Friday, August 10, 2007

Report from Africa

Participants at a regional seminar on poverty held in Swaziland are absorbing the cruel facts and figures that show the devastated face of the African continent in its state of underdevelopment.

Everyday 840 million people go hungry and more than two billion suffer from dietary deficiencies, a Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) official has said.

Jack Zulu , SARPN programme manager for economic dimensions, said that 12 million children die every year from preventable diseases, when immunisation could save three million of them.

He added that everyday 8,200 people all over the world die because of HIV/AIDS and 6,000 of these deaths occur in Africa.

He said pharmaceutical cartels declared profits of US$517 billion in 2003 .

He said expenditure on the military worldwide was more than US$1.5 billion per day in 2001.

He said that if US$1 billion per day in agricultural subsidies in developed countries was re-allocated, world poverty would go down by 75 percent.

He said that a cow in Japan receives US$4 per day in subsidies while the majority of Africans live on less than US$1 per day.

He said rich countries claim that free trade, without local subsidies or protection is the key to escaping poverty, but that when poor countries open up their markets to free trade, foreign firms enjoy huge advantages. This, he said, means local companies cannot compete favourably. Zulu said developing countries have a natural comparative advantage in producing agricultural goods but that the current trade system seems designed to undermine that advantage.

"There is a system of trade rules and regulations that allow rich countries and their companies to make lots of profits but prevent poor countries from developing their own economies," Zulu said.

Indeed , capitalism does favour the more powerful and good will is short in measure when it comes to offering undeveloped economies a hand up . Nor will the growth of a home capitalist class reduce exploitation .

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