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Speech of Chakravarthi Raghavan, Chief Editor of the SUNS, in accepting the 1997 G77/UNDP Award for TCDC/ECDC


Mr Chakravarthi Raghavan is the Chief Editor of the South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) and Editor of Third World Economics, and the representative of the Third World Network (TWN) in Geneva. He was recently presented the G77/UNDP award for TCDC/ECDC (Technical Cooperation Among Developing Countries/Economic Cooperation Among Developing Countries) for 1997. He is a leading Indian journalist, having previously held the post of Chief Editor of the Press Trust of India. In 1980, Mr Raghavan became the Chief Editor of the SUNS (then known as the Special United Nations Service), which was founded by the International Foundation for Development Alternatives (IFDA).

The aim of the SUNS was to provide information and analysis on global events and developments from a Third World perspective. In 1989, TWN took over responsibility for publishing the SUNS. Subsequently, its name was also changed to South-North Development Monitor. As the Chief Editor of the SUNS, Mr Raghavan has been providing a critical and unique analysis of crucial international developments (such as the Uruguay Round negotiations and the subsequent developments in the WTO) from the perspective of developing countries.

He was awarded the G77/UNDP award for South-South cooperation for 1997. The presentation to Mr Raghavan in New York was made by H.E. Mr Jakaya M. Kikwete, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania; Ambassador Daudi N. Mwakawago, Permanent Representative of the United Republic of Tanzania to the United Nations and Chairman of the Group of 77 for 1997; and Mr James Gustave Speth (the Administrator of the UNDP). The award ceremony was held in conjunction with the handing over of the Chairmanship of the G77 to Indonesia at the Ceremonial Meeting of the G77 of the Whole at the UN in New York on 12 January 1998. The citation accompanying the award reads:

"The Group of 77/UNDP Award for TCDC/ECDC is granted to Chakravarthi Raghavan in recognition of his contribution to the promotion of technical and economic cooperation among developing countries.

The Award recognizes, in particular, the outstanding contribution made by Mr Raghavan both in his capacity as Chief Editor of South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) and as Editor of Third World Economics, which have consistently provided insightful analyses of the impact of global development on the economies of the developing countries and the role of South- South cooperation in support of their development efforts."

After receiving the award, Mr Raghavan made a brief presentation. We are reproducing below, the full text of the speech.


Hon. Jakaya M. Kikwete, Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania, outgoing Chairman of the Group of 77, Mr. Ali Alatas, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia and Chairman of the Group of 77 for 1998, Mr. Gus Speth, Administrator of the UNDP, Your Excellencies and friends:

I feel deeply honoured, and appreciate very much this award - coming as it does from the collectivity of the South.

My profoundest thanks to the Group of 77 and China and the selection committee and the UN Development Programme for the honour they have done me.

I was not present at the birth of the Group of 77, and UNCTAD, in Geneva in 1964; but I was at its conception - here in New York when a handful of key delegates from Afro-Asia and Latin America used to meet in the corridors and lounges outside the ECOSOC/Trusteeship chambers, and this led to the joint resolution presented to the General Assembly in the name of 65 countries for a UN Conference on Trade and Development - to bring economic issues back into the UN.

Since then, cooperation among developing countries has increased. There are many regional and sub-regional groups and integration agreements. But the international system currently favours those groupings and integration agreements that are associated with or led by the North, and disfavours independent groupings. And, at a time as now when the developing world is facing new threats to its independence, sovereignty and the well-being of its people, there is also a measure of dis- spiritedness and disunity within the South that those of us who have an interest in the well-being of the South, and the North, must strive hard to reverse and remove. As one individual from the South, I do pledge my intention to continue to strive for this, but I do plead with the governments of the South, and their delegates represented here, and the international institutions to do their utmost in this direction.

For we are living in dangerous times, with the entire post- war edifice of multilateralism and cooperation crumbling. The danger today arises on the economic front, and has already spilled over into the political and social arena; at the root is the attempt to repeat history, with the active neo- mercantilism of the powerful countries lurking behind the rhetoric of neo-liberalism and globalization.

Twelve years ago, before the Uruguay Round was launched, in looking at the trade agenda pushed by the industrial world, I suggested that the net effect would be to reverse the post- decolonization gains of the South. Subsequently, first in a paper for the South Commission, and then in a book in 1990, I called the process "Recolonization". It was a provocative title, but was aimed at awakening the peoples and governments of the South to the dangers ahead for them. Today, three years after the WTO came into being, and working hand-in-glove with the IMF and the World Bank, the powerful countries are using the WTO to advance narrow Northern interests. There are many Northern mainstream economists who have begun to look afresh at the shaky foundations of what passes for globalization, and the inherently unstable new order being forced on the countries of the South by the trading, monetary and finance rules of the game, run by institutions where their voices count for little.

Mr. Chairman, Excellencies,
The year that has passed has been marked by a few events that remind us of the distant past, and the presence of that past in our present - the efforts to repeat History.

1997 saw the 50th anniversary observance of independence in South Asia, and China regaining sovereignty over Hong Kong - and there is only one last remnant in Asia of that distant past which began with mercantilism and piracy in the Arabian Sea. Vasco da Gama - who did not even in fact discover the route from Europe round Africa to the fabled riches of Asia, but had the help of pilots provided by the King of Melinda to cross the Indian ocean to reach India - seized on the High Seas dhows returning from the Haj piligrimage to Southwest India, looted the merchandise, and set fire to the ships with the people on board; and that conduct was defended with the thesis that the laws of civilization did not apply beyond Europe (a defense that was repeated when the palace at Beijing was burnt and treasures looted by English soldiers). That was the mercantilist era - with European adventurers who came to trade and remained to colonize Asia, going on from India to China and waging war to have the right to sell opium to be able to buy Chinese silk, instead of paying in gold. It took a century or more of this mercantilism, colonial domination and trade, capital transfers from Asia, before a liberal economic order was established in the late 19th century by the UK - that is, after its own industrialization. That liberal state had its counterpart in the de-industrialization of India, China and so on. That colonial era began with the foreign trade posts and enclaves on the Indian coast, across the Bay of Bengal to Penang, then to Singapore, control of the Malacca Straits, and on to China.

The retreat of that process, the decolonization that the UN witnessed and helped since the late 1950s, also began with the freedom of South Asia which just last year observed that 50th anniversary. In this span of time, developing countries have made some advances in building up their economies, accumulating capital and industrializing to the point where they pose a competitive challenge and where some have begun to see them as a threat.

But the new process that has been set in motion since the latter half of 1997, is in some ways an attempt to reverse the tide and repeat 19th century history, and that laissez faire. Much has been written and said about this new globalization.

But in the wake of the currency crisis that began in Thailand in July, and that has spread across Asia, stock- markets have been going down, and spreading the crisis to the real economy, with no end in sight - but unless stopped and reversed, it will flow across the Pacific affecting the rich nations too. But the powerful interests are using the international system and the international financial institutions to advance the cause of their own corporations - banks and financial institutions - shielding them from the penalties of the market, while asking the Asian countries and their firms to pay the price, and enable foreign corporations to take over control.

Faced with a near collapse of their financial markets and payments systems, the beleaguered governments of Asia have been acquiescing.

But let there be no mistake about the backlash that is already very visible.

Asian countries and their travails have been belittled by the transnational media, and blamed on their very policies of the past that just a few weeks before were being praised. And there has been this harsh adjustment forced on the South, with the price for private contracts having now to be paid by government guarantees and austerity of the poor, bankruptcy of domestic enterprises, and unemployment for the workers - so that foreign banks, investors, and speculators and investment houses are shielded from the market and don't have to pay a penalty for their mistakes. Banks and institutions who disregarded even official warnings as from the Bank for International Settlements to lend wisely are being saved by the IMF, the same body that in the past was pressing these very same governments not to intervene with private contracts but to allow their private parties to borrow abroad - "liberalize the financial sector" were the magic words.

None of us from the South who are conscious of the poverty of our masses, and the failure to redeem the pledges at independence, the promise to "wipe out" the tears from the faces of the poor, can in any way defend our governments and leaders who have profited by corruption or allowed their sons, daughters and in-laws to enrich themselves.

But the system under attack now was used to manage the rents and ensure that rentiers invest and create employment - and it was being praised. If those near the centers of power are to be blamed now, what is one to say about the actions of treasuries and economic ministries in the North who are using the system to ensure that their own bankers and investment houses who made wrong decisions don't have to pay the penalty?

If leaders from the South take money for awarding contracts, they ought to be exposed and punished. But what about the firms and heads of corporations responsible? And what about contributions to political parties, candidates and elections, with hard and soft money, and governments and legislators moving to advance the interests of these funders in the international arena - at the WTO or elsewhere? How is one to dub this tailor-made capitalism?

We are told that the problems of Asia now are because their governments and regulators, for example, had not regulated their banking and other financial institutions, and have not been aware of the extent of the private borrowings.

But, Mr. Chairman, every year, the IMF produces balance-of- payments data, which at global level should balance but shows an ever increasing gap of about $100-120 billion annually; figures that turn up as inflows in developing countries' ledgers, but have no counterpart outflows in the developed countries. Most of it is money unaccounted in the North, and perhaps kept in such centres as the Cayman Isles and so on. A conservative estimate of this is a trillion dollars over the last decade - money that is available to back currency and other trading and speculations, not tied to any hedging for real transactions in commodities or goods or services. And while technically located in banks in these small offshore isles (where there are just name-plate offices with at best a desk, a clerk or two, and a computer or fax machine), the movement of these monies in and out of countries is configured and undertaken from offices in the great money centres of the North.

Is it not time to look at these things at the United Nations here? The genie that has been let out of the bottle can no longer be tamed by single remedies or solutions - whether a Tobin tax or a Dornbusch tax or any other. There has to be a number of small steps, none effective perhaps in themselves, but which together can act to tame the genie, if not succeed in putting it back into the bottle. But if we don't act, everyone will come to grief, the rich and the poor.

Mr. Chairman, Gautama, before he attained enlightenment and became the Buddha, was asked as to what was the greatest wonder of the world. And he thought about it and replied that Man was the Greatest Wonder of the World: for he sees before him everyday, men becoming old and dying, but thinks he himself will be immortal.

What is true for humans is also true for human institutions, and those who are powerful ought to pay some heed to this "wonder".

Mr. Chairman, I have not delivered a "diplomatic" speech. But in speaking today, I have borne in mind the words of advice, that in ancient India, a student who finished his studies and was going to the court to seek employment, was given by his teacher: Satyam Bruyath, Priyam Bruyath, Ma Bruyath Priyam Asathyam - Tell the truth, tell what may be pleasing, but don't tell an untruth because it is pleasing.

I thank you once again for the honour you have bestowed, and the patience and consideration you have shown in listening to my words, and I do wish to assure Your Excellencies, that while I have never hesitated in the past, and will not in the future, to say things that may be unpleasing, I shall always strive to advance unity of the South for the betterment of the people of the South and the North.

Thank you again.

 


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