Saturday, February 19, 2005

Dangerous Inequality

The March 13th 2004 edition of The Economist had a central article on poverty and inequality. On the cover of the magazine a skinny, naked African boy walks slowly over a brilliant desert, heading towards a first world city downtown (the image also hinted at the waves of immigrants that enter the first world each day in the search of a better life). The article triggered a response from Martin Ravallion (a World Bank researcher), published in The Economist on April 7th, mainly focused on the discussion of the different methodologies to get the data on poverty. On May 5th, Mr. Martin Wolf wrote an article on the Financial Times, showing how Globalisation (that “pantomime villain”), has in fact, being an important cause of poverty reduction during the last two decades.

All these articles carried an optimist vision. By different measures, Global poverty is decreasing; China and India are growing faster and steadily, and millions of their citizens are getting out from the “less than 1$ a day” pit hole (although that’s not the case for Africa); and Global Inequality has returned to the 1950’s level (a GINI index of 63). These are positive signs, but nevertheless, the figures on inequality are disappointing.

If the world were a country, it would be the most unequal nation on earth. Well, it is. According to the 2002 World Development Indicators (published by the World Bank), only five countries have GINI indexes above 60: Sierra Leone – 62.9; Central African Republic – 61.3; Swaziland – 60.9; Brazil – 60.7; and Nicaragua – 60.3. South Africa is 59.3 and Colombia 57.1. Some of these countries even have a similar per capita Income (at purchasing power parity) as the World ($7,820). In this sense, the fact the global GINI index has diminished from 67 in 1980 to 63 in 2000, may be the right trend but not something to make us happy, and definitely, not good enough (the standard in developed countries varies between 25 and 40). Growth may lead to where everyone wants to go, but a more equal world, given today’s global wealth, would help to get there faster.

Rich countries know better than anyone that a more equal society, with better educated and informed people, becomes the center of a virtuous circle that allows a nation to achieve prosperity. That configuration would work the same for the world as whole. Poor countries already have to work hard to get on the growth track. The rules of globalisation have to be designed with a more equal world in mind, with rich states and international institutions influencing in a progressive way the forces of the market economy. Don’t expect growth to do the entire job because it won’t.

That’s why it is vital to get the subject of poverty and inequality to the front pages and put the issue at the top of the global agenda. If the world is a dangerous, fearful place, as many in the so-called first world perceive it, it’s not because of international terrorism or unintelligent geopolitical decisions, but because an unequal world, like ours, is condemned to be such a place.



Monday, February 07, 2005

The Forgotten War - Civil War in Colombia

Johan Berglund, Swedish Political Scientist, makes a broad analysis (2004) of causes and dynamics of the Colombian complex war. Covering the drug trade, the internal social structure and the US involvement, his approach opens new perspectives and understandings of the situation.

Printing Recommendation: Copy and Paste on a word file.

To view the document* CLICK HERE!

*Published with kind permission from the author.

Geography Lessons by your always friendly Central “Idiocy” Agency

An Encyclopaedia is always useful (ask Mr. Diderot). Under the head-line of TRANSNATIONAL ISSUES, the most intelligent of all Encyclopaedia compilations, the one from the CIA, offers very interesting information about who’s who on the international comedy stage. Recommended for adults and children!!! (Published WITHOUT permission).




Consumer of cocaine shipped from Colombia through Mexico and the Caribbean; consumer of heroin, marijuana, and increasingly methamphetamine from Mexico; consumer of high-quality Southeast Asian heroin; illicit producer of cannabis, marijuana, depressants, stimulants, hallucinogens, and methamphetamine; money-laundering center.


Prolonged drought, population growth, and outmoded practices and infrastructure in the border region has strained water-sharing arrangements with Mexico; undocumented nationals from Mexico and Central America continue to enter the United States illegally; 1990 Maritime Boundary Agreement in the Bering Sea still awaits Russian Duma ratification; managed maritime boundary disputes with Canada at Dixon Entrance, Beaufort Sea, Strait of Juan de Fuca, and around the disputed Machias Seal Island and North Rock; The Bahamas have not been able to agree on a maritime boundary; US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and only mutual agreement or US abandonment of the area can terminate the lease; Haiti claims US-administered Navassa Island; US has made no territorial claim in Antarctica (but has reserved the right to do so) and does not recognize the claims of any other state; Marshall Islands claims Wake Island (Ooooops! They forgot to mention the IRAQ INVASION!).



Producer of limited amounts of synthetic drugs and synthetic precursor chemicals; major consumer of Southwest Asian heroin, Latin American cocaine, and synthetic drugs; money-laundering center.



A major international financial center vulnerable to the layering and integration stages of money laundering; despite significant legislation and reporting requirements, secrecy rules persist and non-residents are permitted to conduct business through offshore entities and various intermediaries; transit country for and consumer of South American cocaine and Southwest Asian heroin.



Trans-shipment point for and consumer of South American cocaine, Southwest Asian heroin, and European synthetics.



Source of precursor chemicals for South American cocaine processors; trans-shipment point for and consumer of Southwest Asian heroin, Latin American cocaine, and European-produced synthetic drugs; major financial center vulnerable to the layering and integration stages of money laundering.



Illicit producer of cannabis for the domestic drug market and export to US; use of hydroponics technology permits growers to plant large quantities of high-quality marijuana indoors; transit point for heroin and cocaine entering the US market; vulnerable to narcotics money laundering because of its mature financial services sector.



Important gateway for and consumer of Latin American cocaine and Southwest Asian heroin entering the European market; money laundering by organized crime and from smuggling.



Major European producer of ecstasy, illicit amphetamines, and other synthetic drugs; important gateway for cocaine, heroin, and hashish entering Europe; major source of US-bound ecstasy; large financial sector vulnerable to money laundering.



Key European gateway country for, and consumer of, Latin American cocaine and North African hashish entering the European market; destination and minor trans-shipment point for Southwest Asian heroin; money laundering site for European earnings of Colombian narcotics trafficking organizations.



Two largest insurgent groups active in Colombia - Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia or FARC and National Liberation Army or ELN; largest anti-insurgent paramilitary group is United Self-Defense Groups of Colombia or AUC.

Their operations against the Colombian Civil Society are financed through extortion, kidnapping, and mainly, illicit drugs trade, cashing in revenues from developed countries consumers. Drug trade source of instability.


Illicit producer of coca, opium poppy, and cannabis; world's leading coca cultivator (cultivation of coca in 2002 was 144,450 hectares, a 15% decline since 2001); potential production of opium between 2001 and 2002 declined by 25% to 91 metric tons; potential production of heroin declined to 11.3 metric tons; the world's largest processor of coca derivatives into cocaine; supplier of about 90% of the cocaine to the US market and the great majority of cocaine to other international drug markets; important supplier of heroin to the US market; active aerial eradication program; a significant portion of non-US narcotics proceeds are either laundered or invested in Colombia through the black market peso exchange.



World's largest producer of opium; cultivation of opium poppy reached unprecedented level of 206,700 hectares in 2004; counterdrug efforts largely unsuccessful; potential opium production of 4,950 metric tons; potential heroin production of 582 metric tons if all opium was processed; source of hashish; many narcotics-processing labs throughout the country; drug trade source of instability and some antigovernment groups profit from the trade; 80-90% of the heroin consumed in Europe comes from Afghan opium; vulnerable to narcotics money laundering through informal financial networks.



Cocaine: worldwide, coca is grown on an estimated 173,450 hectares-almost exclusively in South America with 70% in Colombia; potential cocaine production during 2003 is estimated at 728 metric tons (or 835 metric tons of export quality cocaine); coca eradication programs continue in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru; 376 metric tons of export quality cocaine are documented to have been seized in 2003, and 26 metric tons disrupted (jettisoned or destroyed); consumption of export quality cocaine is estimated to have been 800 metric tons.

Opiates: cultivation of opium poppy occurred on an estimated 137,944 hectares in 2003-mostly in Southwest and Southeast Asia-with 44% in Afghanistan, potentially produced 3,775 metric tons of opium - which conceivably could be converted to the equivalent of 429 metric tons of pure heroin; opium eradication programs have been undertaken in Afghanistan, Burma, Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam.