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Debt Relief
June 13, 2005 9:08 AM   Subscribe

Debt relief cannot come too soon for Swaziland's King Mswati III who took an 18-year-old former Miss Teen Swaziland finalist as his 12th wife during the weekend, barely two weeks after marrying his 11th. Swaziland the smallest country in Africa ranked 137 on the UN's Human Development Report also has one of the world's highest AIDS rates with 40% of the adult population infected with HIV. Perhaps Bono, who recently complained that the corruption is just an excuse for inaction, will send some condoms as a wedding gift.
posted by three blind mice (31 comments total)

 
Isn't the lesson to be gained that grassroots efforts work much better then the top down governmental approaches?
posted by iamck at 9:14 AM on June 13, 2005


Grassroots efforts may be the only option for real reform. In a recent book on Structural Adjustment Programs (programs designed to sell off state owned monopolies to the people, as far as I can tell), the authors suggest that the old-boy network of elites is still in place. A review of Beyond Structural Adjustment is here.
posted by beelzbubba at 9:27 AM on June 13, 2005


Swaziland isn't on the list of countries getting their debt wiped btw...
posted by lazywhinerkid at 9:28 AM on June 13, 2005


Isn't the lesson to be gained that grassroots efforts work much better then the top down governmental approaches?

I think the lesson is that debt relief will only result in African leaders like King Mswati III (who has a fleet of luxury cars and spends millions towards refurbishing his numerous wives' luxury mansions) having more money to spend on luxuries and weapons.

On preview, you're right lazywhinerkid. That's the point. Debt relief isn't Sswaziland's - or Africa's - major problem.

International pressure should be put on ending corruption but blaming the G8 for Africa's problems is so much more rock and roll.
posted by three blind mice at 9:32 AM on June 13, 2005


12 wives? No wonder the AIDS rate is so staggering there...
posted by wakko at 9:34 AM on June 13, 2005


In one of the countries qualifying, Mozambique. people were forced at gunpoint to produce cotton by the colonial regime, a crop that ruined their soil and took away from their own livelyhoods. They were then forced to sell that crop to the colonial regime for substantially less than it was worth.

The first world made a great deal of the mess, they should help clean it up. First, by not committing the sin of usury.

The Aids statistics are staggering for a lot of complex reasons, including migrant male labour who frequent prostitutes, poor education, gender inequality which means women cannot insist men wear condoms, different groups running around saying condoms don't work, poverty that leads women to chose prostitution as a way to survive - the list goes on. In each place it is different; in South Africam the density of HIV infection is just so high that being a health care worker is a major risk factor.

three blind mice, since the country you have pointed to repeated as an example for corruption is not on the list, I am having trouble understanding what your point is.

Yes, there is a great deal of corruption in sub-Sarharan Africa. And again, there are different reasons for this. In many places colonialism disrupted the established social and economic networks considerably; then they pulled out suddenly, leaving a power vacuum that was often filled by those who could take most advantage of the situation.
posted by jb at 9:47 AM on June 13, 2005


Debt relief is not going to make the situation any worse and has a lot of potential to make the situation better. Trying to paint the US/G8 as bad for forgiving the debts of Africa is an amazing stretch of logic to fit ideology.

Here's a good report by Oxfam on how debt relief could help one country. ("Social investments have been ‘crowded out’ by diverting limited government revenues to foreign creditors. The effect has been to exclude the poor from the benefits of growth")
posted by thedevildancedlightly at 9:50 AM on June 13, 2005


meanwhile the EU and Nato are in a turf war over who leads the peacekeeping force in Darfur. untill this is resolved, nothing is going to happen

it's only genocide, take your time guys.....
posted by quarsan at 9:54 AM on June 13, 2005


Grassroots efforts may be the only option for real reform. In a recent book on Structural Adjustment Programs (programs designed to sell off state owned monopolies to the people, as far as I can tell),

Hmm, don't you mean sell them from the people? Often to foreign corporations?
posted by delmoi at 9:56 AM on June 13, 2005


jb, I am having trouble understanding what your point is.

Blaming corruption on the colonial powers - a 30 year old excuse - doesn't change the fact that corruption is the biggest problem in Africa. Pumping money into African states either through direct aid, or debt relief, only exacerbates this problem.

Where did all the Live Aid money go? How much went to buy the guns that Africans are using the slaughter Africans? Instead of blaming Bush and Blair and "the sin of usury", Bono and Geldof and YOU should be blaming Mugabe, Mswati, and those like them for Africa's problems.
posted by three blind mice at 9:56 AM on June 13, 2005


BONO: The corruption argument is, of course, real. But it's often just an excuse for inaction. And we just got to -- in the light of the size of the tragedy that the AIDS pandemic brings. I think it's 7,000 people a day. How about that -- 7,000 people a day dying of a preventable, treatable disease? We need to stop prevaricating. All these initiatives, the president's millennium challenge account, which is $10 billion over three years, that is predicated on there being -- on government's tackling corruption and there being good governance and clear and transparent process in place.

And yeah, swaziland isn't on the list of countries to be relived. So what does this post have to do with anything? It's a horrible post and I hope it gets deleted.
posted by delmoi at 10:00 AM on June 13, 2005


I'm actually a huge cynic with the mass debt relief as well, but to draw a comparison between Swaziland and every other country in Africa is pretty rich. There are plenty of countries in Africa that are pretty much free of corruption on that scale (Ghana, Botswana, and Lesotho come to mind.) Besides, the major reason corruption happens is due to opportunity -- there just happens to be much opportunity in Africa for corruption due to the frightening lack of structural government in many countries. One of the reasons they don't have government structures is because they can't afford it, and they largely can't afford it due to low GDP. So when we're taking many millions of dollars out of their economy in the form of interest payments, we are indeed hurting them.

I had a long discussion about Live 8 and debt relief with a white colleague from Zimbabwe who would agree with the notion of "all you're going to do with debt relief is make a bunch of assholes really wealthy". And while I can see his point (with Mugabe as his frame of reference), I think that the G8 have done a pretty good job discriminating between those countries who will do Good with the extra money post-debt relief from those that would do Bad. Hopefully some of the Good they do will include things like aids education, etc.

While not the perfect solution (is there ever one?), I think debt relief is a pretty sound start.

On preview, there ain't a single person here who has enough knowledge to say what "Africa's biggest problem is." At least with this debt relief action we can test one pretty big hypothesis and no one is likely to get hurt, unlike if we did nothing.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 10:02 AM on June 13, 2005


It is good to be the King.

Even while you're people starve, you can have your dozen wives do the can-can for you and then go and do the bikini car wash thing on your fleet of sports cars.

I wonder if the window tinting is dark enough to not see his subjects starving in the streets? Or does he just run them over?
posted by fenriq at 10:08 AM on June 13, 2005


I hear Japan has a huge amount of corruption. What does this have to do with the debt relif?

Nothing.
posted by delmoi at 10:08 AM on June 13, 2005


What does King Mswati's polygamy have to do with his government's profligate spending habits, or for that matter, with debt relief as currently proposed by its proponents, including Bono? The interview you linked to contains some crucial context:
BONO: The corruption argument is, of course, real. But it's often just an excuse for inaction. And we just got to -- in the light of the size of the tragedy that the AIDS pandemic brings. I think it's 7,000 people a day. How about that -- 7,000 people a day dying of a preventable, treatable disease? We need to stop prevaricating. All these initiatives, the president's millennium challenge account, which is $10 billion over three years, that is predicated on there being -- on government's tackling corruption and there being good governance and clear and transparent process in place.

This is smart of the president. And this is the kind of thing that we have to have in Africa. Of course, we've got to deal with corruption. But it isn't corruption, finally, that's killing 7,000 people a day. It's a disease called HIV/AIDS.
Also, the plan just announced by the G8 finance ministers on 12 June does not include all African countries, but a list of 14 (and 4 countries in Latin America) "that have reached the 'completion point' in the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative launched by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in 1996. The 14 in Africa include Benin, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Nine others that are considered close to completion are Cameroon, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Sao Tome and Sierra Leone." Please note the complete absence of Swaziland in that list.

This FPP's editorializing is nothing more than strawman sophistry. Critics of public figures should take care to attack their opponents' actual positions, not what they wish their opponents' positions were. Trying to associate them with the unusual sexual practices of a corrupt despot is simply a bad-faith debating tactic.

On preview: a lot of other people (jb, thedevildancedlightly, delmoi, lazywhinerkid) have made this point equally well.
posted by skoosh at 10:08 AM on June 13, 2005


Swaziland isn't on the list of countries getting their debt wiped btw...

Shush, don't ruin a good troll!
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:13 AM on June 13, 2005


Steve_at_Linwood: D'oh! Oops!
posted by lazywhinerkid at 10:15 AM on June 13, 2005


It's a horrible post and I hope it gets deleted.

Swaziland is a miserable country with a horrible rate of HIV infection and it has nothing to do with the debt relief that dominates the agenda of Live8. That's the point of the post. But perhaps I was being too subtle.

Yes, silence anyone who doesn't agree with the leftist dogma that capitalism and the colonial west are to blame for modern Africa's problems. Colonialism, the old shibboleth. Look at what land reform has done for Zimbabwe. 3 million people on the verge of starvation because colonial farmers needed to be thrown off their land. And who received those farms? Mugabe's corrupt cronies who sold off the equipment and put the money in their pockets.
posted by three blind mice at 10:20 AM on June 13, 2005


three blind mice, you've got Steve_at_Linwood calling you a troll -- I'm having a hard time buying the "silence anyone who doesn't agree with the leftist dogma" bit. But well done bringing up Zimbabwe as another example of African corruption! Excellent dig.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 10:36 AM on June 13, 2005


Swaziland is a miserable country with a horrible rate of HIV infection and it has nothing to do with the debt relief that dominates the agenda of Live8. That's the point of the post. But perhaps I was being too subtle.

So what was your fucking point then, jackass? As far as I can see, you don't have one at all. If the two wern't related what the hell was the "Perhaps Bono will send some condoms as a wedding gift." crack all about?

Yes, silence anyone who doesn't agree with the leftist dogma that capitalism and the colonial west are to blame for modern Africa's problems.

No. Silence people who use illogical nonsense to discredit things they obviously don't understand very well. Whatever goes on swaziland has nothing to do with debt relief. can you find instances of corruption in the countries that actualy will get the money? Or were you hoping we were all to stupid to catch on? (or were you to stupid to notice yourself?)

And what, pray tell, do you think is the cause of 'Africa's problems'? Is it because they are all run by black people, and as we know Niggers could never run a country?

Look at what land reform has done for Zimbabwe. 3 million people on the verge of starvation because colonial farmers needed to be thrown off their land.

Oh, I see. before this Bono and the others wanted zimbabwe to do this? Or maybe that was just a cynical political move by Mugabe to maintain power.

Of course, it's totaly resonable to judge every african country by Swaziland and Zimbabwe. I mean there hardly any diffrence between Cambodia and Japan, right? Hardly any diffrence between Kosovo and France, right? As we all know life in the United States is as bad as life in Mexico.

Seriously, what is your point? Do you even have one?
posted by delmoi at 10:52 AM on June 13, 2005


The sad fact is that everyone in this thread is correct--that is the immensity of the problem in Africa.

Colonialism really did incorporate Africa into the world economy in a subordinate role, purposely exacerbate ethnic tensions in a divide-and-conquer strategy, destabilize traditional governments and economies, and generally poorly prepared Africa for self-rule. The era of independence really has seen burgeoning corruption and militarism, cults of personality, inane socialist economics including land redistribution, and the squandering of whatever aid has come their way on weapons, luxury cars, and Swiss bank accounts. First world countries certainly do less than they should and perhaps make the situation worst with farm subsidies, poorly designed foreign aid, and proxy wars. All Bob Geldof really is a wanker.

So what do we do?
posted by LarryC at 10:52 AM on June 13, 2005


...an event where thousands of maidens dance bare breasted in honor of the Queen Mother...

Anyone else think of Coming to America?


posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:04 AM on June 13, 2005


Colonialism, the old shibboleth. Look at what land reform has done for Zimbabwe. 3 million people on the verge of starvation because colonial farmers needed to be thrown off their land. And who received those farms? Mugabe's corrupt cronies who sold off the equipment and put the money in their pockets.

Hold on; Zimbabwe's not on the debt-relief list, either. It's not even particularly indebted. And you seem to imply that "land reform" in Zimbabwe was imposed by external actors, while in fact it was entirely Mugabe's initiative.

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who blames anyone other than Robert Mugabe for Zimbabwe's problems. Maybe Thabo Mbeki, but his view in that regard is waaaaaaaay out of the mainstream.

And your out-of-context paraphrasing of Bono was very disingenuous. You should apologize for thinking that we'd all be stupid enough to fall for that. Christ, you even linked to the interview.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:39 AM on June 13, 2005


Colonialism, the old shibboleth. Look at what land reform has done for Zimbabwe. 3 million people on the verge of starvation because colonial farmers needed to be thrown off their land. And who received those farms? Mugabe's corrupt cronies who sold off the equipment and put the money in their pockets.

Hold on; Zimbabwe's not on the debt-relief list, either. It's not even particularly indebted. And you seem to imply that "land reform" in Zimbabwe was imposed by external actors, while in fact it was entirely Mugabe's initiative.

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who blames anyone other than Robert Mugabe for Zimbabwe's problems. Maybe Thabo Mbeki, but his view in that regard is waaaaaaaay out of the mainstream.

And your out-of-context paraphrasing of Bono was very disingenuous. You should apologize for thinking that we'd all be stupid enough to fall for that. Christ, you even linked to the interview.
posted by mr_roboto at 11:40 AM on June 13, 2005


Sorry about the double. Damn you, JRun!
posted by mr_roboto at 11:41 AM on June 13, 2005


Reed Dance, Saturday, My place. Tell your female friends.
posted by mr.marx at 11:46 AM on June 13, 2005


Is it because they are all run by black people, and as we know Niggers could never run a country?

Now we're getting somewhere.
posted by Witty at 12:45 PM on June 13, 2005


You know what would be better than debt cancellation? If the EU would drop it's friggin' agricultural subsidies. While they're still around there is no way African farmers can compete.

Case in point, last year Irish dairy products were dumped on us (South Africa) because farmers in Ireland were receiving so much in subsidies that they could outprice locally produced cheese. Which is ridiculous when you think of it that they can make dairy cheaper than a country with such low labour and production costs such as us. 40% (!!!) of the budget of the EU goes to subsidies which is basically nothing more but a massive trade barrier to anyone else. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end.
posted by PenDevil at 1:28 PM on June 13, 2005


tbm: As others have pointed out: what is your bloody point?!

First of all, yes, corruption is one of the most serious, if not the most serious problem, in Africa or elsewhere, and King Mswati is a spoiled brat and up there in my pantheon of crazy rulers, right besides the Turkmenbashi and Kim Jong Il. Also, yes, colonialism is not the source of all evil in Africa, even if of much of it.

Nevertheless, this does not necessarily mean debt relief is a bad thing, on the contrary: after all, is it at all moral to ask the extremely poor citizens of those countries to pay back the money we lent to their dictators in the perfect knowledge that those dictators were putting it back in numbered accounts in our backs, in kickbacks to our politicians, in megalomaniacal projects carried out by our public works companies, and in luxury products made by our industries?

I don't think so. Much better to condone debt, especially if, as condition for this, proper financial oversight is introduced.
posted by Skeptic at 3:27 PM on June 13, 2005


And PenDevil, permission to be cynical.
Blair is using the subject merely because all other 24 countries of the EU want to end the UK's special rebate. He just wants to stall that discussion.

And most of those calling for the end of the CAP want to allow (currently banned) national subsidies instead. It's basically the richest member states of the EU wanting to focus their money on subsidising their farmers...

Anyway, the beginning of the end of CAP subsidies was already a while ago. CAP used to take 70% of the EU's budget, nowadays it's a mere 40%. And (thankfully) they are being shifted from production subsidies to income support to small farmers, which should be less perverse than the past system. (However, it is a bit naíve to pretend that even unsubsidised Irish farmers couldn't be able to produce dairy more cheaply than African farmers: if they have better climatological conditions and much more automated farms, they can well be able to afford the handicap of the higher wages...)
posted by Skeptic at 3:44 PM on June 13, 2005


No response from TBM...
posted by delmoi at 10:05 AM on June 14, 2005


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