Out of Africa

Jomo Kwame Sundaram and Anis Chowdhury

Not a single month has passed without dreadful disasters triggering desperate migrants to seek refuge in Europe. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), at least 2,247 people have died or are missing after trying to enter Europe via Spain, Italy or Greece in the first half of this year. Last year, 5,096 deaths were recorded.

The majority – including ‘economic migrants’, victims of ‘people smugglers’, and so on – were young Africans aged between 17 and 25. The former head of the British mission in Benghazi (Libya) claimed in April that as many as a million more were already on their way to Libya, and then Europe, from across Africa.

Why flee Africa?

Why are so many young Africans trying to leave the continent of their birth? Why are they risking their lives to flee Africa?

Part of the answer lies in the failure of earlier economic policies of liberalization and privatization, typically introduced as part of the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that many countries in Africa were subjected to from the 1980s and onwards. The World Bank, the African Development Bank and most Western donors supported the SAPs, despite United Nations’ warnings about their adverse social consequences.

SAP advocates promised that private investment and exports would soon follow, bringing growth and prosperity. Now, a few representatives from the Washington-based Bretton Woods institutions admit that ‘neoliberalism’ was ‘oversold’, condemning the 1980s and 1990s to become ‘lost decades’.

While SAPs were officially abandoned in the late 1990s, their replacements were little better. The Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs) of the World Bank and IMF promised to reduce poverty with some modified policy conditionalities and prescriptions.

Meanwhile, the G8 countries reneged on their 2005 Gleneagles pledge to provide an extra US$25 billion a year for Africa as part of a US$50 billion increase in financial assistance to “make poverty history”.

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September 19, 2017 | Posted in: Uncategorized | Comments Closed

Walled Off From Reality

Trump’s claims about immigration economics are without merit.

John Miller

Mexico’s leaders have been taking advantage of the United States by using illegal immigration to export the crime and poverty in their own country. The costs for the United – States have been extraordinary: U.S. taxpayers have been asked to pick up hundreds of billions in healthcare costs, housing costs, education costs, welfare costs, etc. … “The influx of foreign workers holds down salaries, keeps unemployment high, and makes it difficult for poor and working class Americans—including immigrants themselves and their children—to earn a middle class wage.
— “Immigration Reform That Will Make America Great Again,” Donald Trump campaign website

Donald Trump’s immigration plan has accomplished something many thought was impossible. He has gotten mainstream and progressive economists to agree about something: his claims about the economics of immigration have “no basis in social science research,” as economist Benjamin Powell of Texas Tech’s Free Market Institute put it. That describes most every economic claim Trump’s website makes about immigration: that it has destroyed the middle class, held down wages, and drained hundreds of billions from government coffers. Such claims are hardly unique to Trump, among presidential candidates. Even Bernie Sanders has said that immigration drives down wages (though he does not support repressive nativist policies like those proposed by Trump and other GOP candidates).

Beyond that, even attempting to implement Trump’s nativist proposals, from building a permanent border wall to the mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, would cost hundreds of billions of dollars directly, and forfeit the possibility of adding trillions of dollars to the U.S. and global economies by liberalizing current immigration policies. That’s not counting the human suffering that Trump’s proposals would inflict.

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Europe’s Refugee “Crisis”

Jayati Ghosh

If you read or watched or listened only to the mainstream media in the North, you could be
forgiven for believing that the current influx of refugees into countries of Europe is not just
an important concern, but actually even the single biggest crisis in that continent. You might
also think that the flow of desperate refugees escaping from terrible conditions is mainly
confined to that region, and that their numbers are so large that the societies will be simply
unable to cope, because of the hugely increased burden on basic infrastructure and facilities
in those countries.

Every day television screens show images of people pouring into towns and cities, crowding
up border crossings or landing at sea (if they are lucky) and filling up transport hubs in
certain European countries. International and national newspapers carry stories of some
compassion, along with greater instances of more xenophobic responses of local
populations. Government leaders (particularly in eastern and central Europe) are shown
declaring that their country cannot possibly take in so many people, many of whom may not
even be “real” refugees but simply economic migrants. Borders are being reinforced and
aggressively policed; walls and barbed wire fences are being put up; desperate groups of
travelers are even being shot at in the attempt to prevent further influx.

Yet this tragic phenomenon that is receiving so much global publicity is but a small trickle in
the huge flow of people displaced globally by wars and conflicts in the areas where they live.
According to the UNHCR, in 2014 alone, nearly 14 million people were forcibly displaced due
to civil war or other violence. Most of these moved within their own country – 11 million
people, who are internal refugees losing everything, and often retaining only the most
uncertain of citizenship rights precisely because of the internal conflicts.

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Farming Under Occupation

Anna Lekas-Miller, Guest Blogger

Beit Ummar used to be known as the fruit basket of Palestine.

Nestled in the Hebron Mountains, the old Beit Ummar was covered in olive orchards and trees bearing brightly colored lemons, plums and dates. Lush, leafy vineyards wound their way through the meandering mountain roads, bearing robust grapes often used for the stuffed grape leaves or sweet grape syrup that the region is renowned for.

The orchards and vineyards are still there, but they are no longer vibrant with color. Like a photograph that has been leached of its saturation, the once abundant orchards and fruit trees bursting with hues of bright yellows, rich reds and warm, deep purples are now ragged, parched and covered in dust.

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Africa Specializing in Capital Exodus?

Léonce Ndikumana

Even as Africa faces severe shortages of skilled labor at home, it experiences large and increasing outflows of highly-skilled labor migration to industrialized economies in search of better job opportunities. The investments made in the training of these professionals are losses to African countries but translate into hefty gains for receiving countries.  Thus resource-starved African nations are subsidizing developed countries’ industries and social services.

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Climate Change and the Immigration Debate

Lyuba Zarsky

Arizona’s draconian anti-immigration law has galvanized popular protest and reignited demands in many quarters for an overhaul of US immigration policy. For those hoping that Obama’s next big legislative battle would be over climate change, however,   the immigration firestorm could not have come at a worse time. Besides eclipsing climate change in public debate, the shadow of Congressional action on immigration scuttled the support of a key Republican, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for a Senate climate bill. Without Lindsey, the climate bill doesn’t have a prayer.

But apart from political minefields, are immigration and climate change such separate policy issues? Not if climate change is understood, as it should be, as a problem requiring urgent action both not only to reduce carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions but also to adapt to much more volatile local and regional climatic conditions driven by global warming.

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Going Beyond Immigration Policy

Timothy A. Wise

Democratic Party leaders recently introduced their latest proposal to reform U.S. immigration policy.  The proposal, which is given little chance of passage in a polarized election year, offers carrots and sticks in an attempt to bring some semblance of order to a broken and outdated policy that has left nearly 12 million people in the United States without legal documents.

The carrots are few and shriveled: an arduous path to U.S. citizenship for those already in the country.  The sticks are large: a further crackdown on border enforcement and increased policing to catch and punish those without papers. No combination of carrots and sticks will address the immigration issue unless reform efforts also take up the agricultural, trade, and labor policies that feed migration.

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