Originally posted at The Real News Network.
LAST Friday, I took a 10-minute walk from an old hotel to another old building, a conference hall. About 300 others were on the same walk on the warm and sunny day.
It didn’t seem anything remarkable or newsworthy. But this was no ordinary walk. Sixty years ago, on this same date, a small but powerful group of men and women took the same walk and then launched a movement that snowballed into a united anti-colonial and post-colonial battle.
We had come to commemorate and celebrate the anniversary of the Bandung conference of Asian and African leaders, all of whom had just won Independence or were on the verge of doing so.
The same grand Savoy Homann hotel was where the leaders had stayed, and they had taken the historic short walk on the Asia Africa Road to the Merdeka Building.
More than one-third of the rural population in developing countries lives on less-favored agricultural land, according to global spatial datasets from 2000. How, then, does this distribution influence the incidence of poverty in these countries?
To address this question, our paper “Poverty and the Spatial Distribution of Rural Population” investigates two types of spatial distributions across 83 developing countries over a 10-year period: rural populations on less-favored agricultural lands and in less-favored agricultural areas. Less-favored agricultural lands are constrained by difficult terrain, poor soil quality, or limited rainfall. Less-favored agricultural areas include less-favored agricultural lands plus favorable agricultural land with limited access to markets (i.e. five hours or more travel to a market city with a population of at least 50,000).
In this third part of a four-part interview, regular Triple Crisis contributor Jayati Ghosh summarizes some major themes in her work and thought, including the prospects for the transformation and revival of socialist movements, the transfiguration of the world capitalist economy and the reproduction of structures like the core-periphery division and landlord domination, new challenges of international labor solidarity and environmental sustainability, and the way forward towards egalitarian societies. (Parts 1 and 2 of the series are available here and here.)
Challenges of Solidarity and Sustainability
D&S: The ways that capitalism has linked together economies all over the world—trade in goods, international investment, international migration—directly pose the need for labor internationalism. Is it possible to develop the necessary kinds of labor solidarity when that means reaching across divides, say, between native and immigrant, or the workers of one country and with those of another country half a world away?
JG: It is obviously necessary for such bonds to be forged—it is even essential, because global forces cannot be fought only within nation states. But clearly such bonds are getting harder to forge. However, that is not only because of the material reality of physical differences and geographical distances. It is also—and possibly more crucially—because of changing perceptions of community, identity, oneness, and difference among various social groups. So workers from different countries see themselves as competing against one another in the struggle to keep their jobs and prevent their wages from falling.
In this second part of a four-part interview, regular Triple Crisis contributor Jayati Ghosh summarizes some major themes in her work and thought, including the prospects for the transformation and revival of socialist movements, the transfiguration of the world capitalist economy and the reproduction of structures like the core-periphery division and landlord domination, new challenges of international labor solidarity and environmental sustainability, and the way forward towards egalitarian societies. (Part 1 of the series is available here.)
Change and Reproduction of Core and Periphery
D&S: A half century ago, the most influential radical view of economic “underdevelopment” focused on the dominance of industrial-manufacturing “core” economies over raw-materials-producing “periphery.” Has that story changed in the current era of neoliberal globalization, with many developing countries moving out of mineral and agricultural exports and into export-oriented manufacturing (often “offshored”)?
JG: Geographical and locational changes in productive structures do not negate the idea of “core” and “periphery” operating within capitalism. Global capitalism has, throughout its history, experienced such shifts.
This summer, I completed with a graduate student of mine a major report for the Economics of Land Degradation Initiative, which is entitled Land Degradation, Less Favored Lands and the Rural Poor: A Spatial and Economic Analysis. This study had three objectives:
The table below summarizes our findings over 2000 to 2010 for the distribution of rural populations on less favoured agricultural land (LFAL), in less favoured agricultural areas (LFAA), degrading agricultural land and improving agricultural land.
A sizable proportion of the rural population in developing countries is concentrated on LFAL, which are subject to low productivity and degradation due to steep slopes, poor soil quality or limited rainfall. In 2000, over 1.3 billion rural people in developing countries, representing almost 36 per cent of the rural population, were located on these lands, and their numbers increased to 1.5 billion in 2010 (35% of the rural population).
Summary of spatial distribution of global rural population, 2000 to 2010
Developing countries are all low and middle-income economies with 2012 per capita income of US$12,615 or less (World Bank 2014).
Independence has been achieved, yet has to be constantly defended, continuously renewed and expanded as the process of de-colonisation is on-going and new threats arise.
This week marks the beginning of our 58th year of Independence [in Malaysia]. Much has been done to entrench sovereignty and independence on our land. But much more needs to be done.
Colonialism did a comprehensive uprooting of traditional systems and replanted them with new ways, methods and systems to produce a chaotic and confusing amalgam of people, social patterns and economic modes. We are still shaking off the vestiges of that colonialism, whose shadows still fall large. We are still in the process of building independent policies, structures and systems. This is so in post-colonial developing countries in general. As the leaders of the Group of 77 and China stated in their summit held in Bolivia recently, the process of de-colonisation is incomplete and on-going, even decades after the winning of Independence.
That is a good reminder. In particular, the structures and levers of the global economy are still under the domination of the rich developed countries. The former colonial masters may have let go of formal control of the colonies but they made sure to set up a system in which they could continue to control the important components of world finance, trade and economy.
This is the fourth of a five-part series by regular Triple Crisis contributor Ali Kadri, Senior Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore, and author of Arab Development Denied: Dynamics of Accumulation by Wars of Encroachment (Anthem Press).
Is “Arab socialism” viable? And if so, is it desirable?
One must critically analyse “Arab socialism” within its historical context. In times of immediate post-independence autonomy (the 1960s to the late 1970s), state dirigisme, high public investment rates, and more egalitarian redistribution characterised all Arab states. A particular set of Arab states followed the path of “Arab socialism”—they nationalised industry and finance and implemented agrarian reform as in Egypt, Iraq, Algeria, Libya, and Syria—which resulted in significant welfare gains. However, half-hearted Arab socialist egalitarian processes, initiated from the top down, excluded the working class from participating actively in defending their gains, deepened labour-process regimentation, suppressed autonomous labour representation, and exacted differential gains accrued to the state bourgeoisie via wage system exploitation.
On the opposite side of Arab socialism, in the monarchic Arab states—the Gulf, Morocco and Jordan—regime stability was ordained by the extension of U.S.-tailored security arrangements and the not-so-hidden fact that the monarchs practically owned national resources and managed redistribution solely for the purpose of stabilisation in relation to the U.S.’s anti-Soviet positioning. In Arab socialist states, which sided with the USSR, a colonially-weakened national bourgeoisie that was short on financing and cornered into commercial practices, could not deliver in terms of development. Moreover, its tainted reputation as a colonial subsidiary had not provided it with the necessary ideological support to govern. Single-party Arab socialist regimes rose to power and supplanted the rise of bourgeois democratic governments. The Arab socialist state, through populist appeal and the capacity to generate its own finance, acted as a surrogate industrial bourgeoisie in handling capital’s production and appropriation measures. The state rose as the principal owner of the means of production and appropriator/distributor of the social product. The private sector shrank but still absorbed a significant chunk of the labour force in artisanal and petty farming undertakings. State ownership existed side-by-side with a constrained private sector. In hindsight, it was inevitable that private sector expansion would recommence when the state bourgeois class required more economic space to grow and the political climate ripened for ‘free market’ policies and openness—as happened since the early 1980s, or more conclusively, in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union fell.
This is the third of a five-part series by regular Triple Crisis contributor Ali Kadri, Senior Research Fellow at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore, and author of Arab Development Denied: Dynamics of Accumulation by Wars of Encroachment (Anthem Press).
In your work you have argued that the Arab state is at the “behest” of foreign powers as regards resources. Please explain.
Development in a developing and class-divided society depends on the ruling class’s vested interest in capacity building. I also propose that, necessarily but not exclusively, the ruling class tendency to expand its wealth by its mode of integration with the global economy outweighs its nationalist or pan-Arab zeal. After the fact, the cant of Arab or pan-Arab nationalism has been the sentimental veneer behind which anti-integrationist policies have been implemented. Neither the country’s own working class nor the peoples of Arab nations have been integrated into a unifying wealth making process. In a word, the Arab ruling classes, as is the case of other ruling classes, place the concerns with which they accumulate first on their agenda. What has occurred in the Arab world under relentless imperialist assault is the gradual disengagement of national industrial capital (de-industrialisation), after which only commerce bereft of industrial production remained and the merchant mode of accumulation became the dominant mode around which society has come to be organised. So the class in charge no longer reproduces itself (creates the economic and social conditions for its expansion) from production in the national economy, but principally from grabbing national assets, divesting and expanding in the greater sphere of the international financial market.
This is the first of a two-part series on capital flight from Africa by regular Triple Crisis contributor Léonce Ndikumana. The series is drawn from a Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) working paper, available here, forthcoming in Celestin Monga and Justin Y. Lin (eds.), Handbook of Africa and Economics, Oxford University Press.
Part 1: Causes and Consequences of Capital Flight
At the turn of the century the story of Africa has changed, from that of hopelessness to exuberance in the face of yet another African renaissance. Growth surged in the continent, even weathering the storm of the Great Recession of 2008-09, with Africa emerging as the second fastest growing region in the world after Asia. Despite this growth resurgence, however concerns remain. The most fundamental concern is that growth has not been accompanied by commensurate reduction in poverty. Moreover, it has been characterized by high inequality, and generally it has not been broad-based. From a long-term perspective the question is whether this recent growth resurgence is sustainable. In particular, the issue is whether the current saving rates are sufficient to support high and sustained growth and development.
Domestic saving in African countries has remained low, leading to high investment-saving gaps and increased dependence on external capital. A key reason is the inadequate performance in domestic saving mobilization in the public sector and in the private sector. But a factor that has been often overlooked is the leakage of resources through capital flight. The financial hemorrhage of the continent is a both a chronic problem and a looming crisis. The levels of capital flight have exploded over the past decade. Thus, efforts to build a solid base for long-term growth and development in Africa must involve strategies to improve efficiency in public and private domestic resource mobilization as well as policies to curb and prevent further capital flight from the continent.