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Old 06-09-2005, 06:22 AM   #1 (permalink)
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So why won't Bush abolish African debt?

Quote:
Bush Deflates Blair's Africa Plan
By Jefferson Morley
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Thursday, June 9, 2005; 8:00 AM


The international online media is panning President Bush's and Prime Minister Tony Blair's press conference in Washington on Tuesday.

Commentators in Africa and the West say the combination of limited U.S. financial support to Africa and U.S. trade barriers to African agriculture undermines Blair's campaign to massively increase the wealthy world's assistance to the poorest continent.

Although Blair hopes to focus world attention on Africa in time for next month's G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, South Africa's Business Day says an opportunity has been lost:

"Only one crucial element is missing -- the wholehearted support of the US government. Unless President George Bush joins this effort in the five weeks before the summit in Scotland, Africa's hopes will be disappointed and the US's image in the eyes of a world that once looked to it for enlightened leadership will be further diminished."

"This really should be a no-brainer," said the Business Day editors. "At a time when the image of the US abroad is at rock bottom, Bush could go a long way toward re-establishing the world's richest country as the moral leader it was last century. He can do that by supporting his most reliable international ally in this crucial effort and taking to heart the world's poorest and most wretched place."

The Toronto Globe and Mail said Blair had to settle for "extravagantly wrapped morsels of food aid" and "vague promises of more to come from U.S. President George W. Bush."

Bush did endorse the idea of canceling debts for some African nations, saying "developing countries that are on the path to reform should not be burdened by mountains of debt."

News24 in South Africa saw " progress" in the Bush-Blair talks about debt cancellation. But the site also carried a news item on a South African bishop's call for " trade justice" for Africa at a conference in Washington. Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane said "developing countries spend $300 million to protect [African] trade through subsidies and tariffs" which hurt poor African farmers the most.

"If Africa increased its share of world exports by even 1 percent his would generate $70 billion. This is approximately five times what the continent receives in aid," Ndungane said.

The British newsweekly The Economist also called for "curbing the agricultural subsidies and health-and-safety regulations that keep African products out of rich-country markets. The current structure of agricultural protections not only hurts poor African farmers, but also, by levying disproportionate tariffs on many processed goods such as ground coffee, helps keep poor countries selling low on the value chain."

Andrew Rugasira, president of a Ugandan coffee company, wrote in The Guardian: "I only want the same opportunities that British entrepreneurs coming to Africa have access to. We went to the same schools and universities, and in the global community we are all looking for the same things: markets and equal opportunities to exploit them."

But Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, says the world's focus on African development is too narrow.

"The essential role of the environment is still marginal in discussions about poverty," Maathai wrote in the East African newsweekly. "While we continue to debate these initiatives, environmental degradation, including the loss of biodiversity and topsoil, accelerates, causing development efforts to falter."

"If we do not acknowledge that the environment is central to sustainable development and ending poverty, we run the risk of . . . degrading the resource base on which future development depends," she said.

Another commentator in the East African questioned Western aid priorities.

Paul Redfern reported that the brain drain of health professionals from Africa to the West continues. "For some African countries, notably Ghana and Malawi, it is now believed that there are more Ghanaian and Malawian doctors in the UK than there are in their own countries," he writes. Redfern also cites a recent report of British aid agencies Action Aid and Oxfam which concluded that "a huge proportion of current Western aid spending [in Africa] was being wasted or effectively recycled back to the donor country."

In London, the editors of The Independent said, "One could only imagine what anyone in Africa must have made of the performance of the two leaders, standing beneath the White House's vast crystal chandeliers."

One doesn't have to imagine. Africans were not overly impressed.
REF: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...060900463.html
Note that original article includes links to several references.


So, what I can't understand is why Bush would not support Blair and Brown's initiative to abolish African debt. What has the US to lose? Virtually nothing. What has it to gain? The thanks of millions of Africans and African leaders, much international kudos, international public opinion... to list just a few.

I'm Bush is a religious man; and a man who believes he is "righteous". So why can't he agree to this simple step that would hardly damage the US economy, but would make a world of difference to hundreds of millions of people?


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Old 06-09-2005, 07:00 AM   #2 (permalink)
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The only reason I see for *not* abolishing the debt and giving more aid is that many of the countries in Africa are run by corrupt despots who have been diverting aid money (whether they are loans or not) to their own coffers for years (a large amount of the money raised by LiveAid went to feed and equip the Ethiopian army rather than the starving people; The Democratic Repoublic of the Congo -- formerly Zaire -- has about 5 billion in debt but in the years that they have accumulated this debt their leader has amassed a personal fortune equal to about 4 billion... these are just two examples amongst many).

Abolishing the debt is just one side of the equation. The other side is responsible, democratic governments (with emphasis on responsible).
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Old 06-09-2005, 07:21 AM   #3 (permalink)
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I have mixed feelings about this....
Quote:
"Only one crucial element is missing -- the wholehearted support of the US government. Unless President George Bush joins this effort in the five weeks before the summit in Scotland, Africa's hopes will be disappointed and the US's image in the eyes of a world that once looked to it for enlightened leadership will be further diminished."
and this
Quote:
"This really should be a no-brainer," said the Business Day editors. "At a time when the image of the US abroad is at rock bottom, Bush could go a long way toward re-establishing the world's richest country as the moral leader it was last century. He can do that by supporting his most reliable international ally in this crucial effort and taking to heart the world's poorest and most wretched place."
really rub me the wrong way. I mentioned in another thread that Bush shouldn't have called out China in a public forum, I do think he deserves the same respect. This quotes seem to be thinly veiled threats that they in fact will be doing us a favor by restoring our good standing to the world. (Do you think Turkey or Iran care about African opinion?) Sits bad.

I do believe in eliminating Third World debt, but we also have a lot of problems here and dropping agriculture trade barriers with a continent so large, and so poor would be a nightmare for our farmers. If anything we need to increase our agriculture to replace some of the manufacturing we have lost.

Instead of abolishing all of the debt, what if we were to wipe half away, put a 10-year interest free moratorium on the other half, and then keeping that debt on the books we invest the same amount into infrastructure development for Africa that only American contractors can bid on?? It's charitable, fair, and sends a message to Americans that our debt and rising unemployment is a priority as well.
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Old 06-09-2005, 08:12 AM   #4 (permalink)
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I think this is a horrible idea. When are we going to stop with foreign aid. It's not our job to bail out every country. We already give out more money than any other country if I remember correctly.

Take a look at this thread to see how asuming debt is the root of our economic troubles in the US and it's only getting worse.
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Old 06-09-2005, 09:00 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by samcol
I think this is a horrible idea. When are we going to stop with foreign aid. It's not our job to bail out every country. We already give out more money than any other country if I remember correctly.
It's not all charity, samcol, think of it like this:

1) What is the likelihood we would see that money in our lifetimes anyway? Much of this debt was written off a long time ago. It becomes a game of politics. - That doesn't make it right, just reality.
2) By helping build a little bit of infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools) we give them the tools to become a productive trading partner of products or food that can be cheaper or possibly bartered with excess food (wheat, grains) we would have destroyed anyway.
3) This is classic "teach a man to fish vs. give a man a fish" A little today could avoid a much worse situation tomorrow.

I know that the people who we can't even sell on the need for basic healthcare in the US are laughing at the idea of this right now. But the economy and free trade requires that you feed it a bit to open new markets that will in turn feed you.

Why do we require the military to spread the ideas of democracy and capitalism? This is something we could do for $1 or $2 billion and help just as many people as we did in the Middle East!
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Old 06-09-2005, 09:28 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Yeah, i was thinking about this whole situation the other day, the "war on terror" which up to this point has been fairly unsuccessful, even by most republican's standards has cost something over $350 billion, while Bush seems unwilling to give even 700 million to an entire continent.
Charlatan brings up a very salient point, that whoever gives money/abolishes debt needs to be aware of where exactly the money goes, and frankly I think that having some US or UN oversight to ensure that the money is properly allocated would be a good thing.
Stepping outside the "building goodwill" political arena for a second, many of these countries desperately need assistance and regardless of the politics helping them just seems to be the right thing to do (IMHO).
I hope that the rest of Europe also steps in with aid (like Belgium, for instance, since they nearly destroyed Rwanda).
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Old 06-09-2005, 10:53 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ilow
frankly I think that having some US or UN oversight to ensure that the money is properly allocated would be a good thing.
The UN part made me laugh.

/checking pants
//still dry
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Old 06-09-2005, 04:05 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chickentribs
It's not all charity, samcol, think of it like this:

1) What is the likelihood we would see that money in our lifetimes anyway? Much of this debt was written off a long time ago. It becomes a game of politics. - That doesn't make it right, just reality.
2) By helping build a little bit of infrastructure (roads, bridges, schools) we give them the tools to become a productive trading partner of products or food that can be cheaper or possibly bartered with excess food (wheat, grains) we would have destroyed anyway.
3) This is classic "teach a man to fish vs. give a man a fish" A little today could avoid a much worse situation tomorrow.

I know that the people who we can't even sell on the need for basic healthcare in the US are laughing at the idea of this right now. But the economy and free trade requires that you feed it a bit to open new markets that will in turn feed you.

Why do we require the military to spread the ideas of democracy and capitalism? This is something we could do for $1 or $2 billion and help just as many people as we did in the Middle East!

1) Not much to dispute here-there's little chance of this money being repaid anyway, so it is mostly politics.

2) By creating a trading "partner" we are helping develop competition which will yet again undercut our manufacturing as another continent will be open for extremely cheap labor.

3) If any monies we gave came with advice, it would be denounced in the world, not only by other contries, but by those who recieve aid themselves. We would be seen as buying influence. Also, oftentimes a benefactor grows to be resented by the one(s) who are the beneficiaries of goodwill.

And there is no way to ensure that the aid given would go toward the intended purposes, or that any respectable democracies would take hold. Look above for examples of humanitarian aid diverted into the personal bank accounts of despots. Or look at the recent Oil for Food fiasco.

And again, there would be a low chance of actually gaining a trade partner, it would most likely be another China/India/Indonesia etc. where people are exploited for cheap labor to fuel the gains of the government. By simply giving aid we have no way to ensure that these countries would abide by any minimum work standards.

I think it's human nature more than anything else that makes a military necessary for the export of democracy. Dictatorships are often present only due to force, it takes a greater force to get those organizations out of power. Because without the threat, there is no viable reason for any autocracy to spontaneously disband.
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Old 06-10-2005, 10:43 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charlatan
The only reason I see for *not* abolishing the debt and giving more aid is that many of the countries in Africa are run by corrupt despots who have been diverting aid money (whether they are loans or not) to their own coffers for years (a large amount of the money raised by LiveAid went to feed and equip the Ethiopian army rather than the starving people; The Democratic Repoublic of the Congo -- formerly Zaire -- has about 5 billion in debt but in the years that they have accumulated this debt their leader has amassed a personal fortune equal to about 4 billion... these are just two examples amongst many).

Abolishing the debt is just one side of the equation. The other side is responsible, democratic governments (with emphasis on responsible).

I don't understand how your statement results in opposition to the elimination of public debt. It seems to speak to the opposite conclusion: despots have taken aid money and enriched themselves with it. Yet, we still require the aid money to be repaid by the public even after those despots have been overthrown (or still exist).

Either way, the public is paying back money certain persons have stolen. How do you conclude that is proper?
Why should we not dispense with debt incurred from corruption if the public purges the corrupt official?
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