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Stop protectionism, India tells 1st World

By Dharam Shourie
April 03, 2008 13:24 IST
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India has asked rich nations to end protectionism, which costs developing countries $ 700 billion a year in export income, if the world is to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) aimed at eliminating or sharply reducing several social and economic ills by 2015.

Decrying increase of subsidies by the developed countries in some sectors, India's UN Ambassador Nirupam Sen asserted that the problem is not lack of resources but little stomach for structural changes.

"We need what (the 19th century German philosopher Friedrich) Nietzsche called 'capital of spirit and will,'" he told the 192-member General Assembly on Wednesday, while participating in the review of implementation of the MDGs, which were set in 2000.

He said developed nations should end protectionism which costs developing countries $ 700 billion a year in export income -- 14 times of what they receive in Official Development Assistance (ODA).

Asking the international community to move beyond words to action if it is to make any difference in the lives of the poor, Sen pointed out economic growth alone is insufficient to remove poverty, disease and illiteracy as envisaged in MDGs.

A separate action is required to attack poverty and hunger, promote education, employment and health, science and technology and free the developing countries from aid conditionalities and prescriptive advice, Sen said. MDGs can create a more just world only if combined with removing the institutional and economic causes of poverty, he emphasised.

Criticising that the poor are offered only debt cancellation instead of economic development enabling debt servicing, Sen said many of the poorest developing nations remain caught in the trap of an agricultural and raw material economy with minimal industry.

"Unless, therefore, the UN and its institutions go beyond MDGs, poverty and hunger cannot be eliminated in an enduring way. MDGs would then run the danger of becoming a kind of permanent disaster relief and even what one economist has called 'welfare colonialism," he said.

Global partnership, Sen said, cannot be implemented through discussions alone but in action and implementation has to be monitored.

Quoting from the 2003 Human Development report, Sen said world "cannot halve hunger and poverty without restructuring trade and agriculture; the fight against HIV and malaria will be lost without affordable medicines to the poor; fiscal planning is impossible without debt relief" and technology for poverty reduction, public health will not be available without addressing the Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) regime.

The UN, he warned, will become progressively less relevant unless it moves from words to action.

India, he said, is conscious of these considerations in its economic interaction with Africa. Hence the emphasis on the dedicated satellite and fiber optics connectivity mission, IT centres, Indian companies in Africa procuring supplies locally, setting up manufacturing plants and exporting capital goods that enable Africa to process and add value for its exports to the EU and US markets.

The destiny of debt relief, Sen said, shows what happens in the absence of an industrial policy. "In 2003, eight out of 18 HIPC (heavily indebted poor countries) graduated and half of these again relapsed: their debt service was 150 per cent of GDP, unsustainable in terms of the HIPC initiative definition," he pointed out. 

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Dharam Shourie
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