape from poverty. Furthermore, given that most of the world’s population is poor, trying to survive on less than $10 a day, there is little hope that the peoples of Africa, many of whom are on $1.25 a day, will gain an acceptable standard of living.
Today, some people, in Washington, and London, and Paris and Berlin and Beijing still argue that bad governance in Africa is the outcome of Africans being incapable of governing themselves, and that the moral thing for rich countries to do is to re-colonise Africa for its own good, providing qualified people from other countries to be in charge, until the Africans are ready to take over. This is a call for a return to Imperial colonialism. It fails to recognize that such a system had been tried on a massive scale between 1800 and 1939. Such a call for neo-colonialism is an expression of the rampant and persistent racism that has condemned the peoples of Africa to exploitation, slavery and colonialism over 500 years. The difficulties confronted by these ex-colonial countries are more to do with exploitation and enslavement and racism than to do with community incompetence.
Ethics World informs us that often the local communities of indigenous peoples do not benefit from any capitalist projects, because the labour is imported, and all the profits are directed to the home office.
Greenpeace recently revealed that companies working in the poorest countries in the world take great pains to avoid paying taxes and fair wages. For example, Swiss logging company Danzer, operated tax evasion schemes such as transfer pricing, offshore accounts, use of expatriate labour, to divert profits from its forestry activities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, depriving the local people of an estimated 7.8 million euros in tax revenue.

Something new is needed.
New initiatives are being taken by the African Union, and funded by China.
January 2012 has seen the African Union negotiating deals and projects with China [now one of the richest countries in the world, and enjoying the benefits of budget surpluses.] Unfortunately, at the moment the Chinese authorities are adopting a typical 'colonial' stance by providing the money, the workers, and the administrators for any project such as the new AU headquarters in AddisAbaba. It is important that the Chinese investors realise the need to provide opportunities for employment and administration for the African workers, not the imported Chinese workers in Africa.
Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University proposes that in the future, there is a critical need for deepening regional integration and investments in cross-country transport, energy, and communication infrastructure, as promoted by the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), an agency of the AU. Individual countries do not have the resources to develop such projects. They must cooperate and negotiate to devise plans, obtain materials, technology and interest-free funding, in order to take new initiatives.

The countries of Africa may have been colonized by the UK, France, Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Italy, Holland, Germany but they have not benefited, and remain among the poorest countries in the world with limited social resources. The native peoples have been subjected to virulent diseases from Europe of the type directly transmitted between humans ( HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, measles, syphilis, influenza), or transmitted by intermediate hosts such as rats, bearing bubonic plague and mosquitoes carrying malaria.
Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University proposes that colonial domination frustrated long-term economic growth of the colonized regions through several mechanisms, such as the relative neglect of key public goods, especially primary education and primary health care of the indigenous populations; the suppression of higher education among the colonized population; the creation of oppressive political mechanisms such as forced labor and head taxes to extract resources from the local population; and the active suppression of local industry in favor of cash crops and extractive industry.
Anup Shah, suggests that the scramble for Africa in the 19th century disrupted the creation of communities and countries. Artificial borders were created by Imperial Europe at the 1884 Berlin Conference simply by drawing lines on a map. These artificial boundaries created by colonial rulers had the effect of bringing together many different communities that had little in common, and separating those who had everything in common! And thereby laying the foundations of many conflicts that disrupt Africa today! Colonial administrators started to take control of the new colonies, and settled to form dominant European minorities. Of course, local people were attracted to help these administrators by creating claims to power, and promoting the interests of their own families.
It is not surprising that the struggles to build local communities, and efforts to raise levels of prosperity for all, are proving difficult after many years of slavery and colonialism, betrayal and collaboration with the colonialists.

The Centre of International Development of Columbia University indicates that in the post-colonial age, the rich countries, including those colonial powers such as UK, France, Germany, have often used their majority vote within the International Monetary Fund to impose draconian adjustments on poor debtor countries. For twenty years, many of the poorest tropical countries have had insolvent governments, burdened by un-payable external debts. The international system has delayed or blocked the obvious solution: debt cancellation. The policy has contributed to continuing low growth and instability in the so-called Highly Indebted Poor Countries, the extremely poor and highly indebted countries that are subject to special scrutiny and policies of the international creditor governments. Corporate Watch regularly reminds us that the prosperity of ex-colonies continues to be hindered by corruption and illegal practices by corporations, as well as by institutions of government. The continent of Africa is rich in resources and minerals. But its peoples remain poor and indebted. Many other countries and corporations want access to the riches, but do not want to pay a fair price. They use their racism as the excuse for the exploitation of the lands and peoples of Africa!

'Development' must become a socialist strategy for the alleviation of poverty not a capitalist strategy to line the pockets of the rich!

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Discourse: Social Ecology/Development


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