Interdum stultus opportuna loquitur...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

G8Rant: Bono And Bob - Dupes or Stooges?

Note - from June 24th 2009, this blog has migrated from Blogger to a self-hosted version. Click here to go straight there.

The title is deliberately provocative; I admire the passion of both Bob Geldof and 'Bono' (even if I think U2 lost the plot before "The Joshua Tree"). However the recent G8 'decision' to 'forgive' African debt must be put into context.

Firstly, the debt-forgiveness is so conditional that it's unlikely that it will ever happen. Government promises are like that: made for the announcement, but never followed through. That's why UN chief Kofi Annan felt obliged to embarrass governments who made pledges to the Tsunami Appeal - saying publicly that governments often made large pledges but then never actually followed through and sent a cheque.

The G8 decision is no different - unless the governments of the indebted nations bend over and permit the kleptocrats from major international business to have their way with national resources, the G8 will renege.

Furthermore, the debt relief has a decidedly ulterior motive. At present, debt ceilings prevent IMF/World Bank lending to these countries. They can be aid recipients, but are effectively out of the debt market.

So debt 'relief' will enable these African governments to raise ... new debt.

And what do you think happens when that new debt is raised? It is spent - on things like infrastructure projects, and of course everybody's favourite government pastime - defence equipment procurement. Who does the spending? That's obvious - the recipient government.

But who does the construction of the projects (or the provision of the armaments)? Why, it's none other than Halliburton/KBR, Raytheon, General Dynamics... at inflated prices of course. Oversight of 'sovereign' projects is far less stringent that oversight of projects funded by aid money.

So the G8's move is a thinly disguised piece of economic imperialism; the conditions just make it a sweeter deal for the US and the other Imperial powers (because it forces the recipient countries to dismantle social programs, and to remove capital barriers).

I am a big advocate of genuine free-market capitalism - which of course includes free trade and low barriers to capital mobility; I do not believe that raising a wall around a country is in the country's best interests. However I also do not think that western financial institutions deserve to have the IMF and World Bank imposing conditions that prevent the recipient government from competing against the interlopers. Effectively, it's like owning a block of land that includes a fish and chip shop, and having a bank force you to give part of the land to MacDonalds as a condition of getting a bank loan for a new sign... and also forcing you to drop hamburgers  and fries from your own menu.

So Bono and Geldof - either unwittingly or as stooges - are accomplices in a massive 'bait and switch' game which will further  rape the worlds most resource-rich continent, and will enrich Western companies at the expense of the worlds poorest people.

And besides - if the West is so concerned about removing capital barriers (to enable their own financial powerhouses to exploit apparent differentials in capital returns) why is there no similar commitment to labour mobility? Instead of permitting free transfer of labour power across borders, we prefer to permit capital to migrate and exploit wage differentials rather than have those differentials eliminated through labour arbitrage (i.e., immigration). Immigration is a big contributor to the success of both Australia and the US - so why are we so keen to keep out willing labour?

Why would that be?  Why not simply permit untrammelled immigration?

Simple, silly - the people who write the rules have a little voice in their ear, and that voice represents the interests of  capital. Capital donates to political parties. Capital owns the media, and politicians know that if they don't do as they're told, there will be an 'expose' on telly about some of their misdeeds.

Why do you think there's been no interest in the Downing Street memo in this country? Because all of the mainstream media is in the hands of three men, all of whom have a symbiotic-parasite relationship with government; give us what we want, and agitate on behalf of capital, and we will limit our enquiries to shit that doesn't matter.

The flip side, of course, is that government spends loads of money advertising pointless crap ... which gives them some ability to influence even the limited self-directed investigations undertaken by Big Media.

At the moment the Government Ad campaign that shits me the most is encouraging everyone to use less water - when we have a farm subsidy scheme that encourages folks to grow rice near Cobram, in a fashion that uses 7500 liters of irrigation-sourced water to produce each $1 worth of rice at retail level.

7500 liters... that's almost 58 full hot water cylinders. Run your hot water tap until the water is cold, switch it off and let it refill and reheat, and then do it again. Do it 56 more times. That's how much water is used to make each 500gm bag of Australian-grown rice.

Then tell me to bother fixing a leaky tap.