Saturday, 16 October 2010

Looting Africa -- by Patrick Bond

The statistics below, from Bond's writings 2005 and Looting Africa 2006, can be most easily found online in his Debating Global Justice Strategies (Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa, 2009).

They raise serious questions about the way that mainstream economists interpret Third World aid and debt, natural capital and ecosystem services.

Third World repayments of $340 billion each year flow northwards to service the $2.2 trillion debt. This is more than five times the G8's development aid budget (and ten times the level of Northern donations once we subtract the 'phantom aid' which never reaches the masses).

Christian Aid estimated the damage done to African countries by trade liberalisation at $272 billion since 1980.

14 African countries favoured by the G8 - and four others in Asia and Latin America - will get a few crumbs of relief, costing the G8 less than $2 billion per year to service (on $40 billion in outstanding debt).

Based upon the Third World's role as a carbon sink, an estimated annual subsidy of $75 billion flows South to North.

World Bank economists [ignore] the damage done to local environments, to workers' health / safety, and especially to women and vulnerable people in communities around mines. And unpaid household and community work is still left out of national statistical accounts, reducing women's labour to a nil value.

How much natural capital value is removed from Africa? In South Africa, the value of minerals in the soil fell from $112 billion in 1960 to $55 billion in 2000, according to the UN, while Africa as a whole suffers negative net annual savings.

Adding not just oil-related depletion but other subsoil assets, timber resources, nontimber forest resources, protected areas, cropland and pastureland, the Bank calculates that Gabon's citizens lost $2,241 each in 2000, followed by people in the Republic of the Congo (-$727), Nigeria (-$210), Cameroon (-$152), Mauritania (-$147) and Cote d'Ivoire (-$100).

In addition to mineral depletion worth 1% of national income each year, the Bank acknowledges that South Africans lose forests worth 0.3%; suffer pollution ('particulate matter') damage of 0.2%; and emit C02 that causes another 1.6% of damage. In total, adding a few other factors, the actual 'genuine savings' of South Africa is reduced from the official 15.7% to just 6.9% of national income.
See also Wikipedia on the Jubilee movement, virtual water exports, natural capital, genuine savings (aka Hartwick's Rule) The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (TEEB), Bank of Natural Capital, UNEP's green economy, NFB film Who's Counting, and S.W.Peck on industrial ecology. All contradict neoliberal economics.

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