quarta-feira, 1 de julho de 2009


Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Sanjay Suri

LONDON (IPS) - The G8 leaders meeting early July must address a crisis resulting from a sharp decline in investment in agriculture, Oxfam demands in a new study.

More than a billion people are now hungry, and food prices have begun to rise again, threatening multitudes of poor people, the report points out.

"Total global investment, in bilateral and multilateral assistance, has declined 75 percent since the 1980s," Emily Alpert, author of the Oxfam report told IPS in an interview from Hong Kong.

The under-investment over decades has increased vulnerability of many to market and climatic shocks, she said. And the need to act is immediate, she said. "Investment in agriculture brings slow returns; it can have a long payoff time. Increasing investments today will not bring the desired results immediately."

The report, 'Investing in Poor Farmers Pays: Rethinking How to Invest in Agriculture' released Tuesday, says that two-thirds of the world's rural poor have been overlooked by what little investments have been made.

Oxfam is calling on leaders of the G8 (the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia) to raise agricultural development assistance back to at least 1980 levels of around 20 billion dollars a year, from the 5 billion dollars at present.

"National investment has followed suit, except in rich countries and in a handful of developing countries such as China, India and Brazil," Alpert told IPS.

Among the rich, the report notes that in 2007 alone, EU agricultural spending was 130 billion dollars, and in the U.S. 41 billion dollars.

"A substantial increase in long-term agriculture investments is loose change compared to ongoing investments in rich countries or the trillions of dollars spent globally this year on the financial bail-out," Alpert said in a statement earlier. "Strengthening the agricultural sectors of developing countries is a crucial part of the long-term solution to the world's food, financial and climate crises."

The Oxfam report urges donors, national governments and private sector investors to invest more and more wisely in developing country agriculture, targeting investments towards people, particularly women, to encourage and support social and knowledge capital and enabling them to adopt environmentally sustainable farming methods.

"Women are key to food security," Alpert said. "Investing equitably in women's needs and building their capacity to productively engage in agriculture must be at the forefront any solution to improve agricultural growth and reduce poverty."

Oxfam says donor funding must be predictable, transparent and untied. The agency also cautioned the use of any "one size approach", and said investments must be tailored to the conditions of specific locations, participatory and demand-driven.

Special attention must be paid to farmers and herders in marginalised land, who often work in harsh and remote environments with inadequate access to markets and services for extension, credit and farming inputs, and fewer off- farm sources of employment, the report says.

"Such farmers and herders shoulder the burden of conserving crop biodiversity and managing some of the world's most fragile soils and could be critical allies in the fight against climate change."

Alpert said that despite perceived low returns on investing in marginalised areas by donors and the private sector, investing in developing country agriculture pays for itself by reducing poverty. "A healthy agricultural sector acts as a multiplier in local economies, leading eventually to higher wages and vibrant rural markets where farmers and workers spend their earnings."

The crisis is here already, Alpert told IPS. "We are already seeing the impact of food price rise on poor people, which is at least in part due to lack of investment in agriculture. The more you increase productivity, the more food there will be for poor people, who spend 50 to 80 percent of their income on food." (END)

terça-feira, 30 de junho de 2009


Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Francis Kokutse

ACCRA (IPS) - There are conflicting signals about whether west African countries will sign an economic partnership agreement (EPA) with the European Union, as the original deadline of Jun 30 has been postponed and stakeholders hold different views on the new deadline of end Oct. This may still allow Ghana to re-think its interim EPA.

At a Jun 22 meeting of the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja, Nigeria, a new deadline for the signing of the EPA was set for the end of Oct this year. But Cheikh Tidiane Dieye, a Senegalese trade activist, believes this new date is also likely to be missed.

Dieye told journalists at a workshop last week in Senegal that he was sure that negotiations would probably continue until Jan 2010 since both the European Union (EU) and ECOWAS have not agreed on the market percentages to be liberalised.

He said the contending issues between ECOWAS and EU was that west Africa is proposing 60 percent liberalisation of its markets while the EU wants 80 percent. "There are still a lot of issues to deal with. I do not see ECOWAS signing the EPA in October," he stressed, according to the Ghana News Agency.

Amadou Niang, Senegal's minister of commerce, called for a "social" approach to the EPA negotiations and that the talks should involve civil society, since the decisions taken in the agreement would have political, social and economic effects on people.

The extension of the ECOWAS-EU talks on the EPA has given Ghana, which has signed an interim EPA with the EU, an opportunity to reconsider. The government can now think through what some civil society groups claim is not in the national interest.

The agreement is a problem for the new government which had won an election and come to power after the interim EPA was signed.

The EU took to negotiate individual interim EPAs with Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire after resistance from the rest of the west African region.

Emmanuel Awuri, acting director of policy planning, evaluation and monitoring in the ministry of trade, told IPS in the capital of Accra that, "the government of Ghana can therefore hold on to ECOWAS's decision" while a decision is taken.

Awuri indicated that another option has opened up to Ghana under the present circumstances "to appeal to the EU" to give the government that inherited the agreement time to study it before deciding whether to accept it.

While the government think through what to do, civil society organisations led by Third World Network Africa (TWN Africa) insist that, "the interim agreement was at variance with the manifesto of the current government in power and therefore there is the need for a review of (the EPA)."

Tetteh Hormeku, TWN Africa's head of programmes, told IPS, "our understanding is that the agreement was just initialled and therefore did not have any legal binding until it was signed. Based on this, we drew the attention of the new government to take a closer look at the document." TWN Africa is the Ghana-based secretariat of TWN, an international non-governmental organisation doing research and promoting equitable distribution of world resources and ecologically sustainable development.

The EU has given directives to its customs department to allow countries that had initialled the interim agreement to import duty free and quota free. According to Awuri, this is a partial implementation of the terms under the agreement by the EU.

But scrapping import duties on goods from the EU "will substantially reduce the revenue that the government earns, resulting potentially in budget deficits and affecting resource allocation to social sectors such as education and health," Hormeku stated.

Awuri retorted that "there are other areas where the EU is to assist countries that signed the agreement. It is therefore not an all-lose affair."

But Hormeku disagreed: "The elimination of high duties will lead to the collapse of domestic infant industries which compete with cheap and heavily subsidised imports from the EU.

"Many authoritative studies, including those of the World Bank, concluded that a high level of liberalisation of trade with the EU made countries like Ghana stand the chance of destroying 60 percent of their local production."

Another area of the interim agreement that Hormeku finds damaging is the issue of the removal of export duties on scrap metal to the EU. Presently, there is an export tax to discourage the export of scrap in order to make it available to local manufacturers to produce simple farm implements for the poor in agriculture.

Already, there has been a sudden growth in the export of scrap metal to the disadvantage of local small-scale producers.

The TWN has also expressed misgivings on the rule of origin article in the interim EPA under which access to the EU market is only guaranteed if goods originate in Ghana.

Hormeku says, "a Ghanaian tuna producer cannot use fish from Togo that has been canned in Ghana for the EU market. This could create a difficulty not only for current production but for future economic development, especially for industrialisation prospects in cases where Ghana sources products for processing from its neighbours."

Finally, Awuri acknowledged that, "from a technical point, the government could go ahead with the signing of the interim agreement. However, there are political undercurrents, meaning that the government has to weigh different considerations in order to take a decision." (END)

segunda-feira, 29 de junho de 2009

G8: Itália suspende acordos de Schengen

A cimeira do G8 terá lugar no quartel da academia de polícia de AquilaO governo italiano anunciou a reposição dos controlos fronteiriços e a suspensão dos acordos de livre circulação de pessoas até dia 15 de Julho. Berlusconi quer impedir a entrada de manifestantes estrangeiros para a cimeira do G8, repetindo o que fez em 2001 na cimeira de Génova.

Desta vez, a cimeira do G8 decorre entre os dias 8 a 10 de Julho na cidade atingida pelo terramoto no início de Abril, que provocou 300 mortos. Berlusconi transferiu o local da reunião, inicialmente prevista para a Sardenha. Apesar dos receios sobre as condições oferecidas pela localidade para acolher os chefes dos Estados mais poderosos do mundo, o governo italiano garantiu que o quartel da academia de polícia estará preparado para a cimeira.

A polémica estalou igualmente quando Berlusconi afirmou não acreditar "que os antiglobalistas tenham coragem de organizar manifestações violentas nesta região afectada pelo terramoto". O conselho regional da Refundação Comunista respondeu ao primeiro-ministro italiano, dizendo que "os antiglobalistas chegaram à zona do desastre ao mesmo tempo que a Guarda Civil, e em muitos sítios chegaram antes", referindo-se às centenas de voluntários dos centros sociais, ONG's e da própria Refundação que organizaram a assistência aos desalojados. A cantina do campo de refugiados de San Bagio foi mesmo baptizada logo no primeiro dia de "cantina Carlo Giuliani", em homenagem ao activista morto pela polícia na cimeira de Génova em 2001.

Nos últimos meses, as reuniões sectoriais de ministros dos países do G8 sobre ambiente e agricultura, universidade e economia têm contado com a oposição de grupos ligados à esquerda política e centros sociais. Nas manifestações e acções de protesto, os organizadores alertaram para a construção de um clima mediático alarmista que parte do governo de Berlusconi, identificando os grupos antiglobalização como terroristas, à semelhança do que sucedeu em Génova e que serviu de justificação para a repressão e infiltração policial nos grupos de activistas.

A justiça italiana demorou sete anos para julgar os crimes cometidos em Génova, acabando por condenar treze polícias e guardas prisionais, junto com dois médicos por maus-tratos a pessoas detidas nas manifestações e levadas para um centro de detenção. Outros treze polícias acabaram condenados pelo raide policial ao centro de comunicações que funcionava numa escola em Génova, que provocou dezenas de ferido. Nenhum dos condenados cumpriu pena de prisão e muitos dos polícias acusados, entre os quais os oficiais superiores, foram absolvidos pelo tribunal, apesar do próprio responsável da polícia de Génova ter admitido que "plantou" os cocktails molotov para incriminar os activistas e justificar o assalto à escola. Pietro Troiani admitiu igualmente que o esfaqueamento de um polícia, que foi repetidamente transmitido pelos media, foi afinal uma simulação.