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political magazine January 2005
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openDemocracy reports from the World Economic Forum taking place in Davos, Switzerland from 26-30 January.

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Finally I get to go to one of the Big Sessions, a massive plenary including Lulu, freshly arrived from Porte Allegre’s mixed reception (see WSF Blog), Gordon Brown, arriving in Davos presumably only after being assured that Blair has moved on, President Mkapa (Tanzania), Minister Sinscalco (Italy), Jeffrey Sachs, and Bill Gates…an all star, all male, cast tasked with ‘paying to overcome poverty’…or what the US facilitator nimbly names ‘the war on poverty’.

Mkapa kicks off the war facing a question on aid… ‘speaking from the perspective of a poor indebted country’…(hmmm…what a start)…commodity prices are unstable and unfair (okay…warming up), and there is no plan on the table to sort this out…Tanzania has incurred enormous debts and the risks fall entirely on us, we carry the burden of debt unilaterally…this is a policy of enrichment, not development….the UK Facilitator comes in ‘what a beautiful opening, let me turn to Mr Brown… ‘we have to create growth, and business development…we promised that we would not disable serious development efforts by restraining financing…some of the MDGs will not on current trends be met until 2065…this is unacceptable…80% of debt is owed to the multlaterals, and that is why we are proposing 100% relief on these debts…it can be done, and must be done…

Sachs…the UK, Germany and France have agreed to back up their financing commitments, the US is over $50 billion in the red on its base commitments…we don’t need to talk about it anymore, we just need to see people and countries doing what they have said they will do.

Gates…think about why the aid is needed, most people are in strengthening economies, but we have 2 billion people in countries and parts of countries which are in vicious cycles…we need the money to reverse this cycle, the scale of the problem is such that philanthropy is just not at the right scale…if we wait, people are dying…if we get $4 billion in the global vaccines initiative, we could save five million lives…its an amazing thing to say and think about.

Lula…we are all speaking very fast here, we are starting a new century and we all need to reflect on what happened in the last century…are we going to do something different, new, important. The gap last century between the rich and poor grew, we have to convince the rich to take away subsidies on products where we are more competitive…this is a structural issue and must and can change…we do need a new structure for new funds, we have to use existing structures, we have to raise taxes against arms sales, or on trade, or on monies held in tax havens…then we can work out how to allocate monies to health and education and infrastructure…hunger is a problem for those who are eating, not just for those who are hungry…I have just came from the WSF…

…then he was interrupted by the facilitator…

Brown…we have to face up to agricultural protectionism of $300 billion…we spend a dollar a week or less on child education in Africa, traditional funding mechanisms are just not going to do it…we have to look at new funding mechanisms…international tax systems are difficult, since countries can opt out…the international financing facility I am proposing is not perfect, but can help right now, with front loaded resources available…and then we the rich agree to service the debts incurred…Italy, France, Germany and the UK are behind this, developing countries are behind this…we could get this up and running this year if we pull together…we could use GAVI as a pilot, building on the 50 million vaccinations already delivered…we would push the $4 billion into the mechanism and then start really saving lives.

Mkapa…we already have a fund, through the ODA now, the 0.7 commitments…why not just cancel my debt and then we can spend our own money on such programmes…then we need no other mechanisms or facilities, we can fund the war on poverty ourselves, we can reform our economies as governments accountable to our people.

January 28, 2005 | Permalink


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