Saturday, June 06, 2009

The Swarm

From wikipedia:

According to a 1995 World Bank report, after independence, "Zimbabwe gave priority to human resource investments and support for smallholder agriculture," and as a result, "smallholder agriculture expanded rapidly during the first half of the 1980s and social indicators improved quickly." From 1980 to 1990 infant mortality decreased from 86 to 49 per 1000 live births, under five mortality was reduced from 128 to 58 per 1000 live births, and immunisation increased from 25% to 80% of the population. Also, "child malnutrition fell from 22% to 12% and life expectancy increased from 56 to 64. By 1990, Zimbabwe had a lower infant mortality rate, higher adult literacy and higher school enrollment rate than average for developing countries".[43]

In 1991, the government of Zimbabwe, short on hard currency and under international pressure, embarked on an austerity program. The World Bank's 1995 report explained that such reforms were required because Zimbabwe was unable to absorb into its labour market the many graduates from its impressive education system and that it needed to attract additional foreign investments. The reforms, however, undermined the livelihoods of Zimbabwe's poor majority; the report noted "large segments of the population, including most smallholder farmers and small scale enterprises, find themselves in a vulnerable position with limited capacity to respond to evolving market opportunities. This is due to their limited access to natural, technical and financial resources, to the contraction of many public services for smallholder agriculture, and to their still nascent links with larger scale enterprises."

Moreover, these people were forced to live on marginal lands as Zimbabwe's best lands were reserved for mainly white landlords growing cash crops for export, a sector of the economy favoured by the IMF's plan. For the poor on the communal lands, "existing levels of production in these areas are now threatened by the environmental fragility of the natural resource base and the unsustainability of existing farming practices".[43] The International Monetary Fund later suspended aid, saying reforms were "not on track."

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), life expectancy at birth for Zimbabwean men has since become 37 years and is 34 years for women, the lowest such figures for any nation.[44] The World Bank's 1995 report predicted this decline in life expectancy from its 1990 height of 64 years when, commenting on health care system cuts mandated by the IMF structural adjustment programme, it stated that "The decline in resources is creating strains and threatening the sustainability of health sector achievements".[43]

Robert Mugabe started ok, but has since become one of the worst dictators EVAR. Still, the actions of the IMF, typically supported by wingnuts and Sensible Liberals alike, are just as much responsible for Zimbabwe's economic misery as anything Mugabe has done -- a fact Mugabe continually exploits for propagandistic purposes.

In the future, Robert Mugabe's grave will be rightly spit on for all the misery he caused; more's the pity that no one will spit on the graves of so many globalist neoliberals.

In the context of the Cold War, the corporate-capitalist minded regarded emerging socialistic economies with an equal distaste. Nixon vowed to make the economy of Allende's Chile "scream" -- and so he did, to Anaconda Copper's, Pepsi-Cola's, and Milton Friedman's eventual and utter delight. Then in the 1980s, things started to change: supernational entities like the IMF put a veneer on the old economic imperialism. Gone was the direct meddling from the White House or Downing Street (and, indeed, soon too was gone the other kind of meddling, from the Kremlin); now the meddling was done by proxy. Instead of helping emerging economies find markets, the means of production were tampered with. Yeoman farms as in the former Rhodesia or collective-family farms as in Julius Nyerere's Tanzania were sensible and successful starts to a post-colonial economy. Socialist education systems turned out waves young technocrats. General literacy improved. All this could not be tolerated by neoliberals who insist in their benevolent malevolence that rapid industrialization (with, naturally, foreign ownership, to whom all profits accrue*) was the only way to go. Show neoliberals a "third world" nation and all they can see is a labor pool to exploit until the countryside is depopulated, extranationals own most of the choice property, local and connected elites are suitably corrupted, and the masses, kicked off their traditional and communal when not ancestral land in privatization schemes, live clustered around the cities in awful shantytowns. A people's resistance often exacerbates the problem -- which goes to show that the initial contact must be avoided if the patient, as it were, is to be spared the disease. Then, like locusts, the neoliberals move on to the next country.

*Jonas Savimbi: "I am against nationalization; it is a disease which saps the strength of a national economy. The real question is the renegotiation of allowable profits. Foreign companies need their profits, they would not invest without them. But the people of Angola need their share. When Angola is independent the investors must know that the people will have a greater share." Alas, even Savimbi's "third way" is too much of a compromise for neoliberals who, after all, are nothing but "libertarians with a human face." I can't possibly overemphasize how much I hate them.