Sunday, March 25, 2018

These Foolish Things: New Colonialism (1997)

The Scavenger column from the August 1997 issue of the Socialist Standard

New colonialism
Since 1982, the level of debt in sub-Saharan Africa has doubled to more than 100 percent of GDP. The economic injustice represented by the debt mountain is a subject to which the Archbishop of Capetown, The Most Reverend Njongonkulu Ndungane, will refer with particular force today. He will berate the countries of the First World for saddling poorer regions with crippling debt, punitive tariffs against exports and a restrictive macroeconomic stance. As a result, he will argue, that those bearing the debt burden are swamped by malnourishment. famine and disease and. in some cases, war. (Guardian, 24 April.)


Wasting brain power
Many banks have sophisticated operations in derivatives products, which were pioneered in the early Eighties. Derivatives are so called because they are contracts relating to underlying assets such as commodities, currencies or interest rates—they derive from those assets, such as dollars for delivery in three months’ time, or an option to buy or sell gilt-edged stock. As these contracts can often be combined with one another to create complex structures designed to meet the needs of client companies, they attract computer-literate people, preferably with mathematics-based degrees. (Financial Mail on Sunday. 15 June.)


The capitalist view
Fear. Greed. Sex. Psychologists say they make people tick. A Virgin Personal Pension can satisfy 2 out of 3 of them. The other's up to you. Advert by Virgin Direct Personal Financial Services Ltd.


Expediency rules
The prime minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, will be visiting South Africa next month. Nelson Mandela is familiar with the system of government in Malaysia . . .  its detention without trial, censorship and hostility towards trade unions. But, although the South African president has dedicated his life to freedom, he will reportedly be bestowing on Dr Mahathir one of the highest civilian awards in his gift, the Order of Good Hope. The explanation is not difficult to find. There were the contributions to the African National Congress’s war chest in the 1994 elections—estimated to be 33 million rand (£4.6 million); a recent RI.9 billion investment by the Malaysian state oil company; and Malaysian involvement in a $4 billion scheme to rejuvenate Johannesburg. Malaysia’s expected purchase of Rooivalk helicopters could boost the struggling South African arms industry. Malaysia wants these ’’attack" craft only for "defence”. Mr Mandela assured critics recently. (Guardian, 24 April.)


Feelbad factor
Poverty is rising faster in Britain than in any other major industrialised country, an authoritative new United Nations report reveals. The report also shows that the poor are poorer here than in any other western country for which figures have been collected and that a higher proportion of old people live in poverty than anywhere else in the West. Britain’s child poverty rate, moreover, is second only to the United States. This devastating indictment—which Clare Short, Secretary of State for International Development, describes as “worrying”—contrasts sharply with progress in the fight against poverty in much of the rest of the world. (Independent on Sunday, 16 June.)


Vested interest
Last year the Government scooped £610.2 million from the Lottery in taxes; 12 percent of every pound spent by the public. (Mail on Sunday, 1 June.)
The Scavenger

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