Richard North, 07/08/2004  

…what more can we do?


My colleague pointed out in an earlier blog [see A Rapacious Predator] that while the EU has rather proudly given £350 million in aid during the last year, it has managed to siphon off rather larger amounts in lost revenue from developing countries.

With the refusal to reform the sugar regime, as the blog points out, there were foreign exchange losses of about 494 million dollars for Brazil, 151 million dollars for Thailand, and 60 million dollars each for South Africa and India in 2002. Or, to make it quite precise, over £400 million has been stripped from the economies of these countries alone.

In another blog, my colleague has also explained that the EU is enforcing unnecessary traceability rules on Kenyan flower and vegetable growers, that are impossible for the many small ones to comply with. No doubt, as these hard working people go out of business, the EU will send more aid to help them out of the poverty it had plunged them into.

This pattern is found everywhere. In the third country fisheries agreements with Morocco, Mauritius and Sao Tomé among others, the EU consistently uses its economic and political clout (well, we have been told on numerous occasions that the purpose of all this integration is to make Europe’s voice more important in the world, but, perhaps, bullying weak Third World countries is not what most of us have in mind) to impose deals that puts the artisan fishermen of these countries out of business and prevents any development of the fishing industry, in order to let the large, heavily mechanized fishing boats of EU member states in, to take some of the pressure off the stocks in EU waters and political pressure off the various governments. As part of each unequal agreement, large sums are offered in aid.

The various Mediterranean and other Neighbourhood agreements, while offering large amounts of money to the countries of North Africa, the Balkans and former Soviet Union, all to be channelled through the severely criticized ECHO, disguise the fact that quotas, anti-dumping regulations and traceability rules (the latest craze and instrument for preventing developing countries from completing their development) slow down or, even, stop anything remotely resembling a fair trade between the EU and these countries.

By fair trade we do not mean an arbitrarily designed price that is paid by the country or organization that sets the price according to its own ideas, but a free trade that is open to all producers.

Not only is the aid offered in return for curtailed trade less than the lost income, it is also directly harmful. Trade would help the producers to accumulate capital, to invest; it would encourage western investors; the Third World and other developing countries would become richer. In particular, its most productive classes would become richer.

If we are worried about the environment and labour conditions, let us remember that care for both grow only in societies where the basic economic levels have been achieved. Therefore, instead of laying down inappropriate rules and then sending in aid the EU (and other western organizations) should help countries to become richer in order for them to start worrying about conservation and the hours children are allowed to work.

Instead we send aid, which, even if it ever gets there, goes to the governments, who are usually corrupt and unhelpful to the economically active classes. Aid breeds economic dependency, allows governments in politically underdeveloped countries to oppress the people, siphon off money or indulge in frightening foreign adventures. It also encourages the growth of the parasitical fonctionnaire classes, whose job it is to distribute the aid, not forgetting to cream off some for themselves. And so the cycle of deprivation, political oppression and corruption and economic inadequacy goes on with the help of that great organization, the European Union.

To be continued

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