God's Politics

God's Politics


Jill Rauh: A Fox in the Hen House

posted by God's Politics

Putting Robert Zoellick in charge of the World Bank, as that anti-poverty organization’s board recently did at the U.S.’s behest, is a bit like making a power company lobbyist the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality – oh, wait, we’ve already done that.

The problem with Zoellick is that he was formerly the U.S. Trade Representative – head of the agency responsible for mercilessly “negotiating” trade agreements or, more accurately, strongarming weaker countries into accepting agreements focused on widening market access for U.S. corporations, often at the expense of their smaller competitors.

A growing number of NGOs, like Center of Concern, believe that U.S. trade policy under Zoellick (and before and after him too) has actually been pro-poverty. Trade agreements have usually ended up forcing poor countries to give up any protections against more powerful competition from the U.S., which pays out billions of dollars in subsidies to our farmers each year. The agreements also force poor countries to allow privatization of their basic services, like water and electricity; they prevent governments from giving any preferential treatment to their own companies and industries; and they eliminate governments’ abilities to control their own development policies. Still, Zoellick continually argued that trade liberalization is “the starting point for greater development, growth, opportunity and openness around the world.” Add: “For rich countries.” (Here’s an overview of what’s wrong with the U.S. trade agenda).

And then, of course, there’s one other obvious question. Since 1985, Zoellick has worked for the Department of Treasury, Goldman Sachs, the Naval Academy, the State Department, and of course, the U.S. Trade Representative Office. Shouldn’t the president of the World Bank be someone who has at least worked at an anti-poverty organization?

Jill Rauh is Senior Program Associate with the Education for Justice Project at Center of Concern, a Jesuit organization promoting economic and social justice. Read more about trade agreements in Sojourners’ recent article, World Market 101.



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neuro_nurse

posted July 9, 2007 at 1:19 pm


FYI, offered without comment.
“The World Bank is like a cooperative in which 185 member countries are shareholders. For a complete list of our members and when they joined, see the Members page in the About Us section of our website.”
“Robert B. Zoellick is the 11th president of the World Bank. He is chairman of the bank’s Board of Executive Directors and also president of the five interrelated organizations that make up the World Bank Group. By tradition, the Bank president is a national of and is nominated by the executive director of the largest shareholder in the bank, the United States. The president is elected by the board of governors for a five-year, renewable term. By a long-standing, informal agreement, the president of the bank is a United States national, while the managing director of the International Monetary Fund is a European.”
“According to the Articles of Agreement, the five largest shareholders, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States, each appoint an executive director, while other member countries are represented by 19 executive directors who represent constituencies in several countries. Each of the directors is elected by a country or group of countries every two years. It is customary for election rules to ensure that a wide geographical balance is maintained on the board.”
“Our role in development and in the wider globalization of the world’s economy has often been misunderstood. On one hand, this occurred because we did not explain the Bank’s mission or our work very well. On the other, critics tried to blame the bank for any or all of the perceived problems associated with globalization-the growing integration of economies and societies around the world resulting from increased flows of goods, services, capital, technology, and ideas-an economic force that the World Bank does not control. Also, protests drew worldwide attention to the problem of extremely high multilateral debt levels carried by very poor countries, which high income countries ultimately agreed were unsustainable and stifled the ability of poor countries to both pay those debts and combat poverty. This led the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to form the Debt Initiative for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and to further financial pledges by high income countries to assist the World Bank to carry out debt relief efforts for heavily indebted poor countries.”
http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTSITETOOLS/0,,contentMDK:20147466~menuPK:344189~pagePK:98400~piPK:98424~theSitePK:95474,00.html
Seek peace and pursue it.



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kevin s.

posted July 9, 2007 at 1:44 pm


Two comments.
1) Why isn’t Sojo more vocal on the issue of farm subsidies? They are a major underlying source of a variety of problems. This seems like an issue that could truly reach across the aisle, and do some real good.
2) The World Bank is designed to provide funding that is tied to infrastructural expertise. I don’t necessarily see why anti-poverty work would make one more qualified than a successful businessman.



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neuro_nurse

posted July 9, 2007 at 2:11 pm


Kevin,
I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to economics, so I’m interested to hear your thoughts on farm subsidies. How do you see farm subsidies affecting food availability, prices, and international trade?
Thanks



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nessa

posted July 9, 2007 at 3:52 pm


sojo has talked about farm subsidies and the farm bill in their magazine:
http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0702&article=070241c
http://www.sojo.net/index.cfm?action=magazine.article&issue=soj0707&article=070741b
are two recent articles. Like so many other things, though, I don’t see any major changes happening to the status quo with the farm bill.



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Ngchen

posted July 9, 2007 at 4:37 pm


What this article omits are the downsides of protectionism. Yes, a select few people benefit under it, but only at the cost of the populace as a whole. Why should less efficient enterprises be propped up relative to more efficient ones? The general public bears the cost whenever this occurs. Due to the costs of transportation, locally produced stuff already has a small head start over stuff produced distantly. Sustainable development is the only lasting cure for poverty.



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kevin s.

posted July 9, 2007 at 4:50 pm


“I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to economics, so I’m interested to hear your thoughts on farm subsidies. How do you see farm subsidies affecting food availability, prices, and international trade?”
The impact on trade is that, when we enact free trade policy, our trade partners are at a competitive disadvantage. We subsidize corn, for example, but only our corn. Therefore, we can sell cheaper corn.
It’s more complicated than that, and there is a tangled web of propoganda surrounding both the farm bill and trade policy (sugar beet partners, for example, opposed CAFTA vehemently). But that’s the gist. Farm groups are very powerful in the midwest, which means they are very powerful in the senate (just ask Norm Coleman or Kent Conrad) since they tend to populate states with smaller populations.
If anyone speaks out, the automatically go in the “hating the family farmer” basket.



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Karen

posted July 9, 2007 at 5:43 pm


In the 1990’s, during the debate over NAFTA, my family and I were living in a small rural village in Honduras. We were there working for Habitat for Humanity. Even in this small village of about 300 families, people understood that NAFTA would hurt them. They knew that it would only benefit Honduran business owners who could operate in or had access to U.S. dollars. The subsistence farmers that we knew in San Isidro, Honduras often ran out of beans by the end of the growing cycle. They called this “el tiempo de hambre.” The hungry time. When families ran out of their own beans, they couldn’t afford to buy more. To buy a pound of beans would cost them the same in Honduras as it would in The U.S., so women made soup out of corn husks. Usually, the people in the village who could afford school supplies and shoes for their kids, much less enough food year round, had a family member in the U.S. who was sending money home. So what’s the point? It sounds like “pro-poverty” policies have certainly hurt poor Hondurans, as they have the rest of the developing world. And it’s only gotten worse. Democrats as well as Republicans have been responsible for this.



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neuro_nurse

posted July 9, 2007 at 6:21 pm


kevin s.
I have heard that the majority of farm subsidies go to ‘agro businesses’ and not to the idyllic ‘family farms,’ which are virtually non-existent now. (no reference, just “what I’ve heard”)
From your explanation, it sounds to me that farm subsidies in the U.S. hurt other farmers around the world – and as Karen just described, those hurt the worst are those in developing countries.



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Moderatelad

posted July 9, 2007 at 7:52 pm


Not commenting on this one. I have become selective about what I want to say and whom I say it to. But this is why I don’t comment on some articles. Why do we (sojo) have to denagrate some people in order to write a story. Can’t we just challenge the reader to do more and not publicly blast the person. I have tried to stay away from that mode but I can see that it is still in vouge here at Sojo.
One can make a point based on the issue and leave the person out of it. Challenge the reader without harpooning the one in office. But when that is the mode of the authors of Sojo – hard to change anyone else.
Not going to say anymore about this article.
Have a blessed day –
.



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canucklehead

posted July 9, 2007 at 8:16 pm


>>>>From your explanation, it sounds to me that farm subsidies in the U.S. hurt other farmers around the world – and as Karen just described, those hurt the worst are those in developing countries. Neuro
Not that Canada is a developing country as the term is usually applied, but the U.S. farm subsidy program had Cdn wheat rotting in the silos a few years ago. It wasn’t until we wrapped it up in Christian tracts and bombed greater Minneapolis that our economy recovered.
This also explains the head injuries sustained by Kevin and Mod Lad :-)



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kevin s.

posted July 9, 2007 at 10:35 pm


“From your explanation, it sounds to me that farm subsidies in the U.S. hurt other farmers around the world – and as Karen just described, those hurt the worst are those in developing countries.”
Well, and American consumers. Ever notice how the price of milk never seems to fluctuate (but upward)? Price controls, subsidies, and other nonsense control our agricultural marketplace. To the exten that agribusiness controls the majority of farms, the farm bill benefits them, but independent farmers still benefit quite a bit.
Point being, it is not free trade that is the culprit here.
“This also explains the head injuries sustained by Kevin and Mod Lad :-)”
Meh, you ned a funnier joke if you are going to question one’s intelligence by way of humor. Especially if you are Canadian.



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TimR

posted July 10, 2007 at 12:28 am


Liberalization of trade policy has not just benefited “rich countries.” It has benefited numerous formerly poor countries in just about every region of the world except Africa. Africa is the only continent that hasn’t seen a drop in extreme poverty. I agree that multinational corporations have exploited the continent far more than helped. But why haven’t these corporations gotten their greedy paws on the rest of the world? It’s because they can thrive on Africa’s unstable governments.
If someone can figure out how to make African governments more stable…I’ll nominate you to be president of the World Bank.
That being said, I’ll take business over benevolence any day. Do you really think getting someone who worked for an anti-poverty organization to increase aid or food drops is really going to cure poverty? Asia and South America reduced their poverty by creating wealth not by getting more of ours.



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Roger Waun

posted July 10, 2007 at 1:18 am


It’s time we subsidize small farmers, ranchers and land owners by providing them with the means to improve their productivity by lowering the cost of producing their commodities. In a large part of the Mid-West farm belt, wind turbines could be provided with government assistance, thus lowering the cost of running water pumps and other electrical needs. Excess energy could be sold to the grid, thus also providing some form of subsidy to agricultural entities. Wind power could be used to produce bio-fuels, thus also benefiting agriculture, while at the same time providing green colar jobs. This form of farm subsidy, rather than cash outlays to the big Agri-business folks, would provide an economic boom to rural America. Such technologies could also be provided to impoverished nations. We could have a positive impact on the environment while also taking a bite out of poverty.



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TimR

posted July 10, 2007 at 1:51 am


Roger Waun:
Why don’t we just invent a machine that cures poverty that runs on our own good thoughts?
I am against all subsidies, but it certainly makes less sense to subsidize the smaller and therefore less productive farmers. It’s an unfortunate and unpopular truth that one-acre family farms can no longer thrive.
Do you understand that wind power and bio fuels lose money? If they could thrive without heavy government subsidizing they would be popping up all over the place. The whole world would run on wind and bio fuels. While we’re asking the government to make up an “economic boom to rural America,” why don’t we pay people in rural areas a lot of money to move piles of rocks back and forth?
And, don’t ask impoverished countries to use technologies that lose money to run their countries.



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neuro_nurse

posted July 10, 2007 at 8:26 pm


Kevin S.,
This is one of those times that I agree with you. Thanks for your input.
TimR,
“It’s because they can thrive on Africa’s unstable governments.”
The international borders of modern day Africa were drawn by Europeans carving up the continent for exploitation. The continent served as one of the major battlegrounds of the Cold War, with the U.S. and Soviet Union putting corrupt men into positions of power and stifling democracy.
“I’ll take business over benevolence any day.”
Well, don’t mind me, but God has called me to serve in Africa.
Seek peace and pursue it.



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Moderatelad

posted July 10, 2007 at 9:07 pm


Posted by: kevin s. | July 9, 2007 10:35 PM
“This also explains the head injuries sustained by Kevin and Mod Lad :-)”
Maybe that is why I can’t spell – and I just thought I was dislexic.
Have a great day
Rob



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canucklehead

posted July 10, 2007 at 9:13 pm


Moderator, blog Moderator! Kevin S insulted me!
Can I have permission to call him a weenie?



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neuro_nurse

posted July 11, 2007 at 4:55 pm


“Maybe that is why I can’t spell – and I just thought I was dislexic.”
It’s spelled ‘dyslexic.’



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Eileena

posted July 18, 2007 at 12:12 pm


No Banks -as seen uptodate -are concerned either with poverty or the environment. They are not there for charity or justice – just profit.
As to the loans made by the International Monetary Fund, the situation is similar: a “developing” country asks for a loan; after a while if the credit is approved, one can see the appearance of industries like MacDonald’s, Coca Cola, etc, until there is little credit left over.
One success story is the funding of small businesses in India – initially only to women, because “they are the ones who take care of the children”. It has been prospering and everyone has paid their loans.



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