Posted on Sat, Aug. 13, 2005

Africa's poverty is problem of our own making


BOB MAY, (June 25) Bill Day (June 27) and Thomas Sowell (July 15) argue against aid to Africa based upon inaccurately stated effects rather than the causes of Africa's poverty.

The poverty, disease and corruption in Africa are a result of International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organization and World Bank policies that facilitate corporate exploitation, unfair trade and perpetuate debt brought about by illegitimate loans. The Bretton Woods theory, from which each of these organizations was derived, strives to give corporations control over the global economy with minimal government interference at the expense of countries' sovereignty, democracy, diversity, community control and ultimately the lives of African children.

After 300 years of colonization and gaining independence in the 1960s, Africa was making progress in providing health care and long-term development. Then in the '70s, U.S. banks awash with oil money made loans for inappropriate and poorly designed projects with little regard for countries' ability to repay or how much was stolen or wasted by unrepresentative and repressive governments.

The debts gave the IMF and World Bank leverage to apply "structural adjustments" that forced countries to forfeit control of their national priorities and abandon the same tariffs and subsidies rich countries use to grow and prosper.

National economies were oriented toward debt repayment and opening resources, labor and markets to foreign corporations. User fees were placed on health care and education for debt repayment, which limited the availability of education and affordable health care throughout Africa.

Jeffrey Sachs' article, "Continent in crisis cut off" (June 19) is a warning that the United States is threatening American and global security by neglecting our "long-standing unmet promise to be a partner in Africa's economic development." Poverty in the world can be ended, but not when the United States is spending more than $500 billion on military spending and only $3 billion per year on aid to Africa. Sachs' plan for ending poverty, "The End of Poverty -- Economic Possibilities for Our Time," would provide clean water, health care, education, agriculture and infrastructure development.

No better investment could be made to promote democracy than giving the poorest people a grip on the bottom rung of the ladder of development.

Africa has been plundered by the forces of economic globalization. May, Day and Sowell should consider the consequences of the United States being isolated further from the rest of the world by rejecting yet another call to address a global crisis we created.

Altgelt lives in Vallejo.

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