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Eco-Economy: Looking back - with sadness

Published: Fri 28 Jul 2000 04:15 PM
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Looking back - with sadness
By Bob Anderson
It is well said, those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat the same mistakes.
Over forty years ago Nordmeyer seriously warned New Zealand to stay well away from the World Bank and the Internal Monetary Fund (IMF). One of our top economists, Wilf Rosenburg, said much the same. At the time these ominous warnings were given out we had 98% employment in our country and a "staggering" three hundred thousand dollar debt.
All over the world an apocalyptic vision of the world's future, formed by the destructive policies of the "New World Order," are causing grave fears in many nations. New Zealand is no exception. The global market will empower unaccountable corporate chiefs and dis-empower governments. The democratic values of her people will be warped by the economic imperatives of these giants encouraged and supported by the IMF. A pessimistic fear? I don't think so. Their chequered history of corruption and greed gives rise to a chilling realisation of what is to come. As Vandana Shiva, fighting for the poor farmers in the third world countries, said recently in an interview:
"No matter where you look, the IMF and World Bank is basically taking away the resources of the people, putting it in the hands of global capital, destroying the livelihoods of people in the name of efficiency and forcing destitution on millions of people. Its policies are nothing short of genocide."
In our own case, factories - unable to compete in the international market’ - close down at an alarming rate and ship out to use cheaper labour abroad. The Bendon factory, Clarks shoes, the South Island wool and paper mills - the list grows longer by the month. Matching this list, of course, is the dole queue, also growing correspondingly ever longer.
But we are constantly told by the WTO pundits that international boundaries and world trade make good sense. Good sense for whom? The 200 biggest companies in the world employ less than one-third of one percent of the global work force, but they control more than one quarter of the world's wealth .
As the corporations grow ever bigger and more powerful the planks of democracy begin to bend under the load of strict rules banning trade barriers - even when they protect the environment - and allowing even life itself to be patented. The TRIPS and other agreements, often put together in secret, ensure easy access for the transnational corporations to break down barriers and influence dramatically the democratic process of governments.
No wonder people are feeling helpless.
When travelling abroad I was always fascinated by the extraordinary diversity of people, goods, and their differing ways of life. No matter which country my aircraft touches down in today, I see folk wearing Nike shoes, drinking Coca-Cola and watching Days of Our Lives. Shops filled to overflowing with banal plastic rubbish and other "bargain" western consumer goods.
A rose red city half as old as time’is, of course, still there, but what of her people? The special smells and excitement of unknown places are marred by the flood of goods grown solely out of the need for corporate expansion. Having saturated their own markets, there is no alternative, but to conquer international ones in order to maintain shareholders’profit and growth margins. With the added bonus of a cheap labour force, they can't go wrong.
You do not require a first class honours in economy to predict the result.
It is clearly a no-win situation. Our unemployment list grows longer, our National debt increases, money is withdrawn from schools, hospitals and social services, and the overall state of the country follows the path of the third world.
As Sir Winston Churchill said, "charity begins at home." A government which is happy to let profits of its industries flow in and out of the country like the tide, will rapidly be left with only the mud flats of destitution for its people.
Robert Anderson Member Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics
http://www.psrg.org.nz
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