TRADE AND HUNGER
[Here we offer some extracts from a new survey examining the
relationship between trade and food security, poverty and the environment. "Trade and
Hunger" distills the findings from 27 impact assessments on the effects of trade
liberalisation from 39 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe. The
consistent conclusion from these studies is that so-called 'free trade" as promoted
by the World Trade Organisation benefits only the rich, while making the poor more
vulnerable to food insecurity]
Trade liberalisation (the removal or reduction of barriers to
international trade in goods and services) has become a global prescription for the
world's continued economic growth and universal prosperity. But accumulating evidence on
the relationship between trade liberalisation and food security and poverty suggests that
there will be more losers than winners. This study examines this liberalisation under the
World Trade Organisation's (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) signed in 1994; under
World Bank/International Monetary Fund-imposed structural adjustment programs (SAPs),
which have been going on since 1980 (and which led to widespread liberalisation of the
economies of most developing countries well before 1994), and under regional free trade
Under SAPs and AoA, developing countries have to make significant
changes in their food and agriculture policies. They are obliged to open up their
economies to cheap food imports and to reduce and severely limit support for their
farmers. Most SAPs require more sweeping liberalisation measures than are required under
the AoA, and also demand related measures such as privatisation of state-run enterprises,
the elimination of subsidies and price controls, and the abolition of marketing boards. By
contrast, the AoA centres on trade liberalisation measures it calls, for examples, on
member countries of the WTO to reduce tariffs on food imports by 24% over a ten-year
period. The 48 least developed countries are excluded from this and from other reduction
commitments. The AoA - a deal largely stitched up by the United States (US) and the
European Union (EU) under pressure from business corporations - tightens the screw of
structural adjustment. Oxfam has referred to the AoA as an "act of fraud" that
will give rise to increased competition from imports and intensify rural poverty and
destroy smallholder livelihoods. And unlike SAPs, the AoA is binding on member countries
of the WTO, which number some 137 as of July 2000.
According to the study, trade liberalisation is failing the poor in a
number of different ways:
1) Cheap imports
The majority of people in developing countries belong to farming
families. Most farmers are small-scale, with at best a few hectares of land and sometimes
much less. The problems for these farmers caused by cheap imports, made possible by trade
liberalisation, come across in most of the case studies. Cheap imports originate from both
developed countries (especially the US and the EU and also from developing countries
(imports of sugar into the Philippines from Thailand, for example).
Competition from cheap imports is putting farmers in developing
countries out of business. Such imports are coming both through commercial channels and
through dumping -food sold below the cost of production to dispose of surpluses, and
usually cheaper than commercial imports and more damaging. Ghana provides just one of many
examples of how food imports have demoralised small-scale farmers. Having produced corn,
rice, soybeans, rabbit, sheep and goats, the farmers cannot obtain economic prices for
them, even in village markets. Their produce cannot compete with cheaper imports. Domestic
food production is threatened as the agricultural sector is placed in jeopardy.
The studies show that liberalisation has led to an increase in the
prices of farm inputs, causing huge problems for small farmers. Forced to pay more for
their inputs, they are often receiving less for their produce when they come to sell. In
economic terms, trade liberalisation appears to have worsened the terms of trade between
outputs and inputs. Harvested food prices have not always fallen. According to the
studies, higher food prices as the result of trade liberalisation would appear to be the
Consumers may appear to gain from cheap food imports. But they only do
so if they have the money to buy, which many people in developing countries don't have.
And cheap food imports damage the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and also the
countries' most basic economic sector - its food-producing sector. Also, if trade
liberalisation gives more power to monopolies, consumers eventually stand to pay higher
2) More priority for export crops
Trade liberalisation means more food imports; often it reduces the
priority that governments give to their food crop sector, while increasing the priority
they accord to crops for export. Many of the studies show that trade liberalisation has
led to more land and resources being devoted to export crops and less to domestic food
production. In Benin, for example, government incentives led to an increase in land under
cotton; cotton exports have increased to the detriment of food production and food
Although governments are generally according more priority to the
export crop sector, this does not necessarily mean that farmers are receiving better
prices for these crops. World prices for many are declining - as witnessed in case studies
on Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda. As traders, and not government bodies, are mostly
buying these crops, the price they offer the farmer will be related, in some degree, to
the world price. But the power of the traders may mean that the price to farmers is far
below the world price.
3) Transnational corporations (TNCs)
Trade liberalisation is proving very beneficial to large entities such
as TNCs - as seen in the studies on India, Philippines, Uruguay and Cambodia. But it is
not just proving beneficial to them, it also appears to be helping them at the expense of
the poor. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAQ) notes that the process is leading to
the concentrations of farms "in a wide cross-section of countries" and to the
marginalisation of small producers, adding to unemployment and poverty. In Mexico, the
winners from trade liberalisation are concentrated in the country's fruit and vegetable
growing areas where production is predominantly on large-scale, irrigated farms. There is
a "dramatic increase in investment in these areas, with large farms or firms leasing
land". This finding is consistent with an emerging global pattern of increased
profits for transnational corporations at the expense of poorer producers.
In Cambodia, more land has been bought and sold, leaving farmers with
not enough or no land. Ten years since the adoption of the liberal market economy in 1989,
it is estimated that 10-15% of the country's farmers are landless and that land is being
concentrated in fewer hands. The top 10% of the population own 33% of cultivated land
while the bottom 20% own less than 4% of cultivated land.
The studies on Kenya, Ghana, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Jamaica and the
Philippines all show how trade liberalisation is impacting heavily on women and
accentuating gender inequality. In Uganda, liberalisation may mean that the local
parastatal depot is closed down, and producers have to go out of the village to a local
market to sell their produce. Failing to do this will oblige them to sell their produce to
village grader who will benefit at their expense. Women are often faced with a very heavy
workload which gives them little time to go to the local market to sell their produce. If
they sell their produce in the village, they will get lower prices.
Women, who produce 60-75% of food in most African countries, have been
affected disproportionately by the elimination of subsidies, the drying up of credit and
the surge of food import as a result of trade liberalisation. Women have the
responsibility for putting food on the family table; but prices of farm inputs have risen
under liberalisation, and incomes of farming families have come under serious pressure. As
a result, many have been forced to cut back on the quality and frequency of their meals.
Life in Zimbabwe, notes one study, is becoming a nightmare, with everyone in the family
crying out for food.
In Mexico, male labour migration increases the workload on women and
children, who are often withdrawn from school. There has been a sharp increase in the
frequency with which women are forced to migrate in search of work as day labourers: they
now comprise one third of this workforce. "To the extent that liberalisation
accelerates these trends, it will exacerbate problems of inequality and rural poverty
"notes the Mexican case study.
Trade liberalisation can have positive effects --by enabling rural
women to engage in micro and small enterprises in Kenya, for example. But the studies
indicate that the negative effects far outweigh the positive.
There are no world-wide figures as to how many people have lost their
jobs as a result of trade liberalisation over the last 20 years. In Mexico, 700,000 -
800,000 livelihoods will be lost as corn prices fall, representing 15% of the economically
active population in agriculture. In India, the jobs of 3 million edible oil processors
were lost. In Sri Lanka, 300,000 jobs were lost following the drop in production of onions
and potatoes. Globally, it would not be unreasonable to estimate a figure of at least 30
million jobs lost in developing countries because of trade liberalisation and related
The cultivation of cash crops for export imposes considerable
environmental costs. In the Philippines (and numerous other countries), the extensive use
of agrochemicals in export-crop production has increased soil degradation and the loss of
biodiversity. Liberalisation encourages producers to abandon traditional and ecologically
sound agricultural practices in favour of export monocropping. Also, the encouragement of
agri-based exports in special development zones creates massive colonisation of critical
watersheds and the depletion of water resources in irrigated areas, previously planted to
8) Government services
Under SAPs, liberalisation goes hand in hand with a reduction in
government support for farmers, such as investment in agricultural research and extension,
controlled pricing and marketing, and subsidies on Inputs. Governments withdraw and leave
people to the free play of economic forces. People with money may survive, but the poor
are left stranded. The Philippines is probably typical in that insufficient state support
for services such as irrigation, post-harvest facilities and farm-to-market roads has
meant that small-scale farmers are unable to improve productivity levels or get their
products to market at prices that cover costs.
9) Self-sufficiency and sovereignty
The negative impact of trade liberalisation on food self-sufficiency,
let alone food sovereignty, comes across in many of the studies. The effect of free trade
on India's edible oils sector is startling. Tariff reductions allowing massive imports
turned India from being self-sufficient in edible oils to being the world's largest
importer in a mere five years.
10) Traders gain
In a number of countries, the liberalisation of' markets has increase
participation by private firms and individuals in the trade of food commodities, unlike in
the past when public institutions dominated the trade. In theory, this could lead to
increased employment opportunities, which would be a positive move. But this does not seem
to he happening. Liberalisation has certainly increased the number and power of traders.
In Uganda, for example, traders have "invaded" whole villages and used their
bargaining power and the need of farmers for cash (to buy inputs for example), to buy
harested crops at low prices. This puts more pressure on farmers and endangers household
When trade barriers are lowered, many small-scale farmers are unable to
compete with cheaper imports and leave their land to head for the cities and towns, adding
to pressures on urban services.
12) Indirect effects
A number of studies show how changes in economic sectors, other than
agriculture, have an impact on food security. In Kenya, the liberalisation of textiles and
footwear has led to imports flooding the domestic market. "This has led to a drastic
decline in the production of cotton and, as a result, a loss of income to cotton
producers, exacerbating the problem of food insecurity for most households in rural and
urban areas," says one study. In the Philippines, financial liberalisation has
resulted in higher interest rates, lower investments, and higher costs for food
inventories and stockpiling. These effects foster instability in the market for staple
foods and threaten the food entitlements of the poor.
As the author of the Thailand study says, "Many of us have been
saying for a long time that unchecked, liberalised global trade is a disaster waiting to
happen. No one listened. Now it's happened." Small-scale farmers are bearing the
brunt of this disaster. But consumers too are vulnerable. In free trade theory, production
will allocate to where costs are low and consumers - poor as well as rich - will benefit
from low prices. The reality is more complicated, however. If trade liberalisation gives
more power to monopolies, then consumers eventually stand to lose.
Much of the trade liberalisation of the last two decades has been based
on the hope that agricultural production in developing countries will switch to high-value
crops for export, enabling them to import food. But trade liberalisation in Sierra Leone
did not lead to the hoped-for benefits from exports of cocoa on coffee. Ethiopia and
Bangladesh have experienced problems in trying to meet food security needs through
exports. Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for hundreds of millions of people
in developing countries. If small-scale farmers are out-competed without an alternative
source of livelihood, the availability of cheap imports is no help. Governments seem to be
misled or pressurised to subscribe to trade liberalisation, or to do it too quickly,
without adequate preparation.
Trade liberalisation is only one factor exacerbating problems for the
poor in many countries. The studies often reveal the interaction of factors that affect
food security, such as privatisation; domestic, economic, and financial policies; and the
incidence of HIV/ AIDS. As the study on Thailand points out, "the mess isn't
simple"; devastating weather patterns, massive unemployment, the need to earn foreign
exchange "to hail out an unbelievably irresponsible private sector" are all
factors. But these studies indicate that trade-based food security for the poor is - at
least for the time being - more a mirage than a fact.
Yet liberalisation is a policy choice, it is not inevitable. A
fundamental review of the dominating policy paradigm is needed, and at the very least, WTO
rules need to be changed so that developing countries can provide domestic support and
other regulations to protect the livelihoods of smallholders and promote food security.
"Trade and Hunger - an overview of case studies on the impact of trade
liberalisation on food security" was compiled by John Madeley for Church of Sweden
Aid, Diakonia, Forum Syd, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the Program of
United Nations Spending on Themselves!
[A letter from Brian Walker - head of the international Rescue
Committee operation in Dili, East Timor, shows how the UN reconstruction work in the
territory is grossly inefficient and corrupt, when compared to the operational costs.
Further, the UN policies and lifestyles are becoming so affluent, that the East Timorese
themselves are finding it difficult to afford living in their own country. During the
month of November and Thanksgiving in the US Brian Walker mused on the thought that East
Timor has little cause for giving thanks. He gives some figures querying if they are sound
The World Bank was pledged US$156 million in December 1999. Then again in June the World
Bank was pledged an additional US$48 million. To date the World Bank should have been
given US$204 million. As of October 2000 the World Bank has received US$68 million in
contributions from these pledges. Between December 1999 and October 2000 the World Bank
has spent US$15 million. The pledges are made by national governments, like the USA,
Japan, England etc. Why these government promise to give money for the reconstruction of
East Timor and then not release the funds is a mystery.
But more importantly, why doesn't the World Bank spend the money they have received, on
the reconstruction of East Timor? The United Nations Transitional Authority for East Timor
(UNTEAT has a completely separate pot of money for the reconstruction of East Timor, and
between Dec. 1999 and June 30, 2000 the following amounts have been spent:
US$99 million - Peace Keeping Forces (9,000 troops).
US$85 million - Civic administration (2000 international & 1000 national employees).
US$23 million - Accommodation and Premises for UN Civil Administration.
US$2.9 million - Infrastructure Rehabilitation (roads, electric, water, schools etc.
In seven months the UN spent US$204.9 million and less than $3 million of that was for the
long-term repair and rehabilitation of the nation they are mandated to assist. All the
rest of the money was spent of themselves, over 90 cents in the dollar.
From October 1999 to September 30th 2000 a group of 30 non-govern-mental organisations
(CARE, Save the Children. IRC, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and 25 more) brought
US$44 million dollars to East Timor for development. On the first of October 2000, every
penny has been spent. We have invested more money into East Timor than the World Bank and
have put more money into water supplies, health and educational services, agricultural
production and housing construction than the UN. All of this money has come from the small
donations of people around the world. All of this money has come from people who have been
watching late night TV and have seen those hungry kids with flies crawling around their
faces. Unfortunately, these same 30 private organisations have only been able to raise
US$9 million dollars for 2001. But the year is young and our work speaks for itself.
I am concerned that we will have breaks in available funds for our programmes. If this
happens local staff will have to be terminated, that means families will be harmed. The
real tragedy of the number I have given you, is not just that the World Bank and the UN
are grossly inefficient and corrupt in their management, but their lifestyles have
ruptured the local economy to the point where the Timorese cannot afford to live in their
The United Nations should continue to be a centre for international debate and political
discussion. But he UN should not be managing projects, running programmes or leading
underdeveloped country governments.
[Source: Pacific News Bulletin]
Food crisis worsens after horror winter
North Korea is facing another spring and summer of serious food
shortages, with the government-run public distribution system already relying on
international aid and alternative foods, a UN official said yesterday.
"It will be another difficult year for Koreans in the DPRK [North Korea], who are
emerging from the most severe winter in 50 years," the director of the UN's World
Food Programme (WFP) in North Korea, David Morton, said in Beijing.
"The public food distribution system exhausted last year's harvest as early as
January, whereas last year the system distributed food up until June."
At present the system was depending on government-to-government aid from South Korea and
had enough supply to distribute only a paltry 200 grams a day per person until next month,
After that, many North Koreans would have to rely on foods such as ground cabbage stalks
and edible plants mixed with grain while waiting for this year's harvest.
The WFP project in North Korea has been feeding about eight million people since the food
crisis began in 1996. Six million of those are children aged between six months and 16
"Malnutrition is not difficult to see and the nutrition of children could worsen this
year despite having improved since the peak of the food shortages in 1996 and 1997,"
Mr Morton said.
North Korea's harvest last year was 1.8 million tonnes short of the county's lowest
requirement of 4.8 million tonnes of grain, which is needed to feed the country's
estimated 22 million people each year.
Mr Morton would not speculate about how many people had died due to the isolated Stalinist
nation's five-year-long food shortage, saying "it is difficult to get hard data from
the DPRK Government".
"There is no doubt that the harsh [winter] conditions, combined with poor health
services, shortage of food and contaminated water have taken a toll and continue to take a
toll on the people," he said. "We don't know how many precisely, but we think it
is high, and unacceptably high."
The WFP has appealed for 810,000 tonnes of international aid, valued at US$306 million
(HK$2.38 billion), to help the country overcome its difficulties this year, but only 57
per cent of the grain has so far been received.
Between 1995 and October 2000, a total of 1.9 million tonnes of food aid, valued at US$858
million, was donated to North Korea through the WFP.
Many countries, including South Korea, China and Japan, maintain bilateral aid programmes,
while international non-governmental organisations are also providing food aid.
The UN is continuing to call on the Government to make efforts to rebuild its economy,
which all but collapsed with the 1991 break-up of its traditional benefactor, the former
Mr Morton said his agency was encouraged by announcements in Pyongyang at the beginning of
the year that "there's a need now for new thinking and new ideas".
But he could offer no information on reports out of Seoul and Beijing that the Stalinist
Government was preparing widespread economic reforms.
"We believe the industry, the basic economy has to recover to provide a solution to
the humanitarian crisis that faces the country and the most critical thing to address here
is the shortage of energy," he said.
Pyongyang, however, in talks with UN agencies, continues to cite a 1994 agreement to shut
down its suspected nuclear weapons programme in exchange for two light-water nuclear power
plants to be built by the United States, South Korea and Japan by 2003.
The delivery and building of the two plants are well behind schedule.
The Military Gathers Strength
19 April 2001
As Jakarta is divided by politics and protest, the 297,000-member Armed
Forces of Indonesia (TNI) is finding ways to coalesce and gather strength. After months of
jockeying for power and purging opponents, senior officers appear to have settled on the
distribution of power within the military.
Jakarta's civilian political figures are allowing the military to play an increased role
in the country. One has called on politicians to let the military decide its
restructuring. The best way to help the TNI "conduct its internal reforms [is] by not
disturbing it," said the country's coordinating minister for political, social and
security affairs, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, according to the Jakarta Post. Shortly
afterward, Wahid's Cabinet granted the military greater leeway in putting down the
rebellion in Aceh.
A quid pro quo is shaping up in Jakarta, as civilian politicians direct the military to
solve problems in the provinces, hoping soldiers will not intervene in the tumultuous
politics of the capital. For now, senior officers seem intent on avoiding politics.
But the military will not remain on the sidelines indefinitely. It is motivated by the
desire to preserve the state in the face of a series of separatist movements. And in each
of these rebellions, the military's conduct becomes fodder for criticism, which undermines
Jakarta itself will likely prompt cries for military intervention later this year. The
capital is torn by protests and calls to violence. The president is well on his way to
impeachment hearings, which will rile his supporters. If the hearings are postponed, his
opponents will riot. In August, the Parliament will convene in a full session, a time when
political forces converge on Jakarta with supporters, protests and violence. The police
will not be able to control the situation and the government will be forced to turn to the
Indonesia's military has struggled to define its role since the 1999 fall of former
Under Suharto, Indonesia's military wielded considerable political influence. In turn, the
armed forces, which then included the police, served government interests by ensuring
domestic stability and suppressing opposition and unrest.
But Suharto's replacement, B.J. Habibie, ordered the separation of the police from the
military. The police would maintain internal security; the military would defend against
The police were unprepared to take over the role as the sole provider of internal state
security. Difficulties posed by a lack of equipment and specialized training were further
exacerbated by a rise in separatist, ethnic and religious violence as the heavy hand of
the military lifted from society.
With the police incapable of dealing with the internal unrest and the political leadership
immersed in power plays, the military sees little choice but to return to its former role:
All along, top officers have sought legal approval for taking up the mantle of national
security. Following a meeting of senior Indonesian army officers in Jakarta March 1, Gen.
Endriartono Sutarto, the army's chief of staff, suggested in comments to the press that
the police are not equipped to deal with internal security problems. He called for a
"transitional regulation" to allow the army to be "proactive in maintaining
The proposals for such a legal framework have ranged far and wide. Susilo has suggested
the military be given wide latitude to deal with a variety of threats, bringing nearly
every issue under the military's purview.
Already, the government appears to be compromising with the military.
On March 12, the government announced it had officially declared the Free Aceh Movement a
separatist organization, giving the military authority to quell acts of violence as well
as shape policy and strategy.
Effectively, the compromise that civilians have brokered with the military creates a dual
regime, one political and one military.
In the political regime, civilian political leaders are hoping they will be left alone to
sort out Jakarta's jockeying for power. In the military regime, the outlying provinces,
the military is allowed to quell unrest and devise policy.
The civilians and the generals want to keep the military out of politics, a nearly
impossible task under the dual regime. Any move the military makes to deal with separatist
actions, illegal migrants or rebellion will have political ramifications in the capital.
Further, while the military controls the guns, the government controls the budget. The
civilians can interfere with actions in the provinces by withholding funds over atrocities
and human rights violations.
The military continues to shy away from taking sides in Jakarta's political wrangling.
Although military leaders have emphasized their loyalty to President Wahid, they are quick
to clarify the military will not take extraconstitutional action. But with the ongoing
process of censuring Wahid, demonstrators and protestors are growing bolder - and more
Ultimately, the separation of the political and military agendas will lead to increased
competition between the military and civilian leadership as each seeks to promote its own
agenda. While the political elite remain fractured, the military are pulling together to
create a unified front. However reluctantly, the military will once again insert itself
into Indonesia's politics, if only initially to ensure social stability.
Suhakam report outlines govts
human rights flaws
Leong Kar Yen
Government actions against fundamental human rights can no longer be
acceptable by Malaysians, said the Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) in its maiden annual
report for 2000, released in Kuala Lumpur today.
"The growth of a politically conscious Malaysian civil society has meant that
government action that infringes the fundamental rights of its citizens is no longer
unchallenged," said the report presented to Parliament this afternoon.
"The demand for a transparent and accountable government that respects human rights
is a fundamental concern of Malaysian civil society today," it added in a chapter
entitled The State of Human Rights in Malaysia.
The 63-page report, which is available to the public, also noted that as the Malaysian
populace becomes more sophisticated politically, fulfillment of economic needs in no
"As Malaysia develops and its citizenry becomes better educated and more
sophisticated, the demand for civil and political rights has become louder. For
increasingly larger segments of Malaysian society, a full stomach is no longer
enough," it stated.
The report also addressed other issues such freedom of assembly, detention without trial,
freedom of expression, right to a fair trial, the failure of the government to annul four
proclamations of emergency, discriminatory laws against women and the ratification of
On the issue of assemblies, the report states that though both the Universal Declaration
of Human Rights (UDHR) and the Federal Constitution guarantee the right to assemble
peacefully, "the Police Act requires that an application for a police permit be
made" and that an amendment to the Act "empowers the police to break up large
gatherings ... if they are deemed a threat to national security".
The report criticised these restrictions claiming that they infringed on a fundamental
liberty with double standards being applied and police resorting to disproportionate
force and violence in breaking up gatherings.
On March 27, Suhakam concluded a four-month long inquiry into alleged police brutality
during the opposition organised Nov 5 100,000 Peoples Gathering at the
Kesas highway in Shah Alam. However, its findings will only be published in its 2001
The current report also rapped the government for not taking any action despite repeated
promises to review and amend the infamous Internal Security Act (ISA).
"It has been argued that the ISA, which was enacted in 1948 for the sole purpose of
fighting the communist insurgency has outlived its purpose since the Malayan Communist
Party laid down its arms in 1989," the report said.
Last Wednesday, the commission had issued a press statement condemning the arrest of seven
reformasi activists under the ISA for allegedly planning to overthrow the government by
Suhakams report also stated that the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA)
and the Official Secrets Act restricted freedom of expression, particularly Section 8A(1)
of the PPPA where government critics may be silenced for malicious
publication false news.
"Action taken under this Section included one case involving the printing of
pamphlets which alleged official mishandling of a statutory rape case and another
involving a report of alleged systematic abuse of migrant workers in detention," the
In 1997 former DAP MP Lim Guan Eng was found guilty under the PPPA and the Sedition Act
for distributing pamphlets alleging former Malacca chief minister Rahim Thamby Chik was
involved with an underage girl.
Irene Fernandez of reform group Tenaganita was also charged under the PPPA for publishing
a report that alleged that migrant workers were tortured and abused in the countrys
detention camps for migrant workers in 1996.
The report said that Suhakam had also received complaints that applications for publishing
permits or renewals were being denied by the Home Affairs Ministry, particularly those for
publications belonging to the opposition.
On another matter, the report noted that since independence, the government has made four
emergency declarations, including one during the May 13, 1969 incident, but none of have
"This perpetual state of emergency enables the government to promulgate emergency
regulations even though Parliament is sitting and the events that occasioned the states of
emergency have come to pass," the report said.
Emergency proclamations permit the executive branch of government to pass laws that do not
require parliamentary assent in the name of national security.
The reports also highlighted the fact that the Federal Constitution allows the foreign
wives of Malaysian men to be easily naturalised but denies Malaysian women the right to
confer citizenship on their foreign husbands.
On the topic of Native Customary Rights, the report said that peninsular Orang Asli and
the indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak have complained of state-sanctioned erosion of
their rights by such activities as logging, plantations, crop cultivation, construction of
dams and other development projects.
"As presented to Suhakam, the main concern of the indigenous peoples is that their
customary rights to land have been substantially eroded by the federal and state
governments despite the protection provided for them in the Aboriginal Peoples Act,
the Land Ordinance of Sabah and the Sarawak Land Code," the report said.
The report, written in English, also covers the formation of Suhakam in April 2000 and its
activities until the end of 2000. A Bahasa Malaysia version will be produced later.
Suhakam was created through the Human Rights Commission Act tabled in Parliament in 1999.
Its 13 commissioners are Musa Hitam (chairperson), Harun Hashim (deputy chairperson),
Anuar Zainal Abidin, Mehrun Siraj, Zainah Anwar, Chiam Heng Keng, Mahadev Shankar, Hamdan
Adnan, Simon Sipaun, Lee Lam Thye, K Pathmanaban, Mohammad Hirman Ritom Abdullah and Dr
Salleh Mohd Nor.
The commission is divided into four working groups which include education, law reform,
treaties and international instruments, and complaints and inquiries.
Fictitious Debt Reduction for the Highly
Indebted Poor Countries
by Eric Toussaint
At the end of April 2001 the Spring meeting of the IMF and the World
Bank will be held in Washington. It is time to see what has actually been done in terms of
debt reduction for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries.
In 1996, the World Bank, the IMF, the G7 and the "Club de Paris" launched an
initiative to improve the capacity of what the Bretton Woods institutions have designated
the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) to effectively repay an unbearable debt. The
debt burden had to be reduced to avoid persistant accumulation of debt arrears. Generosity
had nothing to do with the creditors' decision. It was coldly calculated as the only way
to maintain the flow of repayments. Thus it was that the G7, the IMF and the World Bank
promised to cancel 80% of the HIPC debt. That was at the G7 Summit held in Lyon (France)
in June 1996. Three years later, at another Summit held in Cologne (Germany) in June 1999,
they announced an even greater debt reduction attaining 90% of the debt. This last figure
was reached under pressure from a world media campaign demanding debt-cancellation for the
poorest countries, known as the Jubilee 2000 Campaign. The World Bank and IMF initiative
concerns 41 countries, a small minority of developing countries (the OECD records 187
developing countries - OECD, External Debt Statistics, 2000).
In 2001, five years after the much-trumpeted start of the HIPC, only a few countries have
obtained an effective reduction of the sums to be repaid to service their external debt.
Out of the 41 HIPC, a total of 22 countries (including 18 in Subsaharan Africa) are
actually being considered since December 2000 as possible future beneficiaries of a
reduction in their debt-servicing payments (IMF Bulletin, 15 January 2001). Despite
repeated much-publicized announcements, the concrete results are so meagre that the
Bretton Woods institutions and the governments of the leading industrial countries are
finding it increasingly difficult to conceal the enormity of the swindle. The following
figures and quotations illustrate the evolution of the debt stock of the 41 Highly
Indebted Poor Countries selected for debt-reduction by the IMF and the World Bank:
In 1990, HIPC debt stock : 158.4 billion dollars;
In 1996, HIPC debt stock : 205.5 billion dollars;
In 1997, HIPC debt stock : 202.1 billion dollars;
In 1998, HIPC debt stock : 204.4 billion dollars;
In 1999, HIPC debt stock : 209.8 billion dollars;
In 2000, HIPC debt stock : 207.9 billion dollars;
In 2001, HIPC debt stock : 214.9 billion dollars;
(Source : IMF, World Economic Outlook, www.imf.org).
Comments: Between 1990 and 1996, debt stock increased by 30%. In 1996, the G7, the IMF and
the World Bank announced a cancellation of up to 80% but in practice, far from
diminishing, the debt continued its upward curve and climbed a further 4.7% in five years.
Net negative transfer
In 1999, the HIPC repaid $1,680 million more than they received in the form of new loans
(Source : World Bank, Global Development Finance, 2000). This means that they were
subjected to a net negative transfer in favour of their creditors. Who is being generous
towards whom? How dare anyone refer to the leading industrial countries as donor
countries, and to the IMF and the World Bank as funding agencies, knowing that the poorest
countries repay more than they receive in fresh loans?
Debt-servicing paid by the HIPC is on the rise
Between 1996 and 1999, according to the World Bank, the overall amount of debt-servicing
payments from the HIPC increased by 25% (from $8,860 million in 1996 to $11,440 in 1999 -
Source World Bank, GDF, 1999 and 2000).
According to the OECD, the HIPC debt towards the IMF and the World Bank, i.e. the
multilateral debt, went from $70.7 billion in 1998 to $70.4 billion in 1999 (Source: OECD,
External Debt Statistics, 1999 p.18; 2001, p.17). In short, it has barely decreased at all
(less than 0.5%). Again, according to the OECD, the rest of the external debt of the HIPC
(i.e. bilateral debt and private debt) only diminished by 6.6% over the period 1998-1999.
This reduction is mainly attributable to France.
What does the future hold? The World Bank and the IMF shout loud and clear that the
cancellations already announced for 22 countries represent a reduction of $34 billion
spread over several years. Itıs mind-boggling. In reality, the World Bank and the IMF
will not cancel debt. The directors of these institutions are lying shamelessly when they
let it be understood that they are implementing cancellation. The multilateral debt will
be repaid to the World Bank and the IMF sure enough, via a kitty called a "trust
In the article "The activities and the control of the International Monetary Fund and
the World Bank" that appeared in a National Assembly information bulletin (France) on
13/12/2000 MP Yves Tavernier explained how this fund works. The IMF's Annual Report 2000
and the document written by Yves Tavernier reveal that the total amount disbursed by the
IMF between the beginning of the HIPC iniative in 1996 and 2000 is around $400 million, or
less than the annual cost of paying about 2300 IMF employees ($451 million in 2001).
As for the sum disbursed by the World Bank, it is less than its annual profits, which are
about $1,500 million. And let us not forget that what is disbursed by the World Bank and
the IMF comes right back to them in the form of debt repayments. Indeed, what is paid out
finds its way into the different trust funds whose object is to reimburse the HIPC debts
to these very institutions, who never give up on money owing to them.
Reduction of the HIPC debt concerns only part of the bilateral debt. In this case,
cancellations come from creditor States (usually within the Club de Paris coalition). Here
again, there is foul play, since when the government of an industrialized country
announces a cancellation, the amount concerned is systematically greatly exaggerated. The
real cost of the cancellation usually represents 10% to 25% of the sum publicly quoted.
For example, when Belgium announces that she is prepared to cancel $36 million of public
debt owed by Vietnam (an HIPC country), the cost for the Belgian treasury is about 25% of
that sum, i.e. about $9 million. That money is not destined for Vietnam, it is counted as
expenditure incurred by Belgiumıs public finances to "buy back" a debt with the
nominal value of $36 million. The equivalent of approximately $9 million is paid by the
Belgian Ministry of Overseas Cooperation to the "Office de Ducroire", a public
Belgian organization which insures Belgian exporters (just as the private organization
Coface does in France). In the case of France, the latter insists that the HIPC repay the
bilateral debt. Once the annual repayment has effectively been made by the HIPC, this sum
is credited back to it in the form of a gift. It is thus inappropriate to call this a
The OECD's last report devoted to the debt takes entirely the same stance as what has just
been described: 'The HIPC initiative will not bring about a reduction in the value of the
outstanding debt, as reductions will mainly take the form of interest repayment and gifts
aimed at financing debt-servicing, and not direct reductions of the outstanding debt.'
(OECD, op. cit. p.10).
The initiativeıs objective is slightly to reduce the burden on the finances of the
poorest countries so that the debt system will live on. The HIPC are shackled to it. This
enables the creditors to impose on HIPC governments policies which suit the interests of
the leading industrial countries and their multinationals. The World Bank and the IMF are
responsible for dictating these policies, along with the Club de Paris, within the
framework of the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facilities (PRGF) and the Poverty Reduction
Strategy Paper (PRSP), the new names for structural adjustment policies.
Acceptance of these policies by the HIPC constitutes a condition sine qua non dictated by
the World Bank, the IMF and the Club de Paris in exchange for future repayment reductions
and new adjustment credits. These specific policies (known in Bretton Woodsı jargon as
- acceleration of the privatization of services (water, electricity, telecommunications,
- privatization or closing down of public industrial firms where they exist;
- cancellation of subsidies for basic products (bread or other food staples);
- increased taxation of the poor through the generalization of VAT (at a single rate of
18%, as is the case in the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa);
- abandoning customs protection (thus exposing local producers to competition with
- liberalization of capital inflow and outflow (which usually results in massive capital
- privatization of land; recovery of costs for health, education.
The conditions are so draconian that in 2000, two countries selected by the World Bank and
the IMF to be included in the 41 HIPC decided to decline the offer. They were Ghana and
the Republic of Laos.
translated by Vicki Briault
(*) Eric Toussaint is president of the Brussels-based Committee for Cancellation of
the Third World Debt (COCAD, CADTM in French) and author of "Your Money or Your Life:
The Tyranny of Global Finance"
More info on the COCAD website: http://users.skynet.be/cadtm/
MALAYSIA - EIGHT DETAINED
UNDER THE ISA!
The following have been detained under Section 73(1) Internal Security
- Mohd. Ezam Mohd. Noor, Youth Chief of the National Justice Party
- Tian Chua, Vice-president of the Naitonal Justice Party
- Haji Saari Sungip, Organising Chairperson of the April 14th. memorandum
- Hishamuddin Rais, social activist/film-maker
- Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin, Free Anwar Campaign (Freeanwar.com) webmaster
- Dr Badrul Amin Baharom, Keadilan leader
- N Gobalakrishnan
- Abdul Ghani Haroon
Sect 71(1) ISA states that "Any police officer may without warrant
arrest and detain pending enquiries any person in respect of whom he has reason to believe
- that there are grounds which would justify his detention under section 8; and
- that he has acted or is about to act or is likely to act in any manner prejudicial to
the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to maintenance of essential services
therein or to the economic life thereof."
Sect 8. gives the power to order detention or restriction of persons.
"(i)If the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a
view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia
or any part thereof or to the maintenance of essential services therein or the economic
life thereof, he may make an order (hereinafter referred to as a detention order)
directing that person be detained for any period not exceeding two years."
WHY THE ISA IS A DRACONIAN LAW:
Since 1960, thousands of people including trade unionist, student
leaders, labour activist, political activist, religious groups, academicians, NGO activist
have been arrested under the ISA. The ISA has been consistently used against people who
criticize the government and defend human rights. It has been the most convenient tool for
the state to suppress opposition and open debate. The Act is an instrument maintained by
the ruling government to control public life and civil society.
The ISA provides for preventative detention without trial for an
indefinite period. The ISA violates fundamental rights and goes against the principles of
justice and undermines the rule of law.
The ISA goes against the right of a person to defend himself in an open
and fair trial. The person can be incarcerated up to 60 days of interrogation without
access to lawyers. A person is presumed innocent till proven guilty but under the ISA the
person is deemed guilty until she/he toes the line of the government of the day.
The ISA is immoral and cruel. It condones torture and humiliation. It
is opposed by all major religions practiced in the world.
- Some of the detained were planning along with others to forward a
formal complaint and memorandum to the Human Rights Commission (SUHAKAM) on April 14,
2001. This event and intention was made known to the public and several newspapers. The
organizing committee had also notified the Commission of their intention to submit the
memorandum on April 14th., the anniversary of Anwar's first sentencing. The date has since
been described as Black 14.
- In the last two years, police also conducted similar arrest.
117 were arrested between 14th. and 17th. April 1999 (Anuar's sentencing)
54 people were arrested between 14th. and 15th. April 2000
All the above arrest was under the Criminal Procedure Code.
- Demand for the release of all those detained without condition.
Express concern over their well-being.
- If those detained have violated any laws, charge them in an open and fair court.
- Condemn the use of ISA and call for the Government to repeal the ISA.
- Condemn the abuse and disrespect on freedom of assembly and expression.
- Call upon the Malaysian Human Rights Commission to intervene and restore democracy and
LETTERS CAN BE ADDRESSED
Ybhg Tan Sri Musa Hitam
Malaysia Human Rights Commission,
29th. Floor, Menara Tun Razak,
Jalan Raja Laut,
50350 Kuala Lumpur.
United Nations Room S-3800,
New York NY 10017
Fax: 1-212-963 4879/2155
Email : email@example.com
Ms. Mary Robinson
Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Palais des nations
8-14 avenue de la Paix,
CH 1211 Geneve,
Fax : (41) 229170213
Datuk Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
Home Minister of Malaysia
Jalan Dato Onn,
50502 Kuala Lumpur.
Tan Sri Norian Mai
Inspector General of Police,
50560 Kuala Lumpur