Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The World Bank and the Language of Development : India's National Agricultural Innovation Project

A few examples from the Bank’s latest reports in India show how the language of development ignores the ground reality and make suffering sound like progress. The latest World Bank project in Indian Agriculture (of 203 projects going back to 1949) is called the National Agricultural Innovation Project. Its objectives are to

"contribute to the sustainable transformation of Indian agricultural sector from food self-sufficiency to one in which a market orientation is equally important for poverty alleviation and income generation. The specific objective is to accelerate the collaborative development and application of agricultural innovations between public research organizations, farmers, private sector and other stakeholders….The proposed project contributes to the Bank’s objectives, as expressed in the Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) 2004, to increase its lending in support of rural livelihoods and accelerating rural growth."

In a country where 49% of children are malnourished, a context where privatisation has been occurring in the sector for the past 40 years, and most tragically where farmers are committing suicide, what is the meaning of these objectives? Is a market orientation as equally important as food self-sufficiency? How exactly is the market important for poverty alleviation and income generation? The Bank’s key indicators of the success of this project will be

"the increased availability of knowledge products and public awareness messages of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), increased collaboration with farmer, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and private sector organizations, increased availability and use of technologies that have been jointly developed between consortia partners in support of strengthened production to consumption systems and enhanced rural livelihoods, and a strengthened capacity for basic and strategic research"

This project is about increasing the existing privatization of agriculture by creating a knowledge network between the private sector, agriculture research institutes and a small number of NGOs to promote the use of corporate technologies such as genetically modified food. This project is neither about farmer livelihoods nor about food security.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

World Bank's Food Security Plan Temporarily Blocked at Doha Talks

The World Bank of course stands with the US on the the battle between the US and India/China over protection for small farmers, and positions it as usual by suggesting that this will solve the crisis of poverty.

Zoellicks Plan for the Food Crisis which he announced at the Food Security Summit in Rome laid out the World Bank view that "to help those in danger today and ensure that the poor do not suffer this tragedy again" the World Bank proposed a 10-point plan. The ninth point was "we should conclude a Doha World Trade Organisation deal in order to remove the distortions of ag­ricultural subsidies and tariffs and create a more adaptable, efficient and fair global food trade. The need for rules that are agreed multilaterally has never been stronger".

See below for the latest on the WTO where the World Bank's vision of food security has been temporarily blocked.

Michele Kelley

WTO talks fail as India and China stand up to US to 'protect' farmers

Wed, Jul 30 03:03 AM
Yahoo News

The ministerial level talks here that attempted to clinch a global trade deal failed to achieve a breakthrough after nine long and tense days of discussions mainly due to differences between the US and India on measures to protect the livelihood concerns of poor farmers in the developing world.

The talks, that form part of the seven-year-old Doha Development Round negotiations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), also saw differences between the developed and the developing world in several market-opening commitments regarding agriculture and industrial goods.

Though a formal announcement is expected only later in the night, official sources said WTO director general Pascal Lamy clearly indicated that there was no progress in the meeting of the group of seven countries that included representatives from India, Brazil, China, the European Union, US, Japan and Australia. They said, therefore, it was highly unlikely to have any resolution of outstanding issues in a larger group of countries.

India had earlier refused to give in to attempts to weaken a measure called the Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) meant to protect poor farmers, despite enormous pressure from developed countries, especially the US. The SSM enables developing countries like India to hike agricultural tariff by imposing additional duties to protect the livelihood of its poor farmers from import surges and price declines of sensitive agricultural products like wheat and rice. But it is a contingency measure and, therefore, used only when imports are substantive.

Meanwhile, developing countries on Tuesday blamed the US for what they called its stubborn attitude in maintaining the prosperity of its subsidized farmers and said this was the main stumbling block in clinching a global trade deal.

Despite efforts between Monday and Tuesday to resolve the SSM issue using different formulations - including a proposal by Lamy and another one by the European Union - the US rejected these saying SSM would disrupt normal trade rather than protect poor farmers. Some agricultural exporting countries like Uruguay and Paraguay, too, said SSM would hurt their interests.

Meanwhile, India was backed by China and around 100 other countries at a crucial juncture in the talks when India suffered a setback as Brazil broke ranks with other developing country allies in this aspect due to its interests in the farm-export business.

China had said it would not offer any concessions on special products (SPs farm products that are subjected to minimum or no duty cuts) and SSMs as these directly affect the livelihood of its poor farmers. It wanted to demarcate rice, cotton and sugar as SPs. On SSM, India turned down a WTO proposal under which developing countries could impose additional safeguard duties only if the import surge is 40% more than the average of previous three years.

India had told the WTO that if developing countries were forced to wait till a 40% rise in imports, it would wreak havoc on the livelihood of the most vulnerable farmers due to cheap farm imports from the rich world. India also demanded that the additional safeguard duties that it should be allowed to impose on such imports should be above the Uruguay Round-bound levels (tariffs that were committed to at the Uruguay Round) as the present proposal of 15% additional duty would not be enough to curb such import surges and price declines.

However, the SSM proposal available to developing countries continued to be weaker than a similar mechanism available to rich countries to protect the interests of their mostly rich farmers from such cheap imports.

The other main unresolved issues included reduction of huge trade-distorting farm subsidies of the US, especially their cotton subsidies and Washington's insistence that developing countries should eliminate duties in certain infant and vulnerable industries. Earlier, in a bid to speed up the Doha Round talks, Lamy had last week disbanded the original group of 30-odd ministers and started holding discussions of just seven major countries including India.

But apart from adding to the bitterness that it caused to the members excluded from the core group, this attempt at expeditiously resolving the persisting differences between the developed and the developing world did not bear fruit with Lamy himself admitting that there was no convergence on key issues. Several of the developing, least developed and even developed countries excluded from the chosen group of seven nations expressed apprehensions about being left in the dark.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

World Bank Slammed by MSP

25 February 2008


For Immediate Use

World Bank Slammed by MSP

Dr Bill Wilson, MSP for the West of Scotland, last week lodged a Parliamentary motion supporting the Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India. The tribunal, at which the views of leading figures from legal, literary, religious and scientific spheres were represented, condemned the World Bank Group for approving loans that “have caused extensive social and environmental harm”.

Speaking after lodging his motion, Dr Wilson said that he was aware that Nobel Prize-winning economist and former World Bank Chief Economist, Joseph Stiglitz, had also found fault with the institution and with the International Monetary Fund. Dr Wilson said that in the past too much pressure had been applied for developing countries to open up their economies too quickly: “This is not how today’s leading economic powers developed. It’s hypocritical and destructive to allow multinationals untrammelled access. Local businesses in developing countries often cannot compete with multinationals and jobs and local expertise are lost.

“In the case of India it is fair to say that the World Bank’s policy contributed to the deaths of many poor people. According to the Tribunal’s jury, World Bank-sponsored policies put tremendous pressure on the poorest people in India and the suicides of 137,000 poor farmers between 2001 and 2007 were at least partly attributable to this.”

Dr Wilson continued, “To make the point about the effects of World Bank pressure clearly I can do no better than quote from the jury’s statement:

‘India's farmers must now compete with imports from the heavily subsidized farms of the European Union and North America, at the same time when even the most meager state assistance for the poorest farmers is reduced. India was once self-sufficient in food production; its food security is now dependent on imports. It is clear to us that major World Bank Economic Restructuring, Structural Adjustment, and Sector Loans have directly promoted and helped to finance these economic policy changes which are a disaster for much of India's more than 700 million rural inhabitants, and most disastrous of all for poor farmers.’”

Dr Wilson concluded, “The tale of woe goes on and on. The rich should not get richer at the expense of the poorest in society. I welcome the Tribunal’s report, and sincerely hope that the World Bank will change its approach. If it does not do so, then I call upon the new Indian Government to put the interests of the poorest in Indian society first and to resist the blandishments of those who appear to act only for the benefit of multinational companies.”

Notes to Editors

1. Text of Bill Wilson’s motion

Date of Lodging: 22 February 2008
Short Title: Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India

S3M-01400 Bill Wilson (West of Scotland) (SNP): That the Parliament

notes the Independent People’s Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India, which involves retired justices of the supreme and high courts, leading writers, religious leaders, activists and academics; agrees with its condemnation of the World Bank for approving loans that “have caused extensive social and environmental harm”, unduly influenced the Indian policy-making process and promoted the establishment of common effluent treatment plants that failed to meet environmental norms, and further notes that Indian Government and World Bank officials failed to represent themselves at the tribunal despite two weeks’ notification.

2. Website of World Bank Group in India Tribunal

Friday, January 25, 2008

Bruce Rich - The Initial Findings of the Jury

Bruce Rich's initial findings of the Independent People's Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India that took place in Delhi at the end of September 2007

Sulak Sivaraska's initial findings of the Independent People's Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India that took place in Delhi at the end of September 2007.

Rawaswamy Iyer - The Initial Findings of the Jury

Rawaswamy Iyer's initial findings of the Independent People's Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India that took place in Delhi at the end of September 2007.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Alejandro Nadal - The Initial Findings of the Jury

Alejandro Nadal's initial findings of the Independent People's Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India that took place in Delhi at the end of September 2007.