Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Meanwhile in Haiti

If you've seen Life and Debt, a great documentary about IMF and World Bank monetary policy and its implications for small economies, you'll recognize what's happening in Haiti:

"37 % de la récolte de riz a été perdue dans la plaine de l'Artibonite, la principale région productrice du pays", souligne Maurepas Jeudy, le directeur d'Oxfam Intermon en Haïti. "Les désastres climatiques se sont ajoutés à la crise alimentaire qui sévissait dans le pays. Depuis les années 1980, les gouvernements successifs ont appliqué des politiques néolibérales qui ont fait des dégâts considérables, dit-il. Avant 1986, la production rizicole couvrait 80 % des besoins. Aujourd'hui, plus de 80 % de la demande est importée. C'est la même chose pour le maïs, les haricots ou les oeufs."  [Le Monde]

In summary, the climate crisis has combined with neoliberal policy which means that a country that produced 80% of its own rice in 1986 now produces about 20%.

Globalizing forces, as I've noted in this blog many a time, have the power to bring positive transformation.  Unfortunately it is all to often the case that free market ideology is pushed with religious zeal upon weak entities like Haiti or Jamaica.  The "details" of local markets, local demands, environment and, most importantly, social justice are left in the dust as the "free market" takes over to "work its magic." 

Remember global citizens and students folks:
  • Vibrant democracy is not necessary for vibrant capitalism (China).
  • Free market for industry is not necessarily a free market for local producers (Haiti, Jamaica, etc.).
  • Freedom to trade often means subjugation to the effects of that trade, or to put it another way: we always need to weigh "freedom to" and "freedom from."
Keynes is making a comeback thanks to the fantabulous flubs of financiers, but sensible trade will only work if we citizens have a coherent and persistent argument to influence our so-called leaders.