iBlog: Poverty 'n' that...


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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Poverty 'n' that...

Regular readers will by now, I'm sure, have grown complacent of the diagonal strike in the top left corner of this blog-a-majig. The intention of putting it there four+ years ago was to get all the masses of readers to unite in making poverty history. As with most ideological woshippers of the church of the Latter day Teenager will no doubt have agreed at the time, there was no reason why foreign debt couldn't be written off alluding to wistful lofty daydreams about central African mud-huts with wifi and Mugabe scrubbing far right graffitti off the walls of the Hague in an orange jumpsuit.

However, making poverty history has fallen out of vogue recently. Limp wristed lefty student's arms swing unadorned with MPH bands; the G8 remain largely unpicketed by the group and the website itself only shows news feeds up to 2007 - and refers to the MPH movement in the past tense. This last is quite important as it means one of two things:

 1) Poverty was made history. Bono can stop clicking his fingers and Lenny Henry can stop with the tedius skits with the cast of The Office.
 2) The MPH campaign simply didn't work. Unfortunately, the ghastly truth is that *Poverty* (in spite of all its vulgar unsanitary, undemocratic, deadly connotations) is a relative term. One way or another there will always be a lowest rung of society, and if history/Marx teaches us anything it's that this lowest social strata will invariably be kept in repression to serve the means of the wealthy.

Okay, so maybe it's harsh to disparage the misty eyed dreamers who supported MPH when it was fashionable - after all - we're still talking about it now so you can't knock the public awareness it promulgated, but wrist bands alone do harrowingly little to subvert the econmic colossus that is the Western System.

Now before I was quite prepeared to accept this as the end of the story: A bastion of left wing ideology emerges from the flames of Western decadence and makes it listen to the other side of the coin - debt relief, trade justice and the exclusivity of the EU common market - then on meeting a wall of silence from Downing Street, the exponents slip quietly into their third year dissitations, and all the embers of MPH encourage now is a feeble `Keep Campaigning` half way down the home page.

However, there seems to be an intriguing twist in this tale. No, it doesn't involve the regeneration of the MPH foundation, quite the opposite, it's more of an anecdotal nail in the MPH coffin but it does go to show quite nicely how international redistribution of wealth simply doesn't work.

Let's look at the balance sheet of the mid-recession UK and any random LEDC nation in the belt running through central Africa.... Oh, I don't know, let's say: Ivory Coast. That'll do.

Ivory Coast debt: ~ $10bn, population 18m
UK debt: ~ £2,000bn (and counting), population 61m

Ivory Coast debt per capita $10,000,000,000 / 18,000,000 = $550 ( ~ $ 1 1/4  USD)
UK debt per capita = $2,000,000,000,000 / 60,000,000 = £33,300 ( ~ $ 54,500 USD)
Figures provided by the internets so are obviously right

Looking very very closely at the numbers in bold you might notice that as a nation, our citizens are more in debt than those whom MPH would so staunchly have us release from the clutches of `crippling` debt. It goes with out saying that these statistics are grossly manipulated but they do prove that as a country, our exchequer is in an inexcusably disturbing state.

Indeed, if Iceland are anything to go by, we might soon be requiring the IMF to write off our debt to whatever consortium is daft enough to be wiring money to the chancellor.

Our debt has nothing to do with MPH obviously, but to me it does serve as a stark reminder that although international altruism is essential to the morality of the model of a developed country, sinking our own ship to float theirs a while longer ends up bringing everyone to ruin. In fact, if by the very act of poorer nations borrowing from the West shows that between LSE and Wall St is financially the very backbone of the world, then surely now is the time to strengthen our fiscal stance and up the revenue of third world debtors. (I'm not saying we should, that would be counter-productive, I'm saying a Trotskyite attitude to the IMF does not work - at least not in a recession).

However, I heartily embrace MPH and all that it stands for.

My criticisms as outlined are the rationale to my thoughts on MPH, but they do not define my opinion on it, or any similar NGO. In spite of overwhelming evidence that debt relief cripples economies (who may not live or die off the interest paid but certainly balance their books on the asset), and in spite of the hollow pictures painted by the socilogy student with dreads and beads - I passionately advocate the sending of aid to impoverished nations. I am passionate about advocating the ease of conflicts and develop industries in agriculture in lieu of men earning a wage as combatants. I passionately advocate free market economies and the immediate abolishment of self serving trade embargos within the EU, US and PRC. I am passionate about democracy and I beleive it is worth more reluctently shed blood than any land or faith. I am passionate about making the Unions' (whom I so despise) dreams of minimum wage, welfare state, statutory holiday and workers rights all become basic human rights internationally. I am passionate about international communication, free speech, condoms, accessible health care, and transparent governments ...

And so no matter how feeble, no matter how uncircumspect, poorly thought through, immature, superficially vogue... No matter how glib, hollow, vague, naive or doomed to fail the proponent; I am passionate about any voice in any form that shouts it's time we take a step closer to making poverty a thing of the past.

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  • At 8:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    surely your debt per capita valuation needs to be re-based to respective GDP to make this argument valid

  • At 9:35 PM, Blogger Ben F. Foster Esq. (c) said…

    ... hence converting both to USD. Exchange rates would account for different values of currency.

  • At 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    the point is that the UK has more output than developing countires, hence is capable of managing higher unit debt


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