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It's not what you do that counts

Posted by Helen Friday, January 28, 2005

Jacques Chirac is at it again. He has announced at Davos that a much higher aid to the developing world should be financed from global taxes on aviation fuel, financial transactions or capital flows. Seeing that a number of developing countries are doing well out of international financial transactions and capital flows, this is rather an odd idea.

But then, if President Chirac really wanted to help the developing world, he and his country would not stand in the way of all attempts to make trade in agricultural goods free. Nor would France support every EU anti-dumping regulation. He would also support lifting all duty that is now placed in quite disproportionate degree on imports from developing countries.

President Chirac’s ideas were discarded by South African President Thado Mbeki, not because they are ridiculous but because such proposals have never before been put into place. There is some justice in that. Why keep posturing?

In parenthesis it ought to be noted that South Africa is potentially one of the richest countries in the world. What does it need to develop? Surely not indiscriminate aid. It should also be noted that one of the biggest problems in that country is AIDS and dealing with it has been impossible largely for political reasons with President Mbeki refusing to accept that it is a disease that needs medical attention. There have been cases of doctors and nurses harassed and persecuted because they tried to give medication to AIDS patients.

Prime Minister Blair has done what he always does and set up a Commission on Africa. It is once again to be central to the programme of the British presidency of G-8. Stop me if you have heard this before.

And who do you think was attacked for being rather mean? Yes, the United States. This time, the Americans fought back. Bill Frist, leader of the Senate, pointed in no uncertain terms to what happened after the tsunami and the fact that the US supplied the most aid most quickly when it was needed. Furthermore, the United States provides 40 per cent of the world’s disaster aid, arguably the only aid that is needed.

But hey, what does that matter? The story is President Chirac and his suggestions that he knows will never be put into effect.