The G8 Debt Relief to Africa: John Pilger says its "A Fraud And A Circus"
- June 24, 2005
The G8 Summit: A Fraud And A Circus
By John Pilger
The front page of the London Observer on 12 June announced, "55 billion
Africa debt deal 'a victory for millions'." The "victory for millions" is a
quotation of Bob Geldof, who said, "Tomorrow 280 million Africans will wake
up for the first time in their lives without owing you or me a penny...".
The nonsense of this would be breathtaking if the reader's breath had not
already been extracted by the unrelenting sophistry of Geldof, Bono, Blair,
the Observer et al. Africa's imperial plunder and tragedy have been turned
into a circus for the benefit of the so-called G8 leaders due in Scotland
next month and those of us willing to be distracted by the barkers of the
circus: the establishment media and its "celebrities". The illusion of an
anti establishment crusade led by pop stars - a cultivated, controlling
image of rebellion - serves to dilute a great political movement of anger.
In summit after summit, not a single significant "promise" of the G8 has
been kept, and the "victory for millions" is no different. It is a fraud -
actually a setback to reducing poverty in Africa. Entirely conditional on
vicious, discredited economic programmes imposed by the World Bank and the
IMF, the "package" will ensure that the "chosen" countries slip deeper into
poverty. Is it any surprise that this is backed by Blair and his treasurer,
Gordon Brown, and George Bush; even the White House calls it a "milestone"?
For them, it is an important facade, held up by the famous and the naive and
the inane. Having effused about Blair, Geldof describes Bush as "passionate
and sincere" about ending poverty. Bono has called Blair and Brown "the John
and Paul of the global development stage". Behind this front, rapacious
power can "re-order" the lives of millions in favour of totalitarian
corporations and their control of the world's resources.
There is no conspiracy; the goal is no secret. Gordon Brown spells it out in
speech after speech, which liberal journalists choose to ignore, preferring
the Treasury spun version. The G8 communique announcing the "victory for
millions" is unequivocal. Under a section headed "G8 proposals for HIPC debt
cancellation", it says that debt relief to poor countries will be granted
only if they are shown "adjusting their gross assistance flows by the amount
given": in other words, their aid will be reduced by the same amount as the
So they gain nothing. Paragraph Two states that "it is essential" that poor
countries "boost private sector development" and ensure "the elimination of
impediments to private investment, both domestic and foreign". The "55
billion" claimed by the Observer comes down, at most, to 1 billion spread
over 18 countries. This will almost certainly be halved - providing less
than six days' worth of debt payments - because Blair and Brown want the IMF
to pay its share of the "relief" by revaluing its vast stock of gold, and
passionate and sincere Bush has said no.
The first unmentionable is that the gold was plundered originally from
Africa. The second unmentionable is that debt payments are due to rise
sharply from next year, more than doubling by 2015. This will mean not
"victory for millions", but death for millions. At present, for every 1
dollar of "aid" to Africa, 3 dollars are taken out by western banks,
institutions and governments, and that does not account for the repatriated
profit of transnational corporations. Take the Congo. Thirty-two
corporations, all of them based in G8 countries, dominate the exploitation
of this deeply impoverished, minerals-rich country, where millions have died
in the "cause" of 200 years of imperialism. In the Cote d'Ivoire, three G8
companies control 95 per cent of the processing and export of cocoa: the
main resource. The profits of Unilever, a British company long in Africa,
are a third larger than Mozambique's GDP.
One American company, Monsanto - of genetic engineering notoriety - controls
52 per cent of the maize seed in South Africa, that country's staple food.
Blair could not give two flying faeces for the people of Africa. Ian Taylor
at the University of St Andrews used the Freedom of Information Act to learn
that while Blair was declaiming his desire to "make poverty history", he was
secretly cutting the government's Africa desk officers and staff. At the
same time, his "department for international development" was forcing, by
the back door, privatisation of water supply in Ghana for the benefit of
British investors. This ministry lives by the dictates of its "Business
Partnership Unit", which is devoted to finding "ways in which DfID can
improve the enabling environment for productive investment overseas and...
contribute to the operation of the financial sector". Poverty reduction? Of
A charade promotes the modern imperial ideology known as neoliberalism, yet
it is almost never reported that way and the connections are seldom made. In
the issue of the Observer announcing "victory for millions" was a secondary
news item that British arms sales to Africa had passed 1 billion.
One British arms client is Malawi, which pays out more on the interest on
its debt than its entire health budget, despite the fact that 15 per cent of
its population has HIV. Gordon Brown likes to use Malawi as example of why
"we should make poverty history", yet Malawi will not receive a penny of the
"victory for millions" relief. The charade is a gift for Blair, who will try
anything to persuade the public to "move on" from the third unmentionable:
his part in the greatest political scandal of the modern era, his crime in
Iraq. Although essentially an opportunist, as his lying demonstrates, he
presents himself as a Kiplingesque imperialist. His "vision for Africa" is
as patronising and exploitative as a stage full of white pop stars (with
black tokens now added).
His messianic references to "shaking the kaleidoscope" of societies about
which he understands little and "watching the pieces fall" has translated
into seven violent interventions abroad, more than any British prime
minister for half a century. Bob Geldof, an Irishman at his court, duly
knighted, says nothing about this. The protesters going to the G8 summit at
Gleneagles ought not to allow themselves to be distracted by these games. If
inspiration is needed, along with evidence that direct action can work, they
should look to Latin America's mighty popular movements against total locura
capitalista (total capitalist folly).
They should look to Bolivia, the poorest country in Latin America, where an
indigenous movement has Blair's and Bush's corporate friends on the run, and
Venezuela, the only country in the world where oil revenue has been diverted
for the benefit of the majority, and Uruguay and Argentina, Ecuador and
Peru, and Brazil's great landless people's movement. Across the continent,
ordinary people are standing up to the old Washington-sponsored order. "Que
se vayan todos!" (Out with them all!) say the crowds in the streets.
Much of the propaganda that passes for news in our own society is given to
immobilising and pacifying people and diverting them from the idea that they
can confront power. The current babble about Europe, of which no reporter
makes sense, is part of this; yet the French and Dutch "no" votes are part
of the same movement as in Latin America, returning democracy to its true
home: that of power accountable to the people, not to the "free market" or
the war policies of rampant bullies. And this is just a beginning.