Ali Kadri

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).

The series is based on an interview he granted to the Center for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics (LSE). The full interview is available here.

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.

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Léonce Ndikumana

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.

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Ali Kadri

This is the second part 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).

The series is based on an interview he granted to the Center for the Study of Human Rights at the London School of Economics (LSE). The full interview is available here.

Part 2: How would you define neoliberalism? What effect has it had on the Arab world?

The neoliberal policy package depends primarily on the creation of an enabling environment for the private sector, freeing the goods and capital markets and implementing “good governance.” The story goes: If price distortions are removed, capital-gains taxes that inhibit the wealthy from investing are removed, labour laws that make the market “rigid” (enabling labour stability on the job instead of being precarious) are removed, and financial regulations that impede the flows of capital are removed—at some immense pain to the working class in the short term—then after a period of welfare retrenchment, the market spurs into action delivering much needed capital stock, rising productivity, and rising wages in the long term. One ought to note in passing that despite the dismal record of this “trickle-down” story, it remains central to mainstream policies. When these conditions prevail, the neoliberal “theory” says, development prevails. However, this is not much of a theory.

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Ali Kadri

This is the first part 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).

Dr. Kadri is an affiliate of the Laboratory for Advanced Research on the Global Economy at the London School of Economics (LSE). The series is based on an interview he granted to the Center for the Study of Human Rights at LSE. The remaining parts will appear once a week for the next four weeks. The full interview is available here.

Part 1: What role do oil prices play in the global economy and why might it matter to human rights?

If one were to consider the sensationalised view of oil or the opinion that holds that oil is an uniquely suitable source of energy, then the case may be that the expansion of the world’s population—from around 2 billion in 1925 to 7 billion (currently)—could not have been possible without the energy that oil had provided. However, that is a perspective that bestows upon oil, the commodity itself, a life of its own.

In fact, our dependence on oil is ordained by a set of social relationships that necessitates the use of oil for profit making as opposed to alternative sources of energy that respect social and environmental concerns. When our way of reproducing society (maintaining the needs of society from one period to the next by social measures) shifts from being dictated by the profit criterion to the social value criterion (as in goals which are common to society as a whole), research into the employment of other sources of energy may lead to equal or maybe better sources of energy.

Nevertheless, oil and fuels represent the foremost traded commodity globally. Oil is also important because variants on the initial commodity make up the inputs of nearly all the manufactured commodities. But oil is a strategic commodity because countries that depend on oil imports for their energy and have no immediate sources to replace oil become extremely vulnerable on the security front, if and when oil shortages arise. Hence, for the hegemonic powers, especially the U.S., controlling the sources of oil in the Arab world, by subjugating or subverting the governments of oil-rich countries, can become a source of immense power and/or a weapon of strategic value. For the U.S., the power emanating from hegemony over oil resources underwrites the issuance of the world reserve currency, the dollar, and many other imperial rents wrought as a result of its imperial status.

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Patrick Bond, Guest Blogger

Paul Jay of The Real News Network director of the Center for Civil Society and professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and co-author of South Africa: The Present as History. Bond discusses whether the new development bank announced by the so-called BRICS countries—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—represents a challenge to imperial, capitalism, or even neoliberal capitalism.

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Martin Khor

Political leaders of developing countries gathered in the Bolivian city of Santa Cruz last week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Group of 77, the main umbrella organisation of the South.

Presidents, Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and Ambassadors from a hundred countries celebrated the event with speeches and a declaration that pledged their continued fight for a fairer world order, but also to improve the condition of life of their people.

President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who hosted this G77 summit gave a stirring speech enumerating nine key tasks that lie ahead for the developing world, and chaired the meeting of interesting reflections from leaders on what the South has achieved so far, the present crises and big challenges ahead.

On June 15, 1964, when most developing countries had just emerged from colonial rule, the officials of 77 developing countries met and issued a joint statement announcing the birth of the G77, at the first ever meeting of the UN Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva.

In that historic statement, the developing countries pledged to promote equality in the international economic and social order and promote the interests of the developing world, declared their unity under a common interest and defined the Group as “an instrument for enlarging the area of cooperative endeavour in the international field and for securing mutually beneficent relationships with the rest of the world”.

Fifty years later at Santa Cruz, on June 14 and 15, the leaders affirmed that the developing countries need to unite under the G77 even more than before, as the global economy is in turmoil and the world order remains still imbalanced against their interests.

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Sunita Narain

In India, traffic accidents are not on the health agenda. It is time the agenda is changed. Last week when the Union Minister for Rural Development met with an unfortunate and tragic accident on the road in Delhi, the issue was highlighted. But as yet, there is little understanding of the seriousness of the problem, and why India, which has just begun to motorise, needs to take action, and fast.

For me, the news of the minister’s death was particularly distressing. It hit me that seven months ago I was on the same road—South Delhi’s Aurobindo Marg—when my cycle was hit by a reversing car. I was lucky that Good Samaritans picked me up, took me to the same Jai Prakash Narain Apex Trauma Centre at AIIMS where minister Gopinath Munde was taken. The same wonderful group of doctors, who tried their best to resuscitate Munde, worked to repair my hands and nose, and stop internal bleeding. I was fortunate. I survived. But Munde, who had much to do in his life, did not. This waste of human lives because of sheer apathy and negligence should make us angry. It should make us change the way we design our roads, enforce traffic rules and, most importantly, take responsibility for our driving.

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Matías Vernengo

The new edition of the International Labour Organization’s Global Wage Report (2012/13) has been published. The figure below shows the rates of growth in real wages by region.

Note that real wages have basically stagnated in the developed world, and have fallen in the Middle East, while they have grown in the rest of the world. One should take with a grain of salt the incredible increase in Eastern Europe. For example, the graph below, showing Russia’s real wages, gives a more accurate picture.

Real wages are now slightly above the levels associated with the pre-liberalization, and market reform period. In other words, the commodity boom and the Natural Resource Nationalism have allowed a significant recovery in real wages. Not dissimilar to the Latin American story, by the way.

In Asia a lot of the growth in real wages is explained by the vast migration of rural workers to urban areas in China.

Note that without China the rate of growth in real wages has been considerably less impressive. At any rate, as always, the ILO report provides a wealth of data, which is worth to take into consideration.

Originally posted at Naked Keynesianism.

Triple Crisis welcomes your comments. Please share your thoughts below.

John Weeks, Guest Blogger

The gathering pressure for Congress to “fast track” the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) demonstrates yet again that trade liberalization is one of the few aspects of economic policy about which there is agreement across the mainstream of the political spectrum, in both the United States and Europe. Almost all conservative commentators endorse it with gusto, for centrists it is an article of faith, and even many progressives accept it implicitly by their criticism of industrial country protection.

The neoliberal ideologues sell it by bestowing the label “free trade,” which is allegedly reached by repeated measures of “trade liberalization.” No matter that the TPP has little to do with trade and everything to do with setting loose capital on a global scale. Well tested and demonstrably disastrous in the North American Free Trade Association, this liberating of capital includes 1) global extension of corporate patents under the moniker “intellectual property rights,” 2) shifting enforcement of those patents from national governments and courts to ad hoc international tribunals, and 3) prohibiting as “protectionist” measures protecting labor rights and the environment.

This is not “freer” trade, but re-regulation of trade to entrench corporate profit making. However, if you call it freer trade, you can sell it to the public. In order to discredit this corporate sales pitch, I have to drive a stake through the heart of the Free Trade dogma that is the ideological justification for neoliberal globalization.

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Sunita Narain

The 2014 general election, it would seem, is becoming a referendum on the so-called Gujarat model and the something-UPA model. In the heat, dust and filth of elections, rhetoric is high, imagery is weak and facts are missing. Very broadly, the Gujarat model is seen to be corporate-friendly, with emphasis on economic growth at any cost and little focus on social indicators of development. The UPA [United Progressive Alliance] model, on the other hand, is seen to promote distributive justice and inclusive growth. And our conclusion could well be that this model does not work because we see little difference—high inflation pinches our purse; poverty and malnutrition persist; and crony capitalism thrives.

In this way, the referendum on May 16, when the counting is done, could well be seen as a go-ahead to rampant growth without a human face. But this, I believe, will be missing the key point.

If there is a referendum, it must be on the lack of delivery of programmes for social justice and inclusive growth. It cannot be a decision against the idea of rights-based development. That would be disastrous for India. So, what we need to do is to think about what went wrong. And the next government’s agenda must be to fix it. Not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

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