Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Afghanistan or Africa

It seems that the Harpocrites while extolling their increase in funding development aid, forgot that Afghanistan is nowhere near Africa except perhaps in the dictionary.

All the recent focus on aid levels, however, could hide the fact that Canadian aid also needs to be made more effective, ie, it should be spent on poverty alleviation. Harper has mandated Afghanistan to become the largest recipient of Canada's largesse. This led world-renowned development economist Jeffrey Sachs to complain, "…the money going to Afghanistan and Iraq is really not development aid but security spending."

And this blast is not from just any old rock n roll celebrity;

Stephen Lewis slams G8 as morally bankrupt

The G8 countries are spending $120 billion annually to deal with conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but they can't find half that amount to deal with HIV/AIDS, Lewis said.

Meanwhile Harper announces an new policy direction for Canadian aid in order to end any association of HIS government with past, Liberal, governments that pushed for greater aid for Africa.

Answering a question in the House of Commons yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay pointed out that "Canada will double its international assistance from 2001 to 2010, with assistance to Africa also doubling in that time frame." Canada plans to increase its Africa funding to $2.1 billion for 2008-09, from $1.05 billion in 2003-04, and African aid makes up 40 per cent of all Canadian foreign aid. What's more, Canada's foreign aid budget is growing by eight per cent per year.

"Canada’s on target to meet those obligations," Harper said. "I think we’re the only country on target to meet them, and to meet them early, in fact."

The Prime Minister’s Office was unable to provide documentation to prove his claim. A senior Canadian official said Canada’s aid budget for Africa will amount to $2.1 billion in 2008-09, but DATA, an aid agency co-founded by Bono, estimates Canada will need to increase aid by $479 million this year and next to meet its commitment. Only Japan and Britain are on track to meet their promise, DATA says.

Stronach said the amount set aside by the Conservative government falls $700 million short of that, and Harper is responsible.

Layton said the prime minister has reduced Canada's commitment to foreign aid while telling the world that it wasn't doing so.

"Mr. Harper simply isn't telling the truth and when it comes to life-saving foreign aid, that's despicable," Layton said.

Policy on the run is Harpers foreign affairs specialty. Like last years support for Israels war on Lebanon. Now he goes and does it again.
Harper signals shift from Africa to Americas
Prime Minister Stephen Harper signalled a major shift in Canadian aid policy yesterday, saying that Canada's primary focus is moving away from Africa and toward the Western Hemisphere.

"Canada's sole focus and primary focus is not necessarily Africa, but we remain engaged there, we will meet our targets and will move forward with that plan into the future," Mr. Harper told reporters at the G8 summit.

His push to deal with development aid in our Hemisphere bodes ill, premised as it is with hemispheric bilateral agreements in the context of an expanding North American Union. Harper clearly has mixed up the concept of Aid and Trade.

This hemisphere is not in need of development Aid, rather it is in need of Fair Trade. Instead we have Free Trade Zones, which are anti-union tax free havens for American and Canadian manufacturers, and the attempt to import Latin American workers into Alberta as cheap labour for the Tar Sands.

Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) Analysts expect that--as occurred in Mexico--CAFTA will attract foreign direct investment and boost Central American exports in certain sectors, but will provide little benefit to the rural and urban poor of the region.


The Central America-Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) includes seven signatories: the United States, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. The U.S. Congress approved the CAFTA-DR in July 2005 and the President signed it into law on August 2, 2005. The CAFTA-DR has been approved by the legislatures in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Approval is pending in Costa Rica. The export zone created will be the United States' second largest free trade zone in Latin America after Mexico.

The United States is implementing the CAFTA-DR on a rolling basis as countries make sufficient progress to complete their commitments under the Agreement. The Agreement first entered into force between the United States and El Salvador on March 1, 2006, followed by Honduras and Nicaragua on April 1, 2006, Guatemala on July 1, 2006, and the Dominican Republic on March 1, 2007. The U.S. Government continues to work with Costa Rica to ensure timely and full implementation of the Agreement.

in the region, and strengthens protections for U.S. In addition to tariff reduction, CAFTA-DR provides new market access for U.S. consumer and industrial products and agricultural products. It also provides unprecedented access to government procurement in the partner countries, liberalizes the services sectors (see also financial services), protects U.S. investmentspatents, trademarks, and trade secrets. The Agreement covers customs facilitation and provides benefits to small and medium-sized exporters. Provisions are also included that address government transparency and corruption, worker rights, protection of the environment, trade capacity building, and dispute settlement.

Why Latin America Needs a Free-Trade Zone

At the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, the Hemisphere's leaders may at last give serious consideration to the establishment of free trade from Argentina to Alaska. But the meeting will also give critics an opportunity to cite economic uncertainty and political instability in much of Latin America as a reason to oppose the trade initiative. With the Andean region from Venezuela to Bolivia in varying degrees of turmoil, and with Argentina on the brink of possible default, trade liberalization is under attack.

The Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) (Spanish: Área de Libre Comercio de las Américas (ALCA), French: Zone de libre-échange des Amériques (ZLÉA), Portuguese: Área de Livre Comércio das Américas (ALCA)) was a proposed agreement to eliminate or reduce the trade barriers among all countries in the American continent. In the latest round of negotiations, officials of 34 nations met in Mexico on November 16, 2003 to discuss the proposal. The proposed agreement was an extension of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico and the United States. Against the market are positioned Cuba, Venezuela and later Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua, which entered the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas in response.

Discussions have faltered over similar points as the Doha round of World Trade Organization (WTO) talks; developed nations seek expanded trade in services and increased intellectual property rights, while less developed nations seek an end to agricultural subsidies and freer trade in agricultural goods. Similar to the WTO talks, Brazil has taken a leadership role among the less developed nations, while the United States has taken a similar role for the developed nations.

Talks began with the Summit of the Americas in Miami on December 11, 1994, but the FTAA came to public attention during the Quebec City Summit of the Americas in 2001, a meeting targeted by massive anti-corporatization and anti-globalization protests. The Miami negotiations in 2003 met similar protests, though perhaps not as large. The last summit was held at Mar del Plata, Argentina in January 2005, but no agreement on FTAA was reached. 26 of the 34 countries present at the negotiations have pledged to meet again in 2006 to resume negotiations.

This Hemisphere is rapidly industrializing which cannot be said for Africa which is being divided up by Imperialist interests including China. It is still in thralls of being hewers of wood and drawers of water for the G8 and G20 countries.

And development Aid is going into the pockets of private capital investment companies known as Vulture Funds, which in more developed countries are also known as Hedge Funds. Vulture Funds encourage ponzi get rich quick schemes.

Real development funding would be directed to villages and people, not governments, as the success of Micro-credit has shown.

Private firms work on Africa's future

Economic growth in Africa has picked up considerably in recent years to an estimated 5.9% in 2007.

But this has not come about as a result of any concerted action by the leaders of wealthy nations, insists, Sir Mark.

"A key driver of this growth has been high commodity prices," he points out, questioning whether the prosperity will last.

In the meantime, "the aid figures in many areas seem pretty disappointing" and global trade talks have stalled, he says.

"Progress is slower than I would have wished, than we all would have wished," he says.

Market access

President Museveni puts it more starkly.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa says the West must do more

"Almost all African countries are pre-industrial," he says, paraphrasing the voice of the West: "'You must stay producing the cocoa bean. I will process it for you. Stay in your place. Don't move up the value chain.'

"The G8 countries should not assume they have an advisory role in Africa," he says, insisting African governments are capable of deciding themselves how to bring about development.

"Where we need assistance now - or at least not obstruction - is in two areas: cheap electricity and infrastructure.

Free trade is another key to African development, President Museveni says, insisting that "Western countries have denied us access to their markets - deliberately".

Greg Palast on the Battle to End Vulture Funds

Investigative reporter Greg Palast looks at the battle to end "vulture funds", where companies buy up debts of poor nations cheaply and then sue for the full amount.

At the close of the G-8 Summit in Germany last Friday, leaders of the world’s richest countries reiterated their commitment, first made in 2005, to cancel all of the debt owed by the world’s poorest countries. However, so-called “vulture funds,” or companies that buy up third world debt at rock-bottom prices and then sue the countries for the full value and more, are undermining any promises of debt relief. In February, BBC investigative journalist Greg Palast exposed on Democracy Now! how one vulture fund, Donegal International owned by US resident Michael Sheehan, was trying to collect $40 million dollars from Zambia after buying one of its debts for $4 million dollars. Soon after, Congressman John Conyers and Congressman Donald Payne brought this up with President Bush, and urged him to ensure that the G-8 summit would close the legal loopholes that allow vulture funds to flourish.

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