Saturday, May 17, 2003
17 May, 2003
Protect Private Property to Protect the Earth
Do we have to choose between protecting the environment and growing the economy? Whether they'll admit it or not, a lot of environmentalists think that the answer is "Yes"-- that more factories, jobs and homes and greater economic freedom, necessarily mean dirtier water, air and land. So they busy themselves fighting new construction projects, protesting industrial expansion and trying to micromanage how property owners can use their land.
But evidence from around the globe suggests their basic assumptions are off. The truth is, hindering the economy hurts the environment. In fact, there may be no greater environmental threat than a stagnant GDP.
At its extremes, this phenomenon was on display in the old Soviet Union and its colonies. While the economy was in suspended animation under communism, raw sewage went untreated in Poland; acid rain dissolved the gold roof of Cracow's famous Sigismund Chapel; East Germans lived under a permanent, dark fog of pollution; and Czechoslovakian sulfur dioxide concentrations were eight times U.S. levels.
During these same decades, the United States and other industrial countries were making great strides in purifying both water and air. Recent economic research quantifies the relationship between health in the economy and the environment. Princeton University scholars have demonstrated that national environmental quality begins to improve once per capita income exceeds $9,000. More importantly, their study finds that the greater the income, the better the environment.
The reasons for this correlation are simple: Economic growth fuels a popular demand for environmental protection and leads to technological innovations that minimize environmental harm. Indeed, another study by University of Chicago professor Don Coursey, found that for every 1 percent increase in income, the demand for environmental quality increases 2.5 percent. It should come as no shock that the income of Sierra Club environmentalists is much higher than the national average.
Economic growth is critical for advancing material and environmental well-being, but such growth does not occur spontaneously. An economy that is continually creating more jobs and opportunities requires a legal system that respects and protects private property rights. When these rights are guaranteed, individuals have an incentive to create and build. Certainty of ownership facilitates the transfer of resources to those who will put them to the most economically efficient and socially desirable use. When these rights are absent, as they are in most third world countries, investment dries up and governments strive in vain to secure national economic health. No one has the time, will or means to fix environmental problems.
Uncertain private property rights imperil the environment. This is because secure ownership carries incentives to care for property, whether it's a field, a forest, a farm or a factory. Experiments in collective property ownership in America and abroad have underscored this truth time and again. Where will you find more litter -- on your private driveway or the public highway? Or compare rentals with owner-occupied homes. Which are more likely to be clean, tidy and well-maintained, signaling the residents' engagement, pride and concern?
More environmentalists need to open their eyes to the fact that environmental improvements happen because of, not in spite of, private property and free enterprise. If they really want to protect the earth, they should support, not subvert, private property rights--and export this fundamental doctrine around the world. By doing so, they will help feed the hungry, house the poor, and generate the public demand and tools necessary for cleaner air, land and water.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Friday, May 16, 2003
North Korea’s Laser Weaponry
North Korea's military fired a laser in March at two U.S. Army helicopters patrolling the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in what U.S. officials call a provocative action, The Washington Times has learned.
Two Apache attack helicopters were illuminated by lasers in early March by a weapon that had the characteristics of a Chinese laser gun, an indication that North Korea has deployed a new and potentially lethal weapon.
Lasers focus concentrated beams of light on a target and are used in some guidance systems. The Chinese laser gun, however, is a weapon that can cause eye damage at ranges up to three miles.
The March laser illumination of the Apache helicopters occurred around the time that four North Korean jets intercepted a U.S. spy plane.
The jets, MiG-29s and MiG-23s, attempted to force the unarmed U.S. RC-135, flying 150 miles from the coast of the Korean Peninsula, to land in North Korea. The jets also threatened the plane with heat-seeking air-to-air missiles.
Both incidents occurred around the time the Pentagon announced it was sending 21 B-1 and B-52 bombers to Guam in response to the growing threat of North Korea and the latest crisis over Pyongyang's nuclear arms program.
Army Col. Samuel T. Taylor, a spokesman for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK), said the helicopter incident occurred during a routine training mission. "Two USFK pilots were alerted by onboard laser-detecting equipment that laser systems may have illuminated their aircraft," Col. Taylor said in a statement. "Neither pilot was injured, and no equipment was damaged."
U.S. intelligence officials said an internal analysis of the incident suggests North Korea has acquired Chinese-made ZM-87 antipersonnel lasers.
"These are blinding laser weapons," said one official.
The ZM-87 is the world's only laser device designed for use against troops. It can cause injuries to human eyes at a range of just under two miles, and with a special magnification device it can damage eyes at distances of up to three miles, military specialists say.
By contrast, lasers used to guide weapons and in range-finding equipment work at shorter distances than the Chinese laser weapon.
One intelligence official also said the North Koreans may have manufactured their own version of the Chinese laser gun.
North Korea's official radio last week accused the United States of using laser weapons in Iraq, including arms that "blind the enemies' eyes and incapacitate weapons' sights."
U.S. military personnel have been injured in the past by laser attacks. In April 1997, a U.S. Navy intelligence officer, Lt. Jack Daly, and Canadian helicopter pilot Capt. Pat Barnes, suffered permanent eye damage from a laser fired by a Russian merchant ship that had been spying on U.S. nuclear submarines in Washington state's Strait of Juan de Fuca, north of Puget Sound.
Also, two Army helicopter crewmen suffered eye injuries from a laser while they were flying over Bosnia-Herzegovina in October 1998.
In June, the Navy deployed new antilaser goggles that can be worn by pilots and air crew.
Adm. Fargo said U.S. military capabilities to deal with North Korea have vastly improved over the past 15 years. As a result, the military is considering an adjustment in the positioning of U.S. forces on the peninsula.
Excerpts from the Washington Times.
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Thursday, May 15, 2003
JAPANESE ATROCITY: The Sinking of the Centaur
ONE OF THE BLACKEST DAYS of the 1939-45 War was Friday 14 May 1943, sixty years ago yesterday:
On Wednesday morning 12 May 1943 the Hospital Ship AHS Centaur steamed out of Port Jackson and headed north. On board were her crew and medical staff totaling 352 personnel. The Centaur’s hull was painted white with prominent red crosses on her hull and funnel. In common with other hospital ships, Centaur was encircled by a green-painted band, five feet wide.
In the early hours of the morning of 14 May, Centaur was steaming off the South Queensland Coast with all lights ablaze and easily identifiable as a vessel entitled to protection from all combatants.
Shortly after four a.m., off Cape Moreton, the Centaur was struck by a torpedo fired by Japanese submarine I-177 on the order of Lt Commander Nakagawa. The identity of the Jap assailant was not known for many years, and by the time the information came to light, Nakagawa had already been convicted as a war criminal for ordering his crew to fire on the survivors of the ship SS British Chivalry, which his sub had sunk in the Indian Ocean in December 1943.
The enemy sub I-177 is assumed to be the same vessel which was plotted the previous day forty miles off Moreton Island by RAAF Radar Station #23, operating in Fort Lytton at the mouth of the Brisbane River. Radar Station #23 nearly a year earlier had detected the three Jap mother submarines which launched the mini subs involved in the attack on Sydney Harbour on 31 May 1942.
The atrocity of the sinking of the Centaur cost 288 lives. The sixty four survivors were in the water on rafts for nearly 236 hours before being rescued by the American destroyer USS Mugford, directed to the scene by the pilot by one of the search aircraft, an Avro Anson from 71 Squadron RAAF based at Lowood. Of the twelve nurses aboard the Centaur, only Sister Ellen Savage survived, and she earned the George Medal for bravely helping the other survivors, despite her own injuries including fractured ribs.
Prime Minister John Curtin addressed the Federal Parliament in these terms:
It is with the deepest regret that the Commonwealth Government has learned of the loss of the Australian hospital ship "Centaur" and I know that the news will come also as a profound shock to the Australian people. The attack which took place within a few miles of the Queensland coast bears all the marks of wantonness and deliberation. Not only will it stir our people into a more acute realisation of the type of enemy against whom we are fighting, but I am confident also that this deed will shock the conscience of the whole civilised world and demonstrate to all who may have had any lingering doubts the unscrupulous and barbarous methods by which the Japanese conduct warfare.
To the next-of-kin of those who are lost the Government and nation extend heartfelt sympathy, which is the deeper since those persons were non-combatants engaged on an errand of mercy, and were by all the laws of warfare immune from attack. . . .
“Notice of intention to use the "CENTAUR" as a hospital ship, together with particulars of her dimensions, markings, and appearance, was communicated by the Commonwealth Government to the Axis Powers early this year; in the case of Japan on February 5th. In addition, full publicity including photographs of the ship was given in the Press, and particulars were broadcast in news broadcasts from Australian radio stations.
There is therefore no reason to suppose that the Japanese Government and the Japanese naval authorities were not fully acquainted with the existence and purposes of this vessel. In all the circumstances, the Commonwealth Government is bound to regard the sinking of the "Centaur" as an entirely inexcusable act undertaken in violation of a convention to which Japan is a party and of all the principles of common humanity. An immediate and strong protest in these terms is being addressed to the Japanese Government, and the country may feel confident that the Government will do its utmost to establish right of redress and ensure that the war criminals responsible for this dastardly act are brought to justice.”
Theatre Commander General Douglas Macarthur announced:
“I cannot express the revulsion I feel at this unnecessary act of cruelty. Its limitless savagery represents the continuation of a calculated attempt to create a sense of trepidation through the practice of horrors designed to shock normal sensibilities.
The brutal excesses of the Philippines campaign, the execution of our captured airmen, the barbarity of Papua, are all of a pattern. The enemy does not understand - he apparently cannot understand - that our invincible strength is not so much of the body, as it is of the soul, and rises with adversity. The Red Cross will not falter under this foul blow. Its light of mercy will but shine the brighter on our way to inevitable victory.”
There are two tragedies involved here. The first is the atrocity, which should be neither forgiven nor forgotten. The second tragedy is that by all reports the huge majority of Japanese are wholly unaware of this atrocity, just as they are wholly unaware of the plethora of atrocities committed by the sons of Imperial Japan, including but by no means limited to the Rape of Nanking, the Banka Island massacre of Australian nurses, the consistent brutalisation of prisoners of war, the germ warfare experiments on Chinese civilians, the sex-enslavement of Korean women and the Sandakan Death March.
When I meet a Japanese tourist on a bus or on an aeroplane, I make a point of providing factual information which the Japanese education system conceals. Don’t miss the opportunity of a captive audience.
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Wednesday, May 14, 2003
Modern Slavery in Saudi Arabia
By Patricia Roush
Excerpts from an article in http://www.townhall.com.
My mission at the U.N. concerned the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, not specifically Iraq, but rather its neighbor to the East – Saudi Arabia.
I was there to ask for help in securing the release of hundreds of American women and children unable to leave Saudi Arabia. Some of these people have been there for decades – their voices long ago hushed by the desert storms and the beatings they received from their male Saudi captors. They have been threatened, tortured, and terrified by these men, their brutal keepers, and have known that no one – no American embassy diplomat, no Saudi government official, no ex-patriate working in Saudi Arabia will help them get out.
This is contemporary slavery. And it is going on right now. It is alive and well and thriving in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The United States government knows about this and yet turns a blind eye to these forgotten women and children and just pretends it does not exist – but it does. The U.S. State Department and Administrations throughout the years have a history of keeping things like this ‘under wraps,’ especially when it has to do with something they wish had never happened like Viet Nam and all the murky garbage that goes along with the Washington-Riyadh connection known as the ‘culture of corruption’ as Middle East expert, Daniel Pipes has labeled it.
Hundreds of American women married Saudi Nationals when these men were ‘stationed’ in the U.S. by the Saudi Educational Mission beginning in the early 1970s.
Once the brides of these marriages found themselves inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, everything changed. Their husbands ruled them and took their passports. Phone calls to their families were stopped and even if clandestine petitions were able to be made to the nearby American embassy or consulate, they were to no avail.
The little girls from these American-Saudi marriages who grew up with or without their American mothers (many were kidnapped from the United States as children and are now adults) also suffer from this ‘life sentence.’ No civil rights are allowed anyone in Saudi Arabia but for a woman, total control over her life is held by a male. At least when the boys reach the age of maturity, they can leave the country in most cases.
My friend who also attended the U.N. Session left for Saudi Arabia today. She went to plead for the release of her daughter, Heidi, – a ten year old who could be sold into an arranged marriage at any time. She is afraid that the fate of my daughters who have been locked up for seventeen years in Saudi Arabia, beaten and threatened and now married to strange Saudis and forced to bear their children will also happen to her little girl.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Tuesday, May 13, 2003
THE EXCELLENCE OF JOHN HOWARD
Some excerpts from the Maiden Speech given on 29 April by the newly elected Liberal Member for Lane Cove in the parliament of New South Wales, Anthony Roberts MP
One of the great privileges of my life has been to serve on the staff of Prime Minister Howard. During the Prime Minister's first term well-informed observers were describing John Howard as "the best Prime Minister since Sir Robert Menzies". In his second term John Howard was spoken of as "the best Prime Minister since George Reid". By any standard of judgment, John Howard now deserves the description "Australia's best ever Prime Minister". John Howard has the Menzies grasp of history and of international affairs, but in addition he understands freedom of trade and freedom of personal economic relationships which rivals even the record of Sir Robert and his colleagues of that period.
The most important characteristic of our Prime Minister is that he is prepared to do what is right and to follow his vision for the betterment of Australia, irrespective of opinion polls. John Howard and his colleagues, especially Foreign Minister Downer, led the diplomatic charge which redressed a great wrong of previous Australian governments and secured independence for the East Timorese. He played a significant role in turning Bougainville in the direction of peace, and having served in Bougainville as a peacekeeper with the Australian Army I can confirm the admiration for John Howard that prevails among Bougainvilleans. Compassion for the oppressed is a dominant characteristic of our Prime Minister.
John Howard is among those international statesmen who recognise that tyranny in one nation begets tyranny in another. At a time when opinion polls indicated trenchant popular opposition and the media were howling for his blood, John Howard prudently deployed Australian military forces to the Middle East, ready for action if required. When France, Germany and Russia tendentiously obstructed United Nations military intervention against the Iraqi dictatorship, John Howard and his Government resolutely stood with our allies, Britain and the United States. Australian service personnel have acquitted themselves with traditional courage and great distinction, and we thank the good Lord that they have suffered no casualties.
It is greatly to the credit of my Leader in this place, John Brogden, that in the midst of the State election campaign he immediately committed the Liberal-National Coalition in New South Wales to full support for the Prime Minister and the Government. John Howard has proved in the Federal scene that good leadership means doing what is right and thereby winning over the public. I have no hesitation in stating that John Brogden will prove the same on the State scene in New South Wales.
I understand clearly that freedom of the individual cannot exist without freedom for individuals to engage in voluntary commercial relationships. Everything that I have learned about history has proved to me again and again that the marketplace delivers high and rising prosperity to a degree that is impossible under any other system. Most important, those who gain most from a free market are those who, under socialism, would be permanently poor and oppressed. I believe in five simple values: freedom, security, community, opportunity and respect. Freedom is at the heart of the Liberal Party's distinctive appeal.
I share the Liberal belief that governments should not make for individuals those decisions that they can make for themselves. The second value is security, with the Liberal philosophy being strong on assisting individuals who lack the skills, the intellect or the physical health to care for themselves. Security emphatically incorporates locally led and locally based frontline police and strong commitments to the New South Wales health system. Under Labor, the constantly growing State bureaucracy is a threat to our freedom and our security. Under Labor the erosion of the property rights of primary producers is a result of the same Labor contempt for private property.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Monday, May 12, 2003
The LaRouche virus
IN APRIL 1988, following the retirement from the Queensland Parliament of long-serving Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen, a by-election was conducted in the electorate of Barambah. Victorious in the poll was the independent candidate Trevor Perrett, who has been assisted in his campaign by a newly formed Citizen’s Electoral Council (CEC).
Citizens Electoral Councils were formed at that time in several Queensland electorates. These groups shared a dislike of major political parties and an enthusiasm for the then fashionable concept of Citizen-Initiated Referenda (CIR).
Prominent among the campaigners for Trevor Perrett’s successful bid for a Seat in the Queensland Legislative Assembly were two personable residents of Kingaroy Queensland, Craig Isherwood and John Koehler. Not long after the election, Messrs Isherwood and Koehler travelled to the USA to meet Lyndon LaRouche. Apparently impressed, and armed with the recruitment and fundraising techniques developed by LaRouche, they returned to Australia determined to establish a LaRouche organisation here.
The first consequence was a falling out with Trevor Perrett MLA, who objected to the newly-emphasised CEC dictum that parliamentarians must be delegates rather than representatives. Trevor Perrett cut his ties with the CEC and joined the National Party. He fought off a CEC challenge at the next General Election, and went on to become a Minister in the National Party government.
Craig Isherwood and John Koehler then shifted to Victoria, and established CEC on a commercial basis, using professional telephone fundraisers to bring in the dollars, principally from residents of depressed rural areas from all around Australia. They developed a highly effective spiel, stressing the immediate threat of worldwide economic collapse and the infallibility of the predictions of Lyndon LaRouche. The spiel endured unchanged for years, and kept bringing in the money. As I recall, I heard it in 1993 and again in 1997, on both occasions when I was living in North West Queensland.
CEC gives every appearance of a highly efficient operation, with a website superior to that offered by the major political parties.
The CEC website contains some articles in Polish, and some articles in Arabic. Polish language articles include a description of the Schiller Institute, established in 1984 by Helgi Zepp-LaRouche and named for the German playwright, poet and historian Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805). The purpose of the Schiller Institute is to restore to the musical note A the LaRouche version of the correct number of cycles (Hertz), thereby rectifying the harm done by some historical conspiracy.
The Arabic language section includes articles with these titles: “CEC Announces Urgent Campaign for a Government Bank“, “Is your clergyman or congressman a Moonie Sex-Cultist?“, “Mossad exposed in phony ‘Palestinian A-Qaeda’ caper“, “Howard’s anti-terror laws reflect Hitler’s Emergency Decrees” and “Targeting 1 billion Muslims will start a Clash of Civilisations”.
The “non-negotiable” Fighting Platform of the CEC contains these thirteen propositions:
* The establishment of a New Bretton Woods international monetary system. . . . including tariff protection, fixed exchange rates and government support, through banking and otherwise, for agriculture and industry.
* The establishment of a National Bank and State Banks to provide loans at 2% or less to agriculture (family farms), industry and for infrastructure development.
* The repeal of all Federal and State anti-union legislation passed over the past several years, beginning with the Federal 1996 Workplace Relations Act.
* The repeal of recent fascist laws that have taken away the civil rights of Australians, including the Federal Defence Legislation Amendment (Aid to Civilian Authorities) Act 2000,
* An immediate halt to the privatisation of Commonwealth and State assets and regulatory bodies, and the reversal of those privatisations where necessary for the public good.
* An immediate moratorium on foreclosures of family farms, given the cartel-rigged low prices for farm products and the lack of access to credit at reasonable rates.
* The elimination of the disastrous National Competition Policy at a Federal level, and the immediate non-compliance with such policy at a state level.
* The elimination of the Goods and Services Tax, which is a regressive tax which hits poor and working class Australians the hardest, and its replacement by a 0.1% (one tenth of one per cent) tax on speculative turnover.
* The reassertion of National control over Australia's oil and gas and huge mineral resources, by "buying back the farm", or through other necessary government action.
* A dramatic expansion of resources to State public health facilities, so that all who need health care will receive it promptly.
* A dramatic upgrading of State and Federal infrastructure. . . to serve as the driver for general economic recovery.
* A real war on drugs . . . Most importantly, the drug cartels presently launder an estimated $10 billion per year through Australia's banks, without whose cooperation the drug trade could not function; these banks, who have also financed the decriminalisation/ legalisation lobby in this country, must be pursued ruthlessly.
* The establishment of generous immigration quotas
There it is, a grab-bag of populist propositions, most of them avowedly socialist and some which unashamedly promoted the discredited funny-money theories of C.H. Douglas. Some of the proposals, plus Mrs Lawler’s dislike of Sir Otto Niemeyer, seem lifted from “Why I Fight” written in 1934 by NSW socialist and erstwhile Premier, Jack Lang.
LaRouche is very quick to describe as “fascist” anyone who opposes him, but his economic policies very closely parallel the economic policies of the Third Reich. Even before WWII began, those policies of governmental control of economic life brought to the brink of collapse the German economy, which was sustained only by plunder of Germany’s own citizens – especially Jewish citizens – and plunder of Germany’s neighbours as they were progressively swallowed by military conquest.
Ann Lawler, NSW State Secretary for CEC, contested the electorate of Maitland in the NSW General Election conducted on 22 March 2003 with the slogan “Rebuild the Country with a People’s Bank”. In her campaign speech of 1 March 2003, Ann Lawler brought out the 15-year-old LaRouche claim that the international financial system is on the point of collapse, and made no secret of her interventionist and dirigist ambitions: “We either stick with the globalization and economic rationalism which has ruined much of this nation and much of the world over the last several decades, or we must carry out an economic revolution, and return to the principles which once made us the Lucky Country—the principles of national banking, tariff protection, fixed exchange rates, regulation, and great infrastructure projects.”
Mrs Lawler failed to see the giant inconsistency of the LaRouche doctrine. The demagogue who advocates every impediment to trade proposes a three-branch Eurasian Land Bridge as the “physical/economic engine of global economic recovery” which will – according to LaRouche apologists including Ann Lawler – achieve a “boom in world trade”.
Mrs Lawler is right up there with the conspiracy theorists. Note this extract from her 1 March speech: “The main purpose of the planned Iraq war is not to grab oil, or for any other specific gain, but is to disrupt and destroy this (LaRouche) Land-Bridge program, which, if successful, would mean a re-orientation of the world economy away from the New York and City of London-centered private financiers who have increasingly controlled the world economy through globalization over the past decades.”
Perhaps time did not permit Ann Lawler to list more of the LaRouche conspiracy theories, which include:
* Britain has never ceased to plot to destroy the United States of America and restore the Confederacy, and
* The Royal Family is at the centre of the international drug trade.
* Lyndon LaRouche was jailed for tax evasion to prevent him becoming President of the United States of America.
* “Free Trade” has always been nothing more than a tool for imposing British tyranny.
Ann Lawler’s vitriol against the US Government continued with her press release of 8 March: “This is a war being planned by the 'chickenhawk' faction in the U.S. around Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Defense Policy Board chief Richard Perle and their associates, whose purpose is to have the U.S. dominate the world, Roman Empire-style.. . . . This war, if it happens, will unleash uncalculable consequences, including a 'Clash of Civilisations' with over one billion Muslims, and a probable U.S. war with North Korea, in which the U.S. chickenhawks are already talking about using a nuclear first strike against the North Koreans.”
This was Ann Lawler’s second assault on the Maitland constituency. In 1999 her candidature garnered 359 votes, or 0.83% of the total. 2003 brought the CEC candidate a huge improvement, her vote soaring to 3,405 votes or 7.33% of the total. Ann Lawler need not imagine that the 2007 election will continue the geometric progression. As evidenced by the low Greens vote of 5.59% in Maitland, compared with 8.26% and 15.19% in comparable nearby electorates Lake Macquarie and Newcastle, Ann Lawler managed to collect a large slab of the “hate our way of life vote” which will never reach 20% in any electorate.
Another limitation to the future growth of CEC is that of all the anti-monarchy political parties, CEC is the most virulent. Anti-monarchism is a crowded political address, with many aspirants fighting over a limited number of supporters.
CEC ran fourteen candidates in New South Wales, earning a total of 11,000 votes statewide, and the LaRouchist party will attempt to build on this result in the Federal election which will take place before the end of 2004.
CEC claims 600 members in Maitland alone. I have met some of these people, and they display the same suspension of the critical faculty which is common among Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists and fundamentalist Moslems. These are people who have been expertly recruited and who have donated their souls to the service of a false prophet. I see very little difference between Lyndon LaRouche and the late L. Ron Hubbard. Each has established a self-perpetuating viral structure possessed of great skill in acquiring revenue plus expertise in all the tricks of personality manipulation.
The LaRouche virus has gained a strong and dangerous foothold in Australia. It has also infected several European countries, most notably Italy, and is present in Malaysia and the Philippines. One feature of the LaRouche virus is its unscrupulous willingness to forge alliances with whomsoever will advance its goals. Islamists, communists, anti-semitics, anti-Americans, anti-Monarchists, Social Crediters, all are welcome to share in the LaRouche dirigist vision.
Comments? Email Michael Darby
Sunday, May 11, 2003
ZIMBABWE APRIL SUMMARY
THE MAJOR ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENTS in April were the commencement of load shedding by ZESA following the Authorities failure to meet commercial obligations to suppliers, the further acceleration of the rate of inflation and a massive increase in the price of liquid fuels. The latter was expected following the devaluation of the Zimbabwe dollar from 55 to the American dollar to 824 to the US dollar but even so the price adjustments to petrol prices were unduly harsh and have evoked a public outcry culminating in a three day strike by labour unions.
Despite the price increase in liquid fuels no improvement on the supply of fuel to consumers was experienced and reports suggest that none can be expected. This development coupled to continued shortages of coal from Hwange and the commencement of load shedding by ZESA has plunged the productive sector into a new phase of its ongoing collapse. There is simply no way that industry and other sectors that still function, can absorb these cuts in supplies of essential energy and survive.
These developments will further curtail production to meet both domestic and export demand and will therefore exacerbate both local consumer shortages and the decline in export revenues. The continued fall in exports – down by two thirds from their peak in 1997, will in turn handicap the whole country's ability to deal with the current crisis.
While the nation has been preoccupied with the energy crisis in all its different forms, another crisis, just as serious, is looming in the food industry. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Minister of Agriculture continues to insist that domestic maize production will reach 1.4 million tonnes – more than double the output in 2002. In addition he is making unrealistic claims in terms of tobacco production and expected wheat plantings this year. Experts in the field say that maize production is unlikely to reach 800,000 tonnes and point to the high prices prevailing in the market for new season maize as evidence. Farmers are selling their maize for Z$250,000 a tonne compared to the GMB price of Z$130,000 a tonne. Informal markets in the towns are selling maize at prices ranging up to Z$400,000 a tonne.
The tobacco crop is not expected to exceed 85,000 tonnes and claims by elements in the industry close to the State that they have grown over 120,000 tonnes are simply wishful thinking. There are now two weeks left to prepare for the planting of winter wheat and barley – there are few signs of this taking place and it seems likely that the crop this year will be even smaller than that grown last year. It is expected that while barley output may be maintained, the wheat crop will decline to 80,000 tonnes compared to the 136,000 tonnes delivered to the GMB in 2002.
With combined demand for wheat and maize running at 2.2 million tonnes a year and zero opening stocks for the season, we are faced with a food crisis that is, if anything, more serious than faced Zimbabwe in 2002. This is made much worse this year by the failure of the government to face reality and request an extension of food aid supplies in the current marketing year. So even as we consume what little has been grown, the aid organisations are running down their programs and preparing to withdraw from the country. It is time for the regime to be honest with itself and the country and admit the failure to grow enough food to feed the nation for the third year in a row. This is a painful admission in a year when all other southern African states are reporting adequate supplies. Nothing emphasizes the failure of the land seizure program of Zanu PF more vividly than this.
The net effect of these developments is to make all Zimbabweans even poorer than they have been to date. Many households are now unable to afford even the most basic of needs and services. Workers are walking to work, selling assets to raise money for essentials and cutting back on basics just to live. Many, desperate to find the means to support their families are turning to small-scale gold mining or illegal migration to South Africa and Botswana. The thousands of people involved in these activities are testimony to the desperation of people in Zimbabwe today.
Comments? Email Michael Darby