Saturday, February 27, 2010

Child poverty alongside "Youth" riches

A new OECD working paper on trends in poverty and income inequality in South Africa has found that more than half of all South Africans (54%) are poor but, among children below 10, as many as two out of three are poor. "This implies that among all poor South Africans, one in three is a child," said the OECD.

The national poverty line of 515 rand a month, or about US$4 a day, which is used for national policy making. International comparisons of lower-income countries often use the World Bank poverty line which is US$2 a day. Under this lower line, the aggregate poverty rate in South Africa is 30% but if the standard OECD poverty line, which is below half the average income, the poverty rate is 26%.

The report, based on the most recent information on incomes available, for the year 2008, indicated that South Africa's levels of income inequality and income poverty did not decrease between 1993 and 2008. According to some estimates, aggregate inequality even slightly increased. Inequality between racial groups decreased, especially during the 1990s. This did, however, not lead to a decrease in the aggregate because inequality within population groups increased, especially among Africans.Rising inequality within the labour market - higher unemployment and greater wage inequality - lies behind the increased levels of inequality.

"Poverty has increased, especially in urban areas...Race-based redistribution may therefore become less effective over time relative to policies addressing increasing inequality within each racial group and especially within the African group."

While at the same time we read that Julius Malema , head of South Africa's ANC youth league , has been accused of making 130m rand (£11m or $17m) from state contracts since 2008.He reportedly used some of his earnings to buy two lavish homes and three luxury cars, including an Aston Martin.
Malema has always presented himself as someone who understands poverty, because his mother was a single parent who worked as a cleaning lady in rural Limpopo.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Little changes -Little change

Socialist Banner reads

Every government claims to be in place for the purpose of making life more pleasant for its people, through poverty alleviation or eradication programmes. But government after government has consistently failed to truly alleviate the poverty of the masses.Despite the enormous wealth of Nigeria , poverty still has a strong grip on a large chunk of the populace. It shows that the anti-poverty programmes have largely failed.Every year, huge sums are appropriated for the purpose of fighting poverty yet, the malaise still manages to widen its reach on the Nigerian people

Rating agencies have continued to show that the indices of poverty in Nigeria are even worsening, with over seventy per cent of the population said to be living below poverty lines-living on less than a dollar a day. With many still having great difficulty affording three square meals a day, or unable to attend to health challenges, or even a decent accommodation, the Human Development Index (HDI) of Nigerians is bound to be low. Rather than improving, the poverty level of Nigerians is rather increasing. One thing that this shows is that all claims to poverty alleviation in the country are sheer sloganeering.

Bodies like the Ministry of Social Development and Welfare, which used to impart skills on the populace, are no longer visible. The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) which ought to train school leavers in various skills to enable them be self-employed and self sufficient has not been empowered to play its role. The NDE, over the years has been starved of funds to carry out its functions. Anti-poverty projects and programmes have consistently failed to achieve their goals.

Aside from the obvious fact that extreme poverty engenders widespread hunger, malnutrition, lack of clean water, death from easily preventable diseases, lack of access to healthcare, inadequate shelter, illiteracy and general lack of education, the poor also suffer from a plethora of other, less obvious inequalities. They have no influence decisions which affect their lives and livelihoods. They have no bargaining power. They have no lobbyists. They have no importance alongside corporations. They are there to be ignored, discounted.

The marginalisation of the masses is no accident, no simple mistake or miscalculation but an inevitable consequence of the deliberate policy of those who hold the power; those whose aim is to accumulate more and more of the land, resources, wealth of any kind or just money, because this is what the capitalist system from which they benefit requires of them and deliberate policy, too, of those in governments who do their utmost to assist, sometimes in the hope of gaining a few steps on the ladder. Those at the top has no will to fix the system except to their own advantage .

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Uganda's Foreign Legions

Socialist Banner has previously drawn attention to the number of Ugandan's fighting for the interests of the capitalist class in Iraq to escape the effects of capitalism and our attention has once more been drawn to the issue by this article.

An estimated 15,000 Ugandans have been deployed to Iraq by private security and recruitment agencies. The Ugandans protect military bases, airports and oil drills there. Some call it lucrative work. Others call it slavery.

The driving force behind the massive recruitment of Ugandans is the creeping privatisation of war. A trend catalysed by the British-American invasion of Iraq in 2003. The incessant search for affordable cleaners, mechanics and security guards has led the Americans to Africa, which has a surplus of labour and a weak job market. Widespread military experience makes Uganda all the more suitable as a recruitment area. Moreover, many inhabitants of the former British colony speak decent English and Uganda is a military ally of the US. Ugandans are scrambling to get jobs in Iraq, even though the salaries are constantly being reduced and the work environment is anything but pleasant.

“Ugandans are exploited in Iraq. This is modern day slavery,” said Gideon Tusigye deployed to Iraq in 2006 and 2007 as an army physician.

Sam Lyomoki, a member of parliament who has long been a champion of employees’ rights, called for an inquiry into the maltreatment of Ugandans in Iraq said “They [the recruitment agencies] lie,” said Lyomoki. “These companies, which are often politically connected, are looking to turn a profit at the expense of Ugandans.”

Askar Security Services, which has deployed 5,000 soldiers, is run by the sister-in-law of general Salim Saleh, who is the brother and military advisor of the Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni. Mwesigwa Rukutana, who was minister of employment until last year, owned a company that recruited Ugandans for work in Iraq. Rukutana is now minister of higher education.

Recruitment agencies currently have their eye on Afghanistan, which they hope will provide them with new business once Americans withdraw from Iraq.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No Green Revolution for Africa

the push to privatize government functions and insistence upon "free trade" that is too often unfair has caused declining food production, increased poverty and a hunger crisis for millions of people in many African nations, researchers conclude in a new study.Market reforms that began in the mid-1980s and were supposed to aid economic growth have actually backfired in some of the poorest nations in the world, and just in recent years led to multiple food riots, scientists report Feb 15 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.The sophisticated techniques and cash-crop emphasis of the "Green Revolution" may have caused more harm than help in many locations, the study concluded.

Poor farmers who had no land security, made $1 a day and had their life savings of $600 hidden under a mattress. "These people were then asked to compete with some of the most efficient agricultural systems in the world, and they simply couldn't do it," said Laurence Becker, an associate professor of geosciences at Oregon State University. "With tariff barriers removed, less expensive imported food flooded into countries, some of which at one point were nearly self-sufficient in agriculture. Many people quit farming and abandoned systems that had worked in their cultures for centuries."

Many people in African nations, Becker said, farm local land communally, as they have been doing for generations, without title to it or expensive equipment -- and have developed systems that may not be advanced, but are functional. They are often not prepared to compete with multinational corporations or sophisticated trade systems. The loss of local agricultural production puts them at the mercy of sudden spikes in food costs around the world. And some of the farmers they compete with in the U.S., East Asia and other nations receive crop supports or subsidies of various types, while they are told they must embrace completely free trade with no assistance.

"A truly free market does not exist in this world," Becker said. "We don't have one, but we tell hungry people in Africa that they are supposed to."

Historically corrupt governments continue to be a problem, the researchers said."In many African nations people think of the government as looters, not as helpers or protectors of rights,"

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Black Diamonds of South Africa

Once again , Socialist Banner demonstrates for fundamental change to our lives it has to be the system that we change and not just only swapping our the rulers around .

We read the poor represented 72 percent of the population of South Africa in the last year of apartheid in 1993. It now stands at 70 percent.

According to the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit, seven out of 10 South Africans are poor, if the upper poverty line of R949 per person per month is used.Using the lower poverty line of R515 a month, there were about 22 million poor people in South Africa in 1993 and this rose to 26 million in 2008.

The report, titled Recession and Recovery produced by the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation said social assistance grants over the past 15 years "has done little to reduce inequality". Last year South Africa overtook Brazil as the country with the biggest gap between rich and poor.

Agnes Ntnluli said: "Now we are free but we are not happy ... we have no jobs, we are hungry"

“Before [in the apartheid days] the pass laws were a problem. Then they would have bulldozed us they just leave us here with nothing, just stinking toilets,” said Beauty Busisiwe Kubheka.

The new black middle class hang out in trendy coffee bars and restaurants. These “black diamonds” are the most visible sign of capitalism's progress.
“They are the new generation. They look down on us. We were just foot soldiers in the liberation struggle and have not really benefited... ” Benjamin Mabala said.

Azar Jammine, the Econometrix chief economist, notes that South Africa remained one of the most unequal societies in the world. Citing Bureau for Market Research figures,75 percent of South Africa's population earned less than R4,000 a month while 4 percent earned more than R60,000.
He believed that growing inequality - fuelled by the upper income earners regularly increasing their incomes by up to 50 percent a year - appeared to "have exacerbated the crime rate" as the destitute turned to crime to survive.

“I remember when Mandela came to Soweto after leaving prison to give a speech. The place was crazy. Everybody believed a new world was coming. Now, we are very much disappointed. They don’t meet our needs. When it rains the shack leaks. It is worse than before, though now they say we have freedom of expression” Mrs Kubheka said.

Just having the vote and an end of racist laws do not make people free.

A former Robben Island prisoner, Mzi Khumalo, took over a major company, JCI , and he was asked whether he would be sympathetic to the unions. "I have spoken to the unions at JCI and made it clear: we are here to run a business. I'm not for any of this brotherhood stuff." Guardian, 22 April 1999.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

More Corruption

Further to the previous blog , Socialist Banner's attention was drawn to yet another article on Africa's corruption and Western complicity .

A US Senate report says that, in 2007, President Omar Bongo of Gabon brought $1m in shrink-wrapped $100 notes into the US in a suitcase; that Teodoro Obiang, son of Equatorial Guinea's president, moved "more than $100m in suspect funds through US bank accounts, including $30m to purchase a residence in Malibu"; and that, between 2000 and 2008, Jennifer Douglas, fourth wife of a former Nigerian vice-president, "helped her husband bring more than $40m in suspect funds into the US".

Several African leaders, their relatives and associates use Western banks, including British ones, to move hundreds of millions of dollars out of their countries and into accounts and companies they controlled. The banks through which these funds were channelled include Bank of America, Citibank Private Bank and HSBC.The report also says that a number of US professionals – lawyers, lobbyists, and estate agents – were used "to funnel millions of dollars in illicit money into the United States". It adds, in remarkably forthright language for an official report, that "politically powerful foreign officials, and those close to them, have found ways to use the US financial system to protect and enhance their ill-gotten gains".

Teodoro Obiang,is now the subject of a US criminal investigation. His salary, as minister of agriculture and forestry, is $60,000 a year. Yet, between 2004 and 2008, according to the senate report, he moved "more than $100m in suspect funds through US bank accounts, including $30m to purchase a residence in Malibu and $38.5m to purchase an aircraft". The home was the sixth most expensive home bought in the US that year, and Mr Obiang's spending did not stop there. Two US lawyers set up shell companies for Mr Obiang, and the report lists some transactions through an account for one of them, called Beautiful Vision, at Bank of America. In one four-week period in late 2004, cheques made out included: $82,900 to Naurelle Furniture; $137,312 to Ferrari of Beverly Hills; a further $332,243 to Ferrari; $80,287 to Gucci; $59,850 to "Soofer Gallery Rugs"; and a total of $338, 523 to Lamborghini Beverly Hills. Further cheques in the first half of 2005 were: $55,193 to Dolce & Gabbana, and $58,500 for the installation of a Bang & Olufsen home cinema system.
Back in West Africa despite Equatorial Guinea being sub-Saharan Africa's third biggest oil producer, life expectancy for men is only a fraction more than 50 years, and the infant mortality rate is 12 times worse than in the US.
Omar Bongo died in 2009 and his place was taken by his son, Ali. Both men, says the report, "amassed substantial wealth while in office, amid the extreme poverty of its citizens". US investigators discovered that Ali Bongo's wife, Inge Lynn Collins Bongo, formed a US trust in her maiden name, opened accounts in its name in California and used them to receive "multiple large offshore wire transfers... and used the funds to support a lavish lifestyle and move money along a network of bank and securities accounts benefiting her and her husband".

Saturday, February 06, 2010

BAE corruption in Tanzania

BAE deal with Tanzania: Military air traffic control – for country with no airforce.

Cabinet ministers Claire Short and Robin Cook had tried to stop the sale of the hugely expensive radar to the poverty- stricken Tanzanians. But, Tony Blair as prime minister, overruled them and insisted that the deal had to go through.

Cook ruefully muttered that it seemed that Dick Evans, BAE's then chairman, seemed to have "the key to the garden door of No 10".

The World Bank and the International Civil Aviation Organisation judged that the 2001 £28 million purchase was unnecessary and overpriced. The Serious Fraud Office discovered that a third of the contract's price had been diverted into secret offshore bank accounts. The SFO believed that this money was used to pay bribes to Tanzanian politicians and officials.

The SFO discovered that the money had gone into a Swiss bank account controlled by Sailesh Vithlani, a middleman of Indian extraction with a British passport.

He left Tanzania after the country's anti-corruption unit accused of lying to investigators. He is listed as wanted by Interpol.One Tanzanian politician, Andrew Chenge, was forced to resign in 2008 after investigators discovered more than £500,000 in a Jersey bank account he controlled.

The arms giant yesterday agreed to pay out almost £300m in penalties, as it finally admitted guilt over its worldwide conduct.BAE will not face international blacklisting from future contracts, because it has only admitted false accounting, not bribery.The SFO said it was no longer in the public interest to pursue individuals now that it had settled the case with the company.

Dick Olver, the chairman, admitted that BAE "made commission payments to a marketing adviser and failed to accurately record such payments in its accounting records ... The company failed to scrutinise these records adequately to ensure that they were reasonably accurate and permitted them to remain uncorrected."

Uh-huh , just a book-keeping oversight , wasn't it , and of course those are not worthy of criminal proceedings.

Clare Short Development minister at the time , said "Everyone talks about good governance in Africa as though it is an African problem, and often the roots of the 'badness' is companies in Europe."

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Un-natural resources

"Too often the political, ethnic or geographic aspects of war are considered to the exclusion of its economic drivers ... In countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, natural resources must be recognised not only as part of the problem but also as an essential part of the solution," said Mike Davis of Global Witness.

Socialist Banner have been on record that it is indeed economic causes that have been at the root of all conflicts .

The Global Wtness solution calls for UN peacekeepers to be mandated to deal with the economic dimensions of conflict. "The problem with natural resources is not so much the nature of resources themselves, their abundance or their scarcity, but how they are governed, who is able to access them and for what purposes"

Indeed , Socialist Banner agrees that the problem is fundamentally who controls natural resources - a capitalist class through their their respective nation-states , or the workers through a common-wealth of free associations .
Although there is criminal incompetence of Africa’s post-colonial black elites (the people who call themselves presidents, prime ministers, and in some instances kings and princes of the continent have waged war on their own people and plundered the continent’s wealth to ever bulging Bank account in Switzerland), the main problem of the continent is capitalism.