Freedom from Debt Coalition
06 July 2008
Debt & Public Finance
Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
6 July 2008
The Group of Eight is at it again: talking about solving the pressing problems of the world. In the last few years, this gathering of the world’s most powerful capitalist nations has committed to liberate the poor countries from indebtedness, increase aid to the developing world, come up with $20 billion for Africa, and devise a solution to climate change.
It has not delivered on any of these promises.
In the next few days, this group of discredited personalities led by George Bush of the US, Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom, Yasuo Fukuda of Japan, and Nicolas Sarkozy of France will assemble in a resort hotel on the island of Hokkaido in Japan, ostensibly to address the problems of skyrocketing oil prices, fast-rising food prices, the deepening financial crisis, and climate change. As they deliberate, they will be guarded by 21,000 police personnel. The whole show is being stage at the record-breaking cost of $283 billion.
If the G8 could not deliver on its old promises, how can we expect it to deliver on its new ones?
The problem is that the growing poverty in the developing world, the continuing indebtedness of the poor countries, the oil debacle, the financial crisis, global warming, and the agricultural crisis are all largely rooted in the project of corporate-driven globalization of which the G 8 has been the main promoter and manager, along with the G 8-dominated World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and World Trade Organization.
Take climate change, perhaps the most urgent global problem, given the fact that some developing nations such as the Pacific Islands and Bangladesh are threatened with extinction by sea-level rise in the next few decades. The G8 governments talk about coming up with solutions such as carbon trading and carbon sequestration and storage. The focus is on techno-fixes, even as the world’s leading greenhouse gas polluter, the United States, continues to avoid making mandatory commitments to cut its emissions.
The core of the problem lies in the paradigm of consumption-based economic growth followed by the United States and the other G8 countries. Growth is sacrosanct. Continued, unquestioned pursuit of this goal has legitimized the high levels of fossil fuel consumption to drive industrial development. It has prevented countries in the North from making significant commitments in cutting emissions to levels that could make a difference.
Unwilling to undertake mandatory commitments to radically cut greenhouse gas emissions and to address the root causes of climate change in the growth imperative of corporate-driven globalization, how can governments such as those of the US, Japan, and Canada expect to convince fast developing countries like China, Brazil, and India to take on major commitments to curb their own rising levels of emissions?
Official development assistance (ODA) policy continues to be guided by this ideology of growth. Japanese foreign aid, for example, is directed by the idea that economic growth fueled by high levels of consumption and environmental conservation can be compatible. This preoccupation with maintaining high levels of growth and economic efficiency has largely directed Japanese ODA towards large-scale energy projects in countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and China.
These projects include the setting up of the Masinloc and Calaca coal-fired power plants and the San Roque dam in the Philippines, projects which are notorious for displacing indigenous peoples, causing massive deforestation and contamination of the water supply, and emissions from the burning of coal. In addition, Filipinos continue to pay for high costs of electricity due to the inflated costs of power from these projects. Projects such as these serve to benefit the economic interests of the North, with U.S. and Japanese construction firms earning massive profits. Meanwhile, the South is left with problems of environmental degradation and the high costs of energy. Official development assistance gives rise to projects that are resource exploitative, inappropriate, and result in illegitimate debt.
It is unlikely that the Hokkaido G8 Summit will result in a fundamental change of direction that will bring about changes in foreign aid and other policies. What we can expect is, as in the past, more high-minded self-serving rhetoric that will function as a smokescreen to obfuscate the G 8’s continuing commitment to the destructive path of a failed policy of globalization.
The Freedom from Debt Coalition joins a multitude of other voices in global civil society in denouncing the Hokkaido G 8 Summit as a meaningless show and waste of resources that has simply created an unwarranted militarization of the island of Hokkaido, home of the long exploited indigenous population, the Ainus.
We demand that the G8 get out of the way and let the peoples of the world come up with people-based solutions to the pressing problems of our times.
Let us work together to make the Hokkaido Summit the last G8 Summit. -30-