Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Real Pirates

Further developments from the previous post has been reported in the press .

South Korea's Daewoo Logistics this week announced it had negotiated a 99-year lease on some 3.2 million acres of farmland on Madagascar ,about half the size of Belgium , That's nearly half of Madagascar's arable land, according to the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization, and Daewoo plans to put about three quarters of it under corn. The remainder will be used to produce palm oil — a key commodity for the global biofuels market.

In Madagascar, where about 70% of the country's 20 million people live below the poverty line.

The island's residents also rely on WFP emergency food relief programs because of the frequency with which they're struck by cyclones and droughts. Given those hardships, the prospect of a corporate giant growing hundreds of tons of food to be consumed by people and animals in Korea raises "ethical concerns," says David Hallam, head of the FAO'S Trade Policy Service in Rome. "If we have another world food crisis, and you have a poor country where food is produced by foreign investors, and then repatriated, that is ethically and political tricky," Hallam warns.

Al-Qudra Holding, an investment company based in Abu Dhabi, said in August it planned to buy 400,000 hectares of arable land in countries in Africa and Asia by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

It's a modern day version of the 19th-century scramble for Africa, an unsustainable land grab. Along with agribusiness, corporations and food traders, investment banks and private equity funds have been jumping on board, seeing land as a safe haven from the financial storm.

It is difficult to see how such investments can deliver long-term food security. The investors will want a quick return. They will practise an industrial model of agriculture that in many parts of the world has already produced poverty and environmental destruction, as well as farm-chemical pollution. Furthermore, many local communities will be evicted to make way for the foreign takeover. The governments and investors will argue that jobs will be created and some of the food produced will be made available for local communities, but this does not disguise what is essentially a process of dispossession. Lands will be taken away from smallholders or forest dwellers and converted into large industrial estates connected to distant markets.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Africa will feed the world

Gordon Brown , the British prime minister recently made a speech and referred to Africa .

"...we cannot solve climate change without Africa; nor can we solve the food crisis without Africa. We need a fully financed ‘energy for the poor’ initiative; where commercial sources of capital dry up support from the international institutions; and we need to support agricultural development. In Africa in the past, “feed the world” meant that we helped to feed Africa. In future, if we do things right, we will do best by enabling Africa to feed the world..."

I think that is fair warning that we can expect a new type of exploitation , as rich capitalist countries re-new the plunder of the African continent for its resources and raw materials to stave off economic problems in the developed world .

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Trade in Children

Under capitalism everything - and everybody - is a commodity to buy and sell .

In recent years, inter-country adoption has been governed by stringent international guidelines like the Hague Convention - designed to prevent trafficking and ensure adoption is in the best interest of the child. Liberia has not signed up to the Convention. Liberia's adoption laws were written in the 1950s and deal only with domestic cases. They make no mention of inter-country adoptions.

That loophole opens the door for anyone to set themselves up as a private adoption business and to operate with near impunity. Orphanage owners receive a state subsidy for each child they take. And some of those children can then be adopted internationally for fees as high as $15,000. The BBC reports .

"...Posing as a couple seeking to adopt to Canada, we went undercover to meet self-styled Bishop Ed Kofi - who runs one of the largest private children's homes in Monrovia from which around 100 children have been adopted in recent years. Mr Kofi bragged that the adoption business is in "full swing", and promised that for $5,000 he could arrange an adoption. Having met us just twice, he also offered to deliver a child to us - something which flouts all international guidelines on child protection. He shrugged off concerns about child welfare as "rumours"..."

Most of the children in orphanages like the one Mr Kofi runs are not actually orphans. Most have at least one living parent, many were placed there by desperately poor parents. Unscrupulous agents go into shanty towns and slum villages, convincing parents to give up their children on the promise of free room and board and a good education - something few families can afford. Most of the orphanages where the children are housed fall well below minimum standards. A UN report published in 2007 documented rampant abuse and neglect and "inhuman and degrading treatment of children".

Vabah Gayflor, government minister, and one of the most influential women in cabinet, said : "Many of these institutions have been established by people who are exploiting. People are getting scores of money out of this and they want to make sure that they stay in business. If you have Liberian children being marketed like this it's a shame. It is a shame."

It's a shame but it's Capitalism . Everything and everybody has a price

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

No copper-bottomed capitalist market

the phrase copper-bottomed began to be used figuratively to refer to anything that was reliable and trustworthy . Well ,that certainly doesn't apply to the capitalist economics of the copper industry in Zambia .

Copper accounts for 80 percent of Zambia's foreign earnings but now the fall in international copper prices is causing unease in Zambia.

"...the pricing is not as profitable as we would like it to be..." general manager of the Zambia Chamber of Mines, told IRIN

"We are foreseeing a situation where our mining companies may begin to cut down on further investment programmes because of [making] less money and, ultimately, this may not just affect their profits but even their employment base," Bob Sichinga, an economist and former MP who served on Zambia's parliamentary mining committee.

"Because of the reduced resource base, government will face problems in social investments for such critical sectors as education and health," Saasa , a consultant economics professor at the University of Zambia ,said.

The prices of key commodities have rocketed over the last three years in Zambia: a 25kg bag of maize-meal now sells for $18.00, up from $11.00 in 2006; a litre of petrol (gasoline) has risen US 75 cents over the same period.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Starving and Penniless

Socialist Banner has previously reported on the effect of the capitalist market will have on Africans when bio-fuel production begins to dominate agriculture . Yet another article highlights the problem .

For the last 10 years , Ashenafi Chote's plot in southern Ethiopia had kept his family of four alive by supplying enough food to eat and even surplus to sell, in a region often ravaged by drought and food shortages.But since swapping from a subsistence to a biofuel crop several months ago, his once treasured source of income has dried up and, worse still, he and his family are now dependent on relief from aid agencies.

His eyes full of regret: "I made a mistake.I used to get four quintals (100 kilograms, 220 pounds) of maize from my land from every harvest and earn more than 2,400 birr (240 dollars). But now, I have lost my precious source .I shouldn't have accepted their offer"

In the sprawling farmlands surrounding Wolaytta district, 350 kilometres (215 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa, the thorny foliage of castor bean stalks is slowly replacing the swaying maize fields most locals depended on. As impoverished and landlocked Ethiopia was choked by high oil prices, the government allocated more than 400,000 hectares (988,000 acres) for biofuel crops development as part of a national strategy enacted last year.Its development was, and still is, highly encouraged, with foreign companies given incentives and a relatively easy process to start up production ventures.
But in Wolaytta, where nearly half of the two-million population do not have enough to eat, several thousand farmers like Ashenafi are complaining that they have been duped into growing biofuel crops on fertile land at the expense of maize, cassava and sweet potato, the region's staples.Global Energy Ethiopia, an American-Israeli subsidiary which initially acquired 2,700 hectares to grow castor beans -- a toxic plant whose seed provides castor oil, lured them with false claims of continuous harvests and financial incentives. Over 9,500 farmers are now growing the crop in Wolaytta, of which a significant amount are using very arable plots.

"Experts who told us we could have up to three harvests a year and they would pay 500 birr (50 dollars) in labour costs," Borja Abusha, said."But it has now been six months without a harvest and they haven't respected their promise to cover costs. We are left with nothing."

the cost of anti-science

A recent Harvard School of Public Health study said 330,000 deaths were caused by former South Africa's former President Thabo Mbeki South Africa's his 1999 decision to declare available drugs toxic and dangerous. Also as a result of Mr Mbeki's policies, nearly 35,000 babies were also born HIV-positive between 2000 and 2005. The study, led by Dr Pride Chigwedere, accused the South African government of "acting as a major obstacle in the provision of medication to patients with Aids".
The authors said that under the leadership of Mr Mbeki, the government had restricted use of donated anti-retroviral drugs and blocked funds for more than a year from the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The Cost of Freedom !!! ???

Refugees who haven't eaten for days cheered when the first humanitarian convoy in a week arrived Monday at their camp, but the jubilation turned into anger when U.N. workers dumped soap instead of food
U.N. officials admit hunger at the Kibati camp, where tens of thousands of refugees have sought safety, is dire but say their first priority is resupplying clinics looted by retreating government troops. Medical supplies and tablets to purify water were the priority in this shipment . The soap and plastic jerry cans for water distributed in Kibati on Monday were meant to help with sanitation amid fears of a cholera epidemic.

Food, however, was the critical issue for most people. A World Food Program official in Rutshuru, asked about the lack of food, said the group had supplies that would be delivered as soon as possible but reminded reporters that two truckloads of their food aid was destroyed by soldiers before the town fell on Tuesday last week.

"Everybody is hungry, everybody" said Jean Bizy, a 25-year-old teacher

Onesphore Sematumba, of local think tank Pole Institute, watched with horror as thousands of children lined up in the sun for hours at the Kibati camp to get tokens that will allow them to queue for high-energy biscuits. The children thought they were waiting for the biscuits.
"We really need to re-think humanitarian aid," Sematumba said. "If you can't help people, don't create false hopes."
U.N. officials said the token system was necessary because of the unrest that broke out when aid workers tried to distribute biscuits directly.

Both government and rebel forces are accused of gross human rights abuses .

When asked about the suffering his offensive has brought to a quarter million people, Nkunda replied: "That's the cost of freedom."

It's a cost that the poor and the vulnerable will pay , and in the end , all for very little freedom

Saturday, November 01, 2008

The war in the Congo

The Socialist Party has always explained war as having its root cause within the capitalist system . It is our contention that war has always been fundamentally economic .

The blood-bath that has been taking place in the Democratic Republic of Congo is no exception . Our case is supported by this article .

"The conflict in eastern Congo is being fueled and funded by a tussle for mineral resources that end up in cell phones, laptops and other electronics... Rebel militias and Congolese army troops are fighting each other for control of mineral-rich land.

"In some ways (mineral exploitation) has become the means and the ends of the conflict," said Jennifer Cooke, the director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in New York."There's virtually no government control over the eastern Congo and much of the conflict there is a scramble at the local level and at the regional level for access to land and the minerals underneath them."

Colin Thomas-Jensen of Enough Project, a Washington-based human rights organization stated "Basically, the rebels control the mines. They are selling them to middlemen who sell them to the next buyer and it goes up the chain. There have been instances where minerals are simply backpacked ... taken to a small airstrip and taken out of the country by a small plane and presumably sold to a small dealer across the border."

The international value of Congo's raw materials is demonstrated by a $9 billion deal between Congo's state-owned mining company and a consortium of Chinese companies to extract 10.6 million tons of copper and 626,000 tons of cobalt in return for improving infrastructure. During the 1998-2002 war, current President Joseph Kabila and his father Laurent, who was then president, sold off copper and diamond mining rights to Zimbabwe and Angola in exchange for their support.

Global Witness undertook research in the eastern area of Congo — in north and south Kivu which includes Goma — in July and August.The group said it uncovered substantial evidence of armed militias opposed to Nkunda working side by side with units and commanders of the Congolese national army, know by its acronym FARDC, in the exploitation and trade of minerals there. Global Witness found they were involved in trade as well as exploring and mining the ore.
"They have really consolidated their economic business .They have systems entrenched for doing business."

Workers to-day has nothing to fight for ( except the class war and for socialism ).

The interests of his masters are not his interests.They has no reason for fighting in his master’s interests against those with whom he has no personal quarrel. When we are robbed and the robbers fight over the booty, that fight is none of our business.

It is time the working class struggled for its own interests.