Monday, July 04, 2005

Live 8

Perhaps I'm a cynic... the catchcall was 'Make Poverty History', yet here in Australia only those who had the money to pay actually saw the concerts. All we managed to see here in Australia was a watered down version of the 24 hour event - a whole 80 minutes wrapped up in a 'two hour' highlights package, complete with car commercials. Someone made some money from this event and, as you'd expect, it was Packer selling advertising space on Channel 9, and Rupert Murdoch who cashed in by getting people to cash him up and fork over an eventual four figure sum to subscribe to Foxtel.

Not to take anything away from the event but isn't it a tad hypocritical for someone as wealthy as Bono, in the middle of a world tour that'll see him net another twenty million or so, preach to the people about forking over cash in aid? Ummmmm, the collective worth of that London line-up alone must near reach the billion plus mark - how about they donate the profits from a tour and see if that makes a difference?

Now don't get me wrong - I'm all for what Live 8 stands for - debt reduction. However Alan Kohler said it better than I could yesterday on the ABC:

"Well, good on Sir Bob Geldof for organizing an excellent concert
yesterday. It's on TV in Australia tonight. And especially for getting David
Gilmour and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd back on stage together. But the real
purpose of the Live Aid Concerts persuading the G8 nations to double aid to
Africa, cancel its debts and open up trade, while well meaning and hard to argue
with is in my view probably useless.

"100,000 Africans own just under 1 trillion or $1,000 billion in wealth
while 300 million of them live on less than a $1.50 a day. The problem with
Africa is not a shortage of aid or resources or a lack of trade opportunities,
but grand larceny. The continent is being openly looted by its elite. That's
what's causing the poverty.

"Kenya's 2005 budget, for example, allocates $15 million for a new fleet of
Mercedes Benzs for the office of the president including a $1 million S500L for
the President Kibaki himself. Kenyan MPs get a monthly fuel allowance for their
Mercedes Benzs of more than $1,500 each. The average annual per capita income in
Kenya is less than $500.

"Three quarters of Swaziland's aid, according to Spectator Magazine goes on
King Mswati's balls, his picnics, parties and cars. And when Britain increased
aid to Malawi the government celebrated by buying 39 top of the lines S class
Mercedes Benzs and so on.

"All over Africa, the people are oppressed and robbed. More aid and debt
cancellation will entrench the elite and while European America should
definitely lower their trade barriers, that's not the problem with Africa.
There's plenty of trade in food. Sir Bob tells us we should forget about the
corruption thing, but in my opinion that's all the matters. The only way out
of poverty is to have a functioning democracy with property rights and jail for

So instead of just giving them more money and hoping that the problem will go away, what needs to be done is education and management. Wiping out the debt to a country such as Zimbabwe only enables the likes of Robert Mugabe and funds his campaign of genocide and racism. Hello Sir Bob. Hello Bono - whatcha gonna do about that? Perhaps there should be strict conditions on such aid - countries that can prove that they're not at war with their neighbors, not at war with themselves and hold free and democratic elections would be instantly eligible, those who are corrupt would have to make some serious changes.

At the end of the day Australia isn't important enough to be involved in any of this - we're not part of the G8, and we weren't part of Live 8. In 1985 Bob Geldof refused to stage Live Aid unless countries like Australia were involved. Initially he was offered a highlights package on Channel 9, refused and phoned then Prime Minister Robert Hawke and plead his case for full coverage, which he got, on the ABC. This time around he just didn't care enough to ensure that the concerts, and thus the message, would be received by the largest audience possible.

As for Making Poverty History - where do you stop? Africa isn't the only nation on the planet where poverty exists. It exists in Australia, America, Europe, the UK - it exists globally. Where ever children go hungry, where ever people sleep on the streets - that's where poverty is. If you help one then try and help them all, but then it's not as glamorous to help certain countries is it?

There's a lot of good to come from this, but as with most things that run on good intentions, there's a lot more work to be done than merely wiping out one nations debt.

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