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West Should Forgive Debts Of Tsunami-Hit Countries
Posted: Wednesday, January 12, 2005

By George Alleyne,

Western nations, in addition to their well publicised aid, largely conscience money, being offered to the tsunami hit countries, should grant them debt forgiveness if indeed, they are serious about helping these lands and people rebuild their damaged, and in many cases, shattered economies. They (the Western countries) include such nations as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Germany and Holland, with one Eastern nation, Japan, added to the list because, not unlike the Western nations it, too, had once been a colonial power and as the rest, cynically extracting the wealth of exploited lands ranging from Somalia in Africa to Indonesia and beyond in the Far East.

Meanwhile, it is not unreasonable to assume that a not insubstantial portion of the aid offered by the United States, for example, will be so structured as to provide, as not wholly dissimilar to foreign aid in the past, profits for American manufacturers and/or producers, along with maintenance or creation of job opportunities for American workers. In addition, the aid in goods will be shipped in United States flag carriers. It was what had been done in the years following on the end of World War II, when the loudly proclaimed aid provided as much benefit for the United States, and incidentally other like donor nations, as it did for the countries which were beneficiaries. What was brutally cynical about all of this was that had the goods and services provided by the United States been produced outside, they would have been far cheaper and a great deal more would have been had. And this, whether the aid had been medical supplies, bottled water, food and construction materials.

This is not to dismiss the aid itself, but rather to point out that the "gesture" was not altogether altruistic. The United States of America was a colonial power in the Far East, following on the 1898 Spanish-American War and its acquisition of the Phillipines. The wealth extraction, to which I had referred earlier, had taken place over varying periods and in some cases by different countries in such lands as India, Sri Lanka (formerly Ceylon), Indonesia and Malaysia. Sri Lanka's once prosperous agriculture had been stifled by the British in favour of the establishing of tea plantations. Writing in 1985, the author, William Murdoch, declared that Ceylon had been transformed by the British into "a vast tea plantation" at the expense of food production, so much so that food had to be imported. The writer, Le Than Khoi, would note in his work Culture, Cre'ativite' et Developpement (Page 163), published in France in 1992, that in the 19th century, India, was one of the world's principal manufacturers and exporters of textiles which incidentally, had been produced on a far more competitive basis than those of England.

British rule in India would change that, and from 1813 until India's Independence the United Kingdom forced the country to buy cotton textiles produced in the UK: Paul Bairoch, Economics and World History (Page 184). When the British left India in 1947, the respected publication, Economist, pointed out in its August 16, 1997 issue, "the country was relatively poor and backward." The imperial powers did not colonise the countries which were recently horribly affected by tsunamis because they wished to help them, but rather to exploit their resources and the existence of cheap labour for their own selfish greed, to add to their wealth and reduce whatever levels of poverty existed within their own boundaries. Any decisions they made in US Congress, the British Houses of Parliament, the French Chamber of Deputies, and the list goes on, whether individually or severally, were designed primarily to serve the interests of the colonisers.

They were nothing more, nothing less than gimme gimme gangs. In 1945 at the end of World War II, France and Germany which were among the exploitative colonial powers that had waged war against Germany in defence of what they trumpeted as democracy, pretended a concern for their colonies. The United Kingdom passed the Colonial Development and Welfare Act while France introduced the FIDES Programmes, ostensibly for the development of their colonial possessions. Both approaches proved to be totally dismissive of the development concerns and welfare of the colonials. The United Kingdom, forever the "perfidious Albion," even as it issued public relations statements on what it was doing to help "the natives," employed less than one percent of the funds allocated under Colonial Development and Welfare in the ten-year period 0- 1946-1956 - for industrial development.

The French, not to be outdone, allocated for the period, 1949 to 1953, less than one-half of one percent to industrial development! The reference is taken from page 233 of Walter Rodney's incisive work How Europe Underveloped Africa, published in Nairobi in 1989 by Heinemann Kenya. If, in supporting my argument that the West, specifically former colonial powers, in addition to providing aid to tsunami hit countries, should grant them debt forgiveness, I have quoted several authorities and provided the titles of their books and pages from which the quotes have been extracted, it has been done for the benefit of students of history. I have sought to make their work easier and I hope I have been helpful. I had purposed to deal with the Colombo Plan of 1950 but its exclusion has been determined by the pressure of space. The plea, however, for debt forgiveness for these battered Far East countries, and Somalia, remains.

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