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Is the New Interest in the Poor and Debt Forgiveness Sincere?

Naomi is the granddaughter of Mark and Louise Zwick and a student at Incarnate Word Academy.

In England, July 2, 2005, there was a Make Poverty History Rally. This occurrence would naturally give the public hope that something concrete was going to happen to help with the poverty level in Third World countries. Though it seems that G8 leaders are finally searching for a productive way to end poverty in Africa, however, the fact is their new interest is a façade behind which they are furthering the interests of already rich corporations.

Hilary Benn, the secretary of state for international develop-ment was part of the Make Poverty History march. He is the man in charge of pushing the privatization of public services in Africa for Great Britain. What was a man in favor of making life more expensive in Africa doing at a march in favor of getting rid of poverty? If that is puzzling, ponder this: multi-national corporations are now behind most of the operation of freeing Africa from poverty. According to The Guardian, companies like Shell, Exxon, Coca-Cola, GM, Anglo American, and Starbucks have been put in charge of the poverty situation in Africa through the Corporate Council on Africa. So far, Shell has not proved a true friend to Nigeria, nor Anglo American to South Africa; all these companies have acted as colonial powers did.

The above corporations have promised to help impoverished Africa. What exactly do they mean by “help”? If one looks at the US African Growth and Opportunity Act which multi-national corporations were given control of, one will see that in order for African countries to even be eligible for “help” they have to create “the elimination of barriers to US trade investment” and a favorable environment for US “foreign policy interests.” In return for meeting those requirements they will receive “preferential treat-ment” for some of their products in US markets. That would obviously result in riches for the US, and hardly any benefits for Africa. Along with that meager allowance, there come rules such as they can only sell their products in the US if they avoid direct competition with US products, and “preferential treatment” will be ended if it results in “a surge in imports.” What kind of help is that?

The answer is, it’s not. Yes, debts of Africa have been forgiven (after they were unfairly maneuvered into them, and had interest added), but that is not the solution to the problem. The problem is big corporations trying to take everything and turn it into profit for them. If G8 is really looking for a way to reduce poverty, they should restrict corporations dealing in third world countries and lessen their power.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. 25, No. 5, July-August 2005.