Rich but Cussed States


The horrendous September 11 terrorist attacks in the US made President George Bush concede that his go it alone policies in the world would not pay. The horror of that day which shocked the world made him realize that America’s military might, economic clout and technological superiority could not insure its own security, let apart in the world at large, even at home. It showed that a small group of frustrated and desperate people, trained in the US itself, could pose a serious threat to the US system and society.

Until then following his go it alone policy and the belief America knows better and he knows the best, he was cool to the Kyoto Protocol for global environmental protection indifferent to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and not in favour of the move to create an International Criminal Court. And he was not interested in supporting the move for Biological Weapons Control or a global agreement to curb illicit sale of small arms and light weapons, and sought to ignore the major Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. And to the amazement of the world, and many of the US experts, he placed much of his faith in his National Missile Defence System, otherwise known as ‘star wars’.

Senate majority leader Tom Deschele had deplored the President’s approach to these major agreements and moves and said; “I don’t think reasonable people can disagree about the merits of each of these individual agreements. Instead of asserting our leadership we are abdicating it. Instead of shaping international agreements to serve our interests we have removed ourselves from a position to shape them at all.”

The US indifference to the UN and the many associations affiliated to it was shown in the failure or refusal of its administration to pay their dues which handicapped such organizations greatly.

But now, President Bush is forced to concede that gross injustice anywhere, prolonged tyranny, excess of poverty and deprivation of a large number of people of their basic rights can eventually breed terrorism. And they can become a threat to the US when the US is seen as protector and promoter of tyrannical rulers, corrupt governments or the factors causing excess of poverty. In the Middle East in particular the US is seen as protector and promoter and financier of Israel which commits the most terrible atrocities against the Palestinians, while not conceding their right to a homeland of their own. Earlier the US was seen as the protector of many corrupt regimes in Latin America and some in Africa.

The US is today the chief promoter of globalization, and its spokesmen talk glibly of the many advantages of globalization. But if it has many advantages for the rich states it has also many disadvantages for the developing countries who are too far behind in the economic race. They are held back by a host of problems which beset them. And they cannot be wished away within a short time.

In an ideal world globalization can be really great. But we live in a very unequal world where some countries are far ahead and many far behind. The advanced countries want to move faster and see its many advantages, and the developing countries are not able to move fast enough because of their baggage in the form of sterile traditions of the past which cannot be jettisoned quick. Hence the gap between the rich and the poor is increasing.

The UN has set 2015 as the deadline for reducing poverty in the world by a half. For the poor people of the developing countries this seems a distant date, particularly for the starving and the under-nourished. But the global recession and the pre-occupation of the rich countries with themselves make it seem that even this modest target may not be realised.

Former President Bill Clinton now says: “The fundamental characteristic of this age is global inter-dependence: the globalization of the economy and culture, the explosion of information technology, advance in biological sciences, climate change and other problems – all are manifestations of a level of inter-dependence far exceeding anything the people who share this little planet had ever experienced. The great question of the 21st century is whether on balance this inter-dependence will prove to be positive or negative.?”  “This is my great fear”.

He says “The wealthy and educated people in the world who bear the greatest responsibility for developing this will fail to act on these ideas. And the people all across the world will be burdened with a world view, a sense of psychology that is too primitive for the opportunities and challenges we face.”

As Clinton says the people in the developing countries see the globalization taking place all around them. If some features of globalization help them many others hurt them unless they are able to catch up with them quick and put them to their own advantage.

In the area of culture developing countries with great civilizations and great cultural heritage see their arts being overwhelmed by the Western arts with their strong electronic projection. They see Miss India becoming Miss World or Miss Universe often. If Pizza Hut, McDonalds, and Kentucky Chicken become popular in Pakistan and around the world, Chinese and Japanese food are also becoming popular around the world.

The pop music of the West drives away the old music forms of Asia and Africa. TV channels are largely Western shows. The local people do not have the money to put to produce great shows or market them in a big way. In the cultural field the symbols of the West, loud and glamorous, reign supreme on the TV screen.

In fact what we see on TV is not the real culture of West with its rich artistic heritage but the loud and ubiquitous commercial culture and blatant commercialization of sex to promote sales. It is advertising which reigns supreme and not real Western Culture.

Much of that produces hostile reaction in some quarters in developing countries with great cultural traditions. The reaction to such commercialization of culture and sex in the Muslim world is strong. And that forces the Taliban not only put women in heavy and thick Burqua but also ban TV altogether.

When it comes to globalization in the economic sector the West wants the goods, money and services move freely. And now it wants agricultural products to move freely without heavy subsidies. But while the West has been subsidising its agriculture heavily, the developing countries have been subsidising their agriculture in a small way for want of financial resources. And our farmers fear that without such modest subsidy their exports will fail in the face of the onslaught of the heavily subsidised agricultural products of the West helped by the most advanced technology.

But when it comes to the movement of workers across borders the answer of the West is “no”. The workers can move between rich countries like the US or Canada or within the European Union. But not between the developed and developing countries.

And now following the fears of terrorism or other fears from outsiders from the developing countries, the movement of workers to the Western countries will be restricted further and they will be subjected to elaborate security checks.

India and Pakistan, which have about 20 per cent of the world’s population, have major population and unemployment problems. Forty per cent of the people in these countries along with those in Bangladesh live below the poverty line. These countries do not have enough capital to invest, develop and provide employment to their masses. And too little of western capital comes here. The capital from one rich country prefers another rich country with the US getting much of that followed by Europe.

And when China, burdened by a billion people earlier adopted a tough population policy and opted for a single child family, the West was too critical of that. But today China with 1.2 billion people is better off for having a manageable population and its economy is making rapid headway.

Even before globalization became a major economic factor in the world there has been globalization in the movement of money -money going from the poor countries to the rich states clandestinely. That was the money sent out by the corrupt and criminal elements from the developing countries, by crooked politicians, who had made too much through outright corruption, by tax evaders and traders under-invoicing and or over-invoicing their exports and imports. The West has its big banks to recover and invest such funds, and permitted scores of tax havens, too, for receiving and retaining such funds. Developing countries greatly impoverished by such siphoning off of their resources have been trying to get such vast funds repatriated but have received too little or no help from the rich states.

But now there is some activity on this front as the West fears that a part of such funds is diverted for funding terrorist activities as through Al Qaeda of Osama bin Laden. Hence, the West has set up a Task Force for checking such money transfers and block movement of funds through ‘Havala’.

But now there are fears that such checks will be only on movement of terrorist funds or funds meant for terrorist uses, and funds kept abroad by corrupt politicians and officials and crooked businessmen, criminals and smugglers, may not be affected. One report says that if such funds are unearthed and shifted to the countries they came from the economy of Switzerland will collapse and the same will happen to many major banks in the West.

Former Secretary of State of the US Mandeleine Albright says the Bush US Administration is now moving away from its ‘unilateral policy’ to a uni-dimensional foreign policy by focusing on terrorism. “They need also to be thinking about democratization and human rights and poverty and health and various economic issues.”

The fact is if the world wants a plane without tyranny, injustice and excessive poverty it must endeavour for authentic democracy, real social justice and a fair economic deal for all. Otherwise we will have pockets of terrorism here and there, and eventually they may link up and assert themselves, or demonstrate violently at the meetings of the IMF and the World Bank or the Group of Seven and wreck such meetings.

If the world’s leaders want a peaceful and just world they must fight excessive poverty anywhere instead of ignoring it. Gordon Brown, the British Chancellor Exchequr, says “September 11 proved what happens to the poorest citizen in the poorest country can directly affect the richest citizen in the richest country. And not only do we have inescapable obligations beyond our front doors and garden gates, responsibility beyond the city hall and duties beyond our national boundaries, but this generation has it in our own powers, if it so chooses, to abolish all forms of human poverty.”

The World Bank President James Wilfensohn has been saying the same thing for a few years. And the IMF Chief Horst Kohler now accuses the rich states of being selfish and unconcerned about the poor.

But how many countries are going to act positively, and make at least halving poverty in the world a reality by 2015, if not earlier? Globalization to be real, must be total and cannot be partial and distortedly segmental in a world in which small frustrated groups can hit the most powerful countries, which are seen presiding over an unjust or iniquitous world.