The purpose of this piece is to propose a way BRICS can provide support for “unlocking Africa’s potential” for development through regional cooperation. This objective was agreed upon by BRICS countries in their recent meeting in Durban (South Africa). Let me first explain the background before making my proposal.
In their latest meeting, the BRICS countries agreed, inter alia, on discussing with African leaders the way “Africa’s potential” can be “unlocked”. They also reaffirmed their support for regional integration of Africa, and the “industrialization process through stimulating foreign direct investment”. Nevertheless, while emphasizing their willingness to help promote regional integration and industrialization of the continent, by supporting infrastructure development, they have not mentioned the mechanism by which Africa’s potential can be unlocked, nor the way BRICS could provide the necessary support. Supposedly, their proposals to establish “the BRICS Think Tanks Council” and “ a new Development Bank” are relevant in achieving the aforementioned objectives.
In this video on the Real News Network, PERI Economist James Boyce discusses how industrialized agriculture in the United States endangers the wealth of genetic corn variation, and why hard-pressed small farmers in South America offer a potential counterweight.
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President Rafael Correa of Ecuador asks when and where Marx criticizes mega-mining. In various interviews, Correa, the mouthpiece of mega-mining and the expansion of oil exploitation, has asked, “Let’s see, señores marxistas, where was Marx opposed to the exploitation of non-renewable resources?” The response is easy. Marx and Engels criticized predatory capitalism, even if (in my opinion) their proto-ecologist critique was not a fundamental pillar of their work, which was more focused in an analysis of the exploitation of salaried workers and its consequences for the dynamics of capitalism.
But what would Marx have said of mega-mining and the ideas of President Correa? I don’t know enough German to guess, but I imagine it would be something like Pfui Teufel! In this respect, the pertinent concepts of Marxism that Correa doesn’t know or has forgotten are at least two: 1) Primitive or Original Accumulation of Capital (a concept revised by David Harvey in 2003 under the name Accumulation by Dispossession, very appropriate to the realities of President Correa’s oil and mineral extractive projects in Ecuador’s Amazon and other regions); 2) The interpretation of economics as Social Metabolism (for which Marx was inspired by Moleschott and Liebig). Read the rest of this entry »
If the international media are to be believed the world, still struggling with recession, is faced with a potential new threat emanating from China. Underlying that threat is a rapid rise in credit provided by a “shadow banking” sector to developers in an increasingly fragile property market. Efforts to address the property bubble or reduce fragility in the financial system can slow China’s growth substantially, aggravating global difficulties.
The difficulty here is that the evidence is patchy and not always reliable. According to one estimate, since the post-crisis stimulus of 2008, total public and private debt in China has risen to more than 200 per cent of GDP. Figures collated by the World Bank show that credit to the private sector rose from 104 per cent of GDP in 2008 to 130 per cent in 2010, before declining marginally in 2011. The evidence suggests that 2012 has seen a further sharp increase.
The recent growth resurgence in Africa has dominated the news in the media as well as debates in the development community over the past years. This growth resurgence has important features that are distinct from previous growth accelerations, and inspire the optimistic view that, maybe, Africa could be on a path of more sustained growth. A key feature is that, unlike previous growth episodes, recent growth is not just a natural resource story; in particular, it is not just an oil story. Many among the high growers are resource-poor countries whose economies are primarily agriculture-based, such as Ethiopia, Malawi, Rwanda, Uganda and others. Even in the case of oil producers such as Nigeria, agriculture has emerged as a substantial contributor to growth. If Africa is to “conquer the 21st century” it has to rekindle its love for its agriculture.
In the inaugural lecture of the Speaker Series of the African Development Policy program at the Political Economy Research Institute on 22 February 2013, Professor Calestous Juma of Harvard Kennedy School charted a new strategy for Africa’s future based on technology and innovation-driven agricultural development. In his recent book, New Harvest: Agricultural Innovation in Africa, Calestous Juma provides a blue print for an agricultural development strategy based on four pillars: science and technology, infrastructure, technical capacity, and entrepreneurship. But for this strategy to succeed, it needs new institutions to implement the programs, and, most importantly it requires a developmental leadership that can unify the various centers of decision making (e.g., ministries) and mobilize resource allocation around the agriculture development agenda.
This coming spring, a new Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is to be chosen. Nine candidates have thrown their hats into the ring to replace Pascal Lamy, the current Director General (DG). A recent forum and debate was held with five of the candidates at the Institute of Management and development (IMD-Lausanne, Switzerland), which prompted a lively discussion as to why the press is not paying more attention to the contest to replace Lamy or the candidates vying for this position.
In my view, the main issue is not the question of awareness of the press on the appointment of the DG. Far more important are key issues surrounding the functions and the philosophy behind GATT/WTO rules.
Two Latin American style economies, Argentina and Turkey, shared a common history until very recently. This “commonness” included a prolonged history of import substitution industrialization (ISI) with inward-looking, state-led development paths. Both economies had relatively high rates of growth during their respective stages of ISI and yet, found out that these paths reached their limits by late 1970s (Argentina perhaps half a decade earlier than Turkey).
Both countries had also witnessed a lost decade, respectively; Argentina the 1980s, Turkey 1990s. For both countries the period after was one of active reform. Both countries suffered from an almost identical type of financial crisis in 2001, while both of them were following an IMF-led disinflation programme that rested on exchange rate-based stabilization adventures. The contraction of the GDP and the burden of adjustment through rapid currency depreciation, banking collapses, and a severe rise of unemployment were also at comparable scale across the two countries. However, the two had divergent paths of adjustment subsequently. Turkey followed a strict orthodox adjustment programme under the auspices of the IMF, while Argentine chose to set its own course with debt default and an adherence to what is commonly referred to as a heterodox adjustment programme, while maintaining a strong anti-poverty and pro-employment stance.
Almost a decade into this divergence, Argentina was in the international news once again, now with a ruling by the district court of New York that the Argentinian government ought to pay $1.3 billion to a “vulture fund”: Elliott Capital Management. The ruling further contained a statement that prohibited third parties to aid Argentina in its efforts of debt re-structuring.
Here’s my most recent — and, I believe, imminently winnable — campaign: Let’s stop calling countries “markets” or “economies.” And while we’re at it, let’s not call any set of countries “emerging markets.”
It seems like a small thing – the change in terminology from “countries” and “people” to “markets” and “economies.” But it makes countries and people – in all their diverse reality – disappear. And it puts an unspoken premium on places that are buying lots of goods from U.S. corporations.
Some of us slip into this terminology ourselves, from time to time, without even thinking. But, when I hear my colleagues and students use it, I find myself cringing for all that is unsaid between the lines. And I cringed even more at a recent Washington, D.C. event when an Obama government official proudly introduced herself as someone with “emerging market” expertise.
Last year international food markets suffered their third price spike in five years. The trigger was a terrible drought in the United States—a major agricultural producer and exporter. An unstable climate met low levels of international grain reserves, while U.S. ethanol gobbled up maize supplies. The resulting high and volatile prices struck yet another blow at the world’s already fragile food systems.
This is exactly the scenario we warned of a year ago when we published “Resolving the Food Crisis,” a comprehensive assessment of the international community’s response to the global food price crisis. High and volatile food prices in international markets will continue until structural reforms to trade, finance and agriculture are put in place to address the real drivers of the food crisis.