Monday, December 10, 2007

A scrap of paper

David Blair summed it up in the first paragraph of his article:
President Robert Mugabe has pledged to uphold "democracy and the rule of law" when a raft of African autocrats signed a declaration supposedly heralding a new era of open politics.
Couldn’t have put it better myself. So this worthless scrap of paper was signed by all those kleptocratic African autocrats and a number of EU government leaders, though not those of Britain, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Cyprus.

That is going to make all the difference to the people of Africa, I have no doubt.

Just to remind us of some African leaders who are not called Mugabe, Mr Blair adds:
President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan [pictured below], who seized power in a coup and is waging a brutal war in Darfur, also signed the "Lisbon Declaration".

Other signatories included Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian prime minister, who jailed the entire opposition leadership after staging a widely condemned election in 2005, and President Umaru Yar'Adua of Nigeria, who won an election denounced by every independent observer group for ballot-rigging and violence.

In all, 13 African leaders seized power by force and two inherited their positions from their fathers. None had any reticence about endorsing the declaration.
Furthermore, none of these signatories have shown the slightest intention of changing the situation in their respective countries.

That is not even touching the subject of the ongoing and apparently never-ending war in DR Congo, whose leader, whoever he might be at the moment, also signed the document that has considerably less value than the one Neville Chamberlain brought back from Munich in 1938. To be absolutely fair to Chamberlain he did not really believe Herr Hitler's word either (unlike Stalin who did) and continued Britain’s rearmament.

The document seems to have been full of pretentious waffle:
We are resolved to build a new strategic political partnership for the future, overcoming the traditional donor-recipient relationship and building on common values and goals in our pursuit of peace and stability, democracy and the rule of law, progress and development.
Some scepticism was expressed by the inevitable human rights NGOs, who seem to think that no international conference can go by without their extensive attendance.

The Portuguese Presidency in the person of the Prime Minister seemed happy:
But Jose Socrates, the Portuguese prime minister who hosted the gathering, said the summit had been an "extraordinary event", worthy of being "remembered as a milestone in the relations between Europe and Africa".
African dictators like Mugabe and Gaddafi, as well as others, were given a chance to sound off about the evils of Western countries and everybody went home happy. Of course, life expectancy in Zimbabwe will continue to be in the mid-thirties with the population of one of the richest countries in Africa continuing to depend on food aid (most of it from Britain) to survive even that long.

Despite grand pronouncements by the likes of Jose Socrates and Louis Michel, the Commissar in charge of the EU’s Relations with African, Caribbean and Pacific States, Development and Humanitarian Aid little seems to have changed in the relationship.

There will be no reforms in trade policies either in the EU or in African countries; there will be no reforms of the CAP or the CFP; there will be no changes in African governments’ protectionism and imposition of high taxation on everything imported, including life-saving drugs; there will be no changes in the corruption, the over-regulation and the impossibility of investment in Africa unless a very large part of it goes into the pockets of leaders, their friends and relations.

As Spiegel points out those trade agreements between the EU and African states remain in doubt, because African leaders insist that opening their economy to European imports would hurt local producers. Actually, it will hurt local politicians a lot more as competition will empower local consumers who outnumber local producers and local politicians. It will also possibly push local producers towards development and not just in the amount that is given in bribes to local officials.

Meanwhile Gordon Brown has once again displayed his entire ignorance of matters economic. Thanks to Tim Worstall, who sacrifices himself for the good of the rest of us and actually reads the Guardian regularly, we find this article.
Gordon Brown plans to harness at least 20 of the world's biggest multinational companies, including Google and Vodafone, to tackle a "development emergency" in the world's poorest countries and put the international community back on course to achieve seven UN development goals by 2015.

As a UN report released today shows limited progress in hitting goals intended to tackle poverty, education, health and sanitation, the prime minister has been holding talks with the internet and telecoms giants as well as other international companies including Goldman Sachs and Wal-Mart in an attempt to find ways of increasing growth in poor countries.
What on earth does he mean by planning to harness the multinationals? They would love to move into Africa and improve African lives in the process but are prevented from doing so by a combination of African governmental greed and obfuscation on the one hand and extended greenie NGO lobbying on the other.

The article provides two very fine examples of this lobbying:
Kevin Watkins, editor of the UN's annual human development report, said achieving growth without attempting to tackle inequality would not put the global community back on course to achieve the millennium development goals. Child death rates were two to three times higher for the poorest 20% of people and were falling more slowly than the average.

"We are all in favour of high growth," he said, "but there has been a failure in some high growth countries, such as India, to deliver on human progress because of inequality. The key to achieving the development goals is to concentrate on helping the very poor."

Peter Salama, Unicef's chief of health, said a priority was to get proper health systems running in sub-Saharan Africa and south Asia.
Official bodies tackling inequality,tend to provide neither economic welfare nor equality. Surely, the history of the twentieth century has taught as that. Yes, there is inequality in India but there is also a growing middle class, which is a prerequisite for stability and development in any country. It is missing in most African countries and has been deliberately destroyed in all countries around the world where the Communists experimented with equality.

Where multinationals do manage to move in there is a noticeable change in standards of living with government encouraged poverty being overcome. Gordon Brown might like to read this report on what the spread of cell phones has meant for Kenyans who can now overcome the difficulties that their government puts in their way if they want to extend their economic activity.

June Arunga, one of the authors, is pictured on the right.

It was the basis of a BBC documentary on the subject and an astonishingly enthusiastic account by Paul Mason, the BBC Newsnight business correspondent.
With one in three adults carrying a cellphone in Kenya, mobile telephony is having an economic and social impact whose is hard to grasp if you are used to living in a country with good roads, democracy and the internet.

In five years the number of mobiles in Kenya has grown from one million to 6.5 million - while the number of landlines remains at about 300,000, mostly in government offices.
Meanwhile, our former Chancellor of the Exchequer, now Prime Minister, seems to be unable to grasp the simplest principles of development. It does not happen without economic growth. How difficult is that to understand?

That Mr Brown finds it very difficult is demonstrated by the following comment:
We are half way to the target date of 2015, but a long way off track to our goals and face a development emergency. 2008 should be a development year and mark a call to action from everyone - not just rich and poor governments but civil society, faith groups, trade unions and even the private sector.
Even the private sector? Even? How exactly will civil society (whatever that may be), faith groups and trade unions achieve greater welfare in the developing world? Development means growth, the creation of wealth and the assurance that the wealth will stay in the hands that created it. Everything else is moonshine, smoke-screen or a useless scrap of paper.

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