Yes, it’s the economy. Since Argentina defaulted on $95bn of international debt nine years ago and blew off the International Monetary Fund, the economy has done remarkably well. For the years 2002-2011, using the IMF‘s projections for the end of this year, Argentina has chalked up real GDP growth of about 94%. This is the fastest economic growth in the western hemisphere – about twice that of Brazil, for example, which has also improved enormously over past performance. Since President Fernandez or her late husband Nestor Kirchner, who preceded her as president, were running the country for eight of these nine years, it shouldn’t be surprising that voters will reward her with another term.
The benefits of growth don’t always trickle down, but in this case, the Argentine government has made sure that many did. Poverty and extreme poverty have been reduced by about two thirds since their peak in 2002, and employment has increased to record levels. Social spending by the government has nearly tripled in real terms. In 2009, the government implemented a cash transfer program for children that now reaches the households of more than 3.5 million children. It is probably the largest such program, relative to national income, in Latin America.
Earlier this spring, an anti-mining Indigenous movement in Peru successfully ousted a Canadian mining company from their territory. “In spite of government repression, if the people decide to bring the fight to the bitter end, it is possible to resist the pressure of mining and oil companies,” Peruvian activist and journalist Yasser Gómez told The Dominion.
The David and Goliath scenario of this anti-mining uprising highlights the vast economic inequality that has beset Peru. The country’s economy has been booming for the past decade, with a seven per cent growth expected this year—one of the highest growth rates internationally. Sixty-five per cent of the country’s export income comes from the mining industry, and investors are expected to spend over $40 billion in the next 10 years on mining operations.
Yet this growth has not benefited a large percentage of the population. The poverty rate in Peru is just over 31 per cent; in the countryside, two in three people live under the poverty line. Today, there are over 200 communities organized against mining across Peru.
Rakhshanda Jalil writes in The Hindu, 27 February 2011, about “that elusive connect with India when she was least expecting it” on a visit to Karachi, Pakistan. The title of her piece is “A city not unlike home.”
I am always amused when Indians are surprised and taken aback by Pakistanis (whether in Karachi or Lahore or elsewhere) who “speak Urdu and English with almost equal aplomb” or by their “silk sarees and natty blazers” or by their possible cosmopolitanism!!! (Class is class, unfortunately, and the élite exhibit their privileges in similar ways all over the region!) Does it not, if just remotely, smack of the loaded “praise”: “Gee! Obama is so articulate!” — also known as “the racism of lowered expectation”? Why would Indians expect otherwise from their class-affiliates on the other side of the border? Or is it that Bollywood’s Pakistan-bashing fantasies are actually swallowed uncritically — hook, line, and sinker — even (or perhaps especially) by the educated Indians, eliciting “fears about Kalashnikov-toting Taliban and marauding Muhajirs.”
And by the way, Pakistanis are not all “tall, well-built, good-looking people,” especially under the normative definition of “good-looking” in South Asia (fair-skinned or with a “wheatish complexion”) — thank god for the latter! Sadly, the former two ascriptions, of course, too easily go awry given malnutrition due to poverty. Continue reading “An Élite Not Unlike Ours! Who’d Have Guessed?!”
With more than one billion people around the world considered overweight, why are so many others still starving and struggling to fill their plates? And what can be done to make the global food system more equitable?
Riz Khan interviews the brilliant Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World Food System and The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy.
Thirteen people were killed and hundreds wounded last week in Mozambique when police cracked down on a three-day protest over a 30 percent hike in the price of bread. The UN says the riots in Mozambique should be a wake-up call for governments that have ignored food security problems since the global food crisis of 2008, when countries around the world saw angry protests in the streets over the rising prices of basic food items. In this extremely informative interview on Democracy Now!, Raj Patel connects the dots between climate change, financial speculation, land grabs across Africa, food sovereignity and global hunger.
Also check out Johann Hari’s recent article on the “speculation-starvation-bubble” behind the 2008 global ‘food crisis’, below the fold.
Pakistan has been battling a growing problem of drug addiction in the country. Most users rely on local NGOs for treatment and rehabilitation, but these are often weighed down by a lack of funds. Now, a leading charity has shut down after a dispute with the government cut off vital support for thousands of people. Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra reports.
In related news, President Zardari told reporters the newly acquired F-16s from the US will not upset the regional balance of power.
On June 16, in Lahore, a rickshaw driver, his wife, and three children took poison, driven to despair by extreme poverty. Only the wife survived. On June 17, another young man committed suicide pushed over the edge by poverty and unemployment. On June 18, the Pakistani information minister Qamar Zaman Kaira advised people who are killing their children because of dire poverty to instead hand them over to the Baitul Mal (the Islamic treasury which serves as a social support system). Today in Raheem Yar Khan, a woman in her early thirties jumped in front of an approaching train along with her three children, ages 2 to 7. All died on the spot…
In related news, Pakistan received a shipment of the first three of its order of 18 new F-16 fighter jets from the United States. It has also received over $10 billion in military aid since 2002. It’s to keep Pakistanis safe, you see.