Realsociology

For committed sociology, agains neoliberalism

Archive for the 'Global Development' Category

Cuba – A Development Success Story?

Posted by Realsociology on 10th October 2013

Cuba’s a good case study of  Socialist Model of Development that seems to have worked more effectively than most of the nel-liberal experiments in Latin America…. Today, Cuba’s HDI stats look like this….

chart

Human Development Index
Ranking 59
Health
Life expectancy at birth (years) 79.3
Education
Mean years of schooling (of adults) (years) 10.2
Income
GNI per capita in PPP terms (constant 2005 international $) (Constant 2005 international $) 5,539

Between 1980 and 2012 Cuba’s HDI rose by 0.8% annually from 0.626 to 0.780 today, which gives the country a rank of 59 out of 187 countries.  The HDI of Latin America and the Caribbean as a region is 0.741 today, placing Cuba above the regional average

In this nice infographic (hopefully it’ll work, although there’s probably too much info in it TBH) you can see the comparative development of Cuba compared to Bolivia, Columbia and Chile (three countries which were much more exposed to neoliberal policies – What you can see is that Cuba progresses more rapidly than both Bolivia and Columbia, but not as quickly as Chile. What you can also see (from about 5 years after 1990) is the negative affect the decline of Communist Russia had on Cuba’s development.

 

 

So it’s not easy to conclude outright support for any set of policies if just pure economic development is your goal. Although in this post – Cuba, A development Model which proved the developers wrong Jonataon Glennie outlines how a Socialist model of development has worked for Cuba since 1959… The general gist is that the means whereby Cuba developed involved much less human misery than the other three neoliberal examples above – As outlined by John Pilger in the excellent documentary War on Democracy).

To summarise Gelnnie’s article…

No other similar country adopted Cuba’s approach to development, and unlike in other Latin American countries such as Bolivia, Colombia and El Salvador, which experience widespread inequality and related problems, In Cuba, the extremes of opulence and misery are banished in favour of a generalised level of wealth, best described as “enough to get by”.

He notes that from the beginning the instinct at the heart of the revolution in 1959 was that slower wealth creation and limited political repression were a price worth paying for fairer distribution, and the consequent eradication of extreme poverty. It may not have been articulated as such, but that is how it has played out.

Castro’s leadership was the key factor in rapidly rising living standards for the poorest. In 1958, under the Batista dictatorship, half of Cuba’s children did not attend school. The literacy campaign begun by Castro in 1961 led, in 1970, to Unesco declaring Cuba the country with the highest primary and secondary school enrolment in Latin America. These development gains, among others, have continued to this day.

But what of the future?

But there have been two broad consequences. First, a generation of educated young people aspire to more in terms of living standards and life chances than their parents ever did. It is no coincidence that the older generation is more uncritically supportive of the revolution than the young – it knows what Cuba was like before.

Second, state-led development and investment is costly, especially when the international context becomes less favourable. Relying on goodwill, volunteering and accumulated capital has worked perhaps longer than anyone anticipated, but eventually wealth must be created and that, as the critics have always maintained, means a platform for the private sector to grow.

Posted in Alternatives, Global Development | No Comments »

The World Wealth Report 2013

Posted by Realsociology on 2nd October 2013

 

The World Wealth Report reports on trends in the wealth of HNWIs – Or High Net Wealth Individuals. These are individuals with $1million or more in investable assets. You have to sign up to be able to download the report, but its free. (Thankyee for the crust kind sirs, doffs cap…) 

Between 2011-12, the richest 12 million people in the world gained an extra 4.2 trillion dollars of wealth between them – Their total wealth is now $46.2 billion, up from $42 billion in 2011. Thats a tidy $350 000 each extra on average, and according to the predictions below that trend is set to continue…

wealth1

Of course it gets bleaker… the averages above disguise the fact that the richest Ultra High Net Wealth Individuals increased their overal wealth more than the mere ‘millionnaires next door’… the proportional increases may well be the same, but of course a 10% gain on $50 million means you gain more than if you’d gained 10% on a mere $1 million.

wealth4

 

And bleaker… The richest 12 million may have got 10% richer on average, but this is on the back of a mere 2.2% GDP growth rate, so their wealth is growing nearly five times the rate of real global wealth (although somehow I’m sure that’s not a fair comparison?!)

wealth5

 

And even bleaker… according to the World Bank’s GNI data (not the same as wealth I know) -  GNI only increased from around 70 to 71.4 trillion dollars, which is less than 1%, so most of this wealth increse doesn’t seem to be rooted in the production of tangible goods and services.

No doubt there are different ways of interpreting what this data actually means, comments welcome!

 

In case you prefer a word-based summary – the 2013 report notes the following…

  • Between 2011 to 2012 The world’s HNWI population increased by 9.2% to reach 12.0 million, after remaining flat in 2011.
  • In the same period, The aggregate investable wealth increased 10.0% to US$46.2 trillion, after declining slightly in 2011.
  • ƒHNWI wealth in 2012 represented a new level of strength, going well past the historical high of US$42.7 trillion set in 2010.
  • Relatively stronger growth rates in higher wealth bands4 (US$5 million or more) led the growth of overall investable wealth globally.
  • All of this is despite a decline in the rate of world GDP growth to 2.2% last year.

 

 

Posted in Global Development, Globalisation, Infographics, Neoliberalism, Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

UK Tourism – Suggests globalisation is exaggerated?

Posted by Realsociology on 26th June 2013

 

According to World Bank data, more people visit abroad from the UK than from any other country other than China.

travel trends UK

 

The thing is, we don’t tend to travel that far from home!

tt2

 

According the ONS 2012 Travel Trends the number of visits abroad by UK residents was 56.5 million, broadly equivalent to one visit abroad per person per year (although no doubt the distribution is nowhere near equal!).

What’s interesting, however, is just how close to home most of these visits are:

  • Nearly 20 million, or 34% of all visits are to Spain or France
  • About 38 million visits, or about two thirds of total visits are to just 10 countries, made up 8 countries in Europe plus America and Turkey.
  • This means that just 20 million visits, which will be considerably less than one third of the UK population, venture to more exotic destinations, and many of those 20 million visits are likely to be ‘safe’ western-style hotels in countries such as Egypt.

Given all of this, I think it’s safe to say that tourism trends are more regional than truly global. True global travelers are very much the exception.

Posted in Global Development, Globalisation | No Comments »

Tourism Departures – An Indication of the Rise of the BRIC Nations?

Posted by Realsociology on 24th June 2013

I just knocked up this graph using World Bank data on tourism departures between 2003 – 2011 (which is very easy to do btw!)

 

Data from World Bank

 

It’s a nice illustration of the relative increase in the spending power of (some) people in the four BRIC nations in relation to the relative decline of spending power in the United Kingdom and the USA.

It also shows how much further ‘ahead’ China is compared to the other BRIC nations, as well as serving as a reminder of just how inward looking Americans are   – The same number visit abroad do from the UK, but their population is about six times the size of ours!

Posted in Global Development, Globalisation | No Comments »

China and Russia – Among the world’s worst human rights abusers

Posted by Realsociology on 22nd June 2013

China and Russia have both been moved to the bottom tier of the U.S. human trafficking rank, joining the likes of North Korea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, according to a recent U.S. State department report.

20130622-190731.jpg

In China, the one-child policy and a cultural preference for male children perpetuates the trafficking of brides and prostitutes. Chinese sex trafficking victims have been reported on all of the inhabited continents. Traffickers recruit girls and young women, often from rural areas of China, using a combination of fraudulent job offers, imposition of large travel fees, and threats of physical or financial harm, to obtain and maintain their service in prostitution.

Forced labour is also widely practised in China, in which both internal and external migrants are conscripted to work in coal mines or factories without pay, as well as its continued use of re-education hard labor camps for political dissidents.

In Russia, there are estimates that 50,000 children are involved in involuntary prostitution and about one million people are thought to be exposed to exploitive labor conditions, including extremely poor living conditions, the withholding for documents, and nonpayment for services.

Human Rights Watch has pointed out that some of Russia’s labour abuses have occurred during the preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, with some workers enduring “12-hour shifts with one day off per month, having their passports confiscated, being denied employment contracts, and facing unsanitary and overcrowded employer-provided accommodations, with up to 200 migrant workers living in a one single-family home.”

While the nature and scale of such absuses isn’t on a scale with what’s going in Syria, these two nations are not ‘rogue states’, they make up half of the BRIC nations. Given their status as rapidly growing and globoalising economic superpowers, combined with the size of their populations, the potential for further human rights abuses in these two nations profound.

It would be nice to think that this lower designation results in the U.S. imposing sanctions on these contries countries, such as voting against any IMF or World Bank loans. However, given the historical record of the U.S. tolerating and even supporting governments who champion capital over human rights, I don’t think sanctions are likely anytime soon.

Posted in Global Development, Infographics, Uncategorized | No Comments »

A crisis of overpopulation?

Posted by Realsociology on 27th May 2013

populationThe world population recently topped 7 billion, and current UN predictions are that it will reach 9 billion by 2050, but does this matter – are we facing a crisis of overpopulation in which population growth will outstrip the limits of the planet to provide for us?

The original and most famous exposition of this thesis was by Thomas Malthus in 1798 whose basic idea was that population increased exponentially but food supply only increased incrementaly, so population growth would always outstrip the ability of the population to feed itself. Malthus predicted that the world would run out of food by 1890.

Malthus of course failed to foresee the incredible increases in agricultural yields that were to be brought about by the green revolution after ww2 (nicely summarised in the video below) which trebled food production per acre in countries such as Mexico and India – allowing them to sustain increased population

However, such population increase lead Malthusianism to be revisited by Paul Erlich in his 1968 population bomb, who predicted that high birth rates would lead to mass famine and reduce the population by at least 1/5th by the end of the 1970s.

Again with hindsite Erlich also got it wrong, and clearly not because of any global reduction in population, which has grown significantly since Erlich’s day, so could it be that the Malthusian doomsayers are just wrong?

Criticisms of Malthusianism – Overpopulation is a myth (.com)

This web site offers (at time of writing) six video-based criticisms of the Malthusian view point – Some of these include

  1. Going back to the graph at the top of this post, the average projection has it that the world population will peak at 9 billion in about 40 years from now and then start to go back down, although the overpopulation web site draws on even more optimistic figures of an 8 billion peak in 30 years.
  2. Many developed countries, most noteably Japan, have very low fertility rates, far below the level necessary to replace the population. These countries face an increasing depenendency ratio as the number of people retiring relative to those of working age increases.
  3. Overpopulation proponents suggest that there is not enough food for everyone, however, the FAO and WFP point out that there is enough food for everyone, but several hundreds of millions of people lack access to that food because of such things as poverty, conflict and poor agricultural infrastructure – In other words it’s not too many people that’s the problem, it’s the economic and political systems that block access to available food.

There are more criticisms of Malthusianism on the web site, with data and links!

 

Limits to growth – How many people can the earth support?

This video, hosted by David Attenborough,  lies somewhere between Malthusianism and the ‘overpopulation myth busters’ – It starts off with the point that we are approaching the Earth’s limits to growth, while holding open the possibility that we can prevent meltdown, but only if we make a concerted global effort…..

Some of the evidence being cited for us reaching the Limits to Growth include…

  • Nasa’s satellite imagery showing us that we are already using nearly all of the earth’s surface to provide for our needs
  • The fact that we appear to have reached the technological limits for increasing food yields per acre
  • Extensive land grabs (mostly in Africa) suggest that developed countries are concerned about their ability to feed their populations in the future
  • The reduction in capacity many of the earth’s water sources

Attenborough suggests three solutions to our reaching the limits to growth

Firstly we can rely on technological advances to produce more with less land

Secondly we could reduce our consumption

Thirdly we can control population growth in the developing world

None of these are necessarily going to happen of course, and I think I might deal with these in  a seperate post…

Posted in Global Development | No Comments »

Perspectives on the April 2013 Bangladesh Factory Collapse

Posted by Realsociology on 26th May 2013

The recent factory collapse in Bangladesh in which over 1100 workers died makes this the second worst industrial accident in world history – after the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal, India.

For Sociology students studying Global Development this is a good example that seems to offer broad support for the continued relevance of dependency theory.

One article highlights the following factors which contributed to the 1000+ death toll -

  1. Bangladeshi factory workers cannot afford to not work when wages are only around the $50/ month mark.  Behind this, of course, lies Western demand for cheap and fast fashion – We only get £2 because of those low wages…..  
  2. The lack of long-term commitment to suppliers on the part of Corporate buyers – which means that it is economically irrational for many factory developers to invest in health and safety measures in their factories. As I see it behind this lack of commitment lies transnational firms’ desire to take advantage of the ‘race to the bottom’ – short contracts means the parent company can move out of Bangladesh at short notice to take advantage of cheaper labour elsewhere….  
  3. International Corporations effectively wash their hands of responsibility for monitoring health and safety through outsourcing – As a result, many of our high street shops have scant representation themselves in Bangladesh, leaving monitoring of health and safety to the Bangladeshi authorities, which basically means effective monitoring doesn’t take place.

However, The Ethical Trading Initiative takes a different approach, preferring to put responsibility on the Bangladeshi authorities, pointing out that…

‘A common reaction in the UK media and from NGOs has been to focus anger on brands sourcing from Bangladesh. But the view in Dhaka is rather different.  Newspapers here have concentrated almost exclusively on the failure by government agencies to implement the law on occupational safety and health (OSH) and the building code. This in turn is blamed on the nexus between garment factory owners and politicians – sometimes the same people.

According to the 2008 building law, any new structure, for any purpose, has to obtain an occupancy certificate from a government agency before it can be used; only six certificates have been issued since 2008, although it is estimated 4,000 – 5,000 new buildings come up every year.’

The ETI also aruges that the lack of unionisation of workers is an important contributory factor in these deaths – As the article above says, the workers could clearly see the cracks in the walls of the factory, but were forced to go in and work – Unionisation may have given them the sense of empowerment to stand up for their rights and stay alive.  

Of course both of these perspectives – one blaming the TNCs, the other blaming the Bangladeshi elite – still offer broad support for the continued relevance of Marxist Theory – At the end of the day this is still a situation where the poor and powerless are dying so the powerful can maintain their profits.

 

Posted in Aid or Trade, Global Development, Globalisation | No Comments »

Ugandan Alchemy or The Resource Curse?

Posted by Realsociology on 18th December 2012

Here is a nice illustration of the resource curse from relatively recent history- taken from the UN

The pink line shows Uganda’s gold production

The blue line shows Uganda’s gold exports

Uganda – A Nation of Alchemists?

 

Note the way in which gold exports, but not gold production, suddenly increases immediately following the entry of  Ugandan troops into the Congo War in 1994.

Some observers might suggest this offers support for the view that Uganda’s military involvement in that war was merely a cynical attempt to extract a few tonnes of gold – 40 tonnes over the period shown.

Of course it wasn’t only Uganda – Rwanda, Burundi, Namibia, Angola and Zimbabwe were all extracting DRCs resources during this period too!

Find Out More -

The Curse of Gold – The Democratic Republic of Congo

Posted in Countries (List), Global Development, Uganda, War and conflict | No Comments »

Posted by Realsociology on 17th December 2012

Great new web site – ‘Welcome to the Anthropocene‘ – charting the human impact on the planet.

This post really just pilfers a couple of videos from the site to make it easier for anyone who teaches this kind of thing – The two videos chart the impact of humanity on the planet – starting 200 years ago in Britain with the Industrial Revolution.

Personally I think it’s worth showing the first 2 mins or so of this video (without the narration) first – because it’s so nice, maybe just mentioning what’s above

‘Welcome to the Anthropocene’ Earth Animation from Globaïa on Vimeo.

Then showing the narrated version…. which explains things in a bit more depth

Temporarily disabled because it kept starting up automatically – see the web site above

Should be easy enough to fit this in somewhere on a lesson on climate change or population growth.

Posted in Environment, Global Development | No Comments »

Putting DRC Poverty in context (2)

Posted by Realsociology on 9th December 2012

My first ever infographic!

/

/

Not perfect I know, and maybe a bit tedious in terms of the ‘same old theme’ again, but I’m pretty pleased for a first effort…

Disclaimer – The relative sizes might be a bit skewed, I square rooted the relative numbers and then ‘tweaked’ so they looked about right. Anyways, it’s just a first effort, defo more to come. Hopefully one day I can figure out a way to get paid to knock (much more professional versions) of these up.

I made it in inkscape  - Pretty easy to get the basics, even for a total novice like me!

Posted in Global Development, Infographics, TNCs | No Comments »