British charity Oxfam says the price of raw coffee exported from producer countries accounts for less than seven per cent of the eventual cost of coffee to Western consumers. When Nyeri Governor Nderitu Gachagua tried to organise the industry in Nyeri and bypass the cartels at NCE in the hope of selling coffee through direct sales, the cartels fought back viciously. They have no negotiating power, no knowledge and no responsibility over their crop.
By John Kamau
Caught between profit-seeking international coffee houses and their local networks’ search for cheap beans, Mr Wainaina is one of the few remaining prisoners of faith: He still believes that one day the government will end the international cartel that strangles the local coffee industry.
Kenya, through the blessings of soil, climate and passionate peasant farmers, produces one of the most valuable crops in the world.
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns On July 31, another Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement deadline passed. Supporters and detractors both thought the pact would have been solidified during negotiations held in Maui the last week of July, but many issues linger, including access to medicines, privacy concerns regarding technology, and intellectual property patents.
The environment chapter was recently finalized; it addresses wildlife trafficking, illegal logging and illegal fishing but does not require signatory nations to endorse relatively weak standards. Additionally, the chapter says nothing about climate change or incentives for TPP countries to move towards more sustainable, low-emission energy sources or business practices; it’s expected that the investment chapter will continue to allow foreign corporations to sue governments when enforcement of domestic environmental laws negatively affect the corporations’ profits. Continue reading Trade: Update on TPP→
Date: Saturday, September 19, 2015 Time: 1:30 PM – 9:00 PM Location: University of Baltimore 21 W Mt Royal Avenue Baltimore, MD 21201 United States
Join us for a day of celebration and exploration of the new economy. There will be interactive workshops that will explore core elements of the New Economy movement. Each session will connect local, national, and global issues. We will learn together about the compelling conceptual framework that unites all of these various pieces and get ideas for creative constructive action.
The evening event, People and Planet First: A Multi-generational dialogue on Maryland’s Future, will feature Greenpeace USA Director and Story of Stuff founderAnnie Leonard, in a multi-generational dialogue on Maryland’s Future. Also featured will be the Democracy Collaboration’s Gar Alperovitz, Progressive Maryland’s Larry Stafford, and Climate Change MD Coordinator Larissa Johnson, moderated by Institute for Policy Studies Director John Cavanagh. Through dialogue among these leaders and with the audience, the panel will chart futures for Maryland that are good for workers, climate, and democracy. Continue reading People and Planet First 2→
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Our global economic and political system is the root cause of the problem, so instead of blaming Europe, let’s fix the problem
As we watch millions of refugees struggling to survive, hundreds of thousands of them seeking refuge in a Europe which has by and large shut its doors to them, it is all too easy for those in the U.S. to piously implore the Europeans to do more. Or for the U.S. government to take in a few thousand of them.
Most Americans seem completely blind to the way that we have played a major role in creating the problem, and have a major responsibility to fix it. Instead, many Americans are rallying behind Donald Trump and other Republican politicians who are competing with each other on who can be more ruthless toward our own domestic refugees who came to the U.S. without official government sanction.
In this column, Roberto Savio, founder and president emeritus of the Inter Press Service (IPS) news agency and publisher of Other News, writes that the purpose of Greece’s third bailout is clear – all but seven percent of the 86 billion euros will go to pay debt with the other European governments, recapitalize Greek banks, pay interest on Greece’s debt and pay the debt of the state with Greek enterprises, while the country’s citizens will see none of it.
SAN SALVADOR, Aug 20 2015 (IPS) – The long saga on Greece is apparently over – European institutions have given Athens a third bailout of 86 billion euros which, combined with the previous two, makes a grand total of 240 billion euros.
“How could any economist, even in the first year of studies, fail to understand that, by cutting consumption and raising taxes you are bound to depress an already depressed economy?”
There is no doubt that the large majority of European citizens are convinced that this is a great example of solidarity, and that if Greece is not now able to walk on its own feet, the responsibility will lie solely with Greek citizens and their government.
But this is only due to the fact that the media system has, by and large, ceased to provide alternative views … and some people even ignore that the bailout is a loan, and therefore increases the country’s debt.
In fact, the productive economy of Greece saw very little of that money because the bailouts were merely financial operations and Greek citizens, not only did not see anything, they have even had to pay a brutal price.
The truth behind the operation has been aptly described by Mujtaba Rahman, the respected chief Eurozone analyst for the London-based Eurasia Group, who said: “The bailout is not really about a growth plan for Greece, but a plan to make sure the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) get paid, and the euro area does not break up.”
And the purpose of this third bailout is clear. Of the famous 86 billion, 36 billion will go to pay the debt with the other European governments (and first of all Germany). Another 25 billion will go to recapitalize the Greek banks, because much capital left the country, heading for safer European banks. Another 18 billion will go to pay interest on the debt which Greece has been piling up. And, finally, seven billion will go to pay the debt of the state with Greek enterprises.
So, seven will go to the real economy and nothing to the citizens, who will have now to go through several new drastic measures of austerity, which will further depress their standards of living and their ability to spend.
Financially, the bailouts have been a success. All the losses and bad exposure of European institutions have been passed on to Greece. Before the first bailout, French banks were exposed with bad bonds for 63 billion euros, now only for 1.6 billion with no losses. German banks have gone from 45 to five billion.
What is intriguing is that a number of studies show that until the very last moment, when it was widely known that Greece was in deep crisis, European banks and investors continued to buy Greek bonds.
Were they certain that Greece would pay? No, but they were confident that the Greek government would be rescued, and that they would therefore recover their investments, which is exactly what happened.
The financial system has now a life of its own and has nothing to do with real economy, which it dwarfs by being 40 times larger (if we judge by the volumes of daily financial transactions against the production of good and services). Capital is untouchable and circulates freely in Europe, unlike its citizens. And now there is a great wave of legislation to introduce lower taxation for the richest one percent!
During the negotiations, one frequent accusation levelled against the Greeks was that they were unable to have their rich ship-owners pay their share of taxes. Of course, ship-owners place their money where it cannot be reached.
But is this not hypocritical when we know that there are at least two trillion euros stashed in fiscal paradises, and that, just to give one example, nobody has got Ryanair to really pay taxes? Not to mention the fact that when he was prime minister of Luxembourg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker granted secret tax rebates to over a hundred international companies?
Now Agence France Press has circulated a new astonishing study from the German Leibnitz Institute of Economic Research, which says that Germany has profited from the Greek crisis to the tune of 100 billion euros, saving money through lower interest payments on funds the government borrowed amid investor “flights to safety” and “these savings exceed the cost of the crisis – even if Greece were to default on its entire debt.”
Meanwhile, a large number of studies point out how, by having a positive balance of trade with its European partners, Germany is in fact sucking capital from Europe.
Interpreting the third bailout and its conditions of austerity as a mere economic operation would be to commit a great error.
No economist can believe that Greece will be able to pay back and not only because it has always had a fragile economy, with little industry and with tourism as its main source of income (aggravated by decades of mismanagement and the corruption of its traditional parties, the very parties that European leaders would like to see come back).
Greece is already in recession and now the doubling of VAT is going to compress consumption further, also because there will now be further reductions in pensions and public salaries (which have been already cut by 20 percent). It is widely believed that the Greek debt will now reach 200 percent of its GDP, up from 170 percent prior to the bailout.
How could any economist, even in the first year of studies, fail to understand that, by cutting consumption and raising taxes you are bound to depress an already depressed economy?
Well, it is no coincidence that the IMF, which is the Rotary Club of conservative economists, has refused to join this bailout. The IMF has said it will not put in any money unless European creditors (which is a diplomatic way of saying Germany) accept a restructuring of the Greek debt.
It is clear that the bailout has not been a technical but a political operation. Many European leaders, starting with Juncker himself, intervened in last month’s internal Greek referendum, asking Greeks to vote against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. They indicated clearly and openly, in a campaign that the Wall Street Journal repeated in the United States, that the revolt against austerity and the neoliberal economy should be stopped dead in its tracks to avoid political contagion.
For her part, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declared on German television that she has come to the conclusion that °Tsipras has changed°. This has an air of dejà vu … was it not then British Prime Margaret Thatcher who, intent on destroying the trade unions, launched her famous TINA slogan – There Is No Alternative?
And is there no alternative to this kind of Europe? (END/COLUMNIST SERVICE)
Edited by Phil Harris
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, IPS – Inter Press Service.
ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay — His speeches can blend biblical fury with apocalyptic doom. Pope Francis does not just criticize the excesses of global capitalism. He compares them to the “dung of the devil.” He does not simply argue that systemic “greed for money” is a bad thing. He calls it a “subtle dictatorship” that “condemns and enslaves men and women.”
Having returned to his native Latin America, Francis has renewed his left-leaning critiques on the inequalities of capitalism, describing it as an underlying cause of global injustice, and a prime cause of climate change. Francis escalated that line last week when he made a historic apology for the crimes of the Roman Catholic Church during the period of Spanish colonialism — even as he called for a global movement against a “new colonialism” rooted in an inequitable economic order.
The Argentine pope seemed to be asking for a social revolution.
“This is not theology as usual; this is him shouting from the mountaintop,” said Stephen F. Schneck, the director of the Institute for Policy Research and Catholic studies at Catholic University of America in Washington.
The last pope who so boldly placed himself at the center of the global moment was John Paul II, who during the 1980s pushed the church to confront what many saw as the challenge of that era, communism. John Paul II’s anti-Communist messaging dovetailed with the agenda of political conservatives eager for a tougher line against the Soviets and, in turn, aligned part of the church hierarchy with the political right.
Francis has defined the economic challenge of this era as the failure of global capitalism to create fairness, equity and dignified livelihoods for the poor — a social and religious agenda that coincides with a resurgence of the leftist thinking marginalized in the days of John Paul II. Francis’ increasingly sharp critique comes as much of humanity has never been so wealthy or well fed — yet rising inequality and repeated financial crises have unsettled voters, policy makers and economists.
Pope Francis spoke in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, on Thursday at the Second World Meeting of Popular Movements, a congress of global activists.In Bolivia, Pope Francis Apologizes for Church’s ‘Grave Sins’JULY 9, 2015
Left-wing populism is surging in countries immersed in economic turmoil, such as Spain, and, most notably, Greece. But even in the United States, where the economy has rebounded, widespread concern about inequality and corporate power are propelling the rise of liberals like Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who, in turn, have pushed the Democratic Party presidential front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to the left.
Even some free-market champions are now reassessing the shortcomings of unfettered capitalism. George Soros, who made billions in the markets, and then spent a good part of it promoting the spread of free markets in Eastern Europe, now argues that the pendulum has swung too far the other way.
“I think the pope is singing to the music that’s already in the air,” said Robert A. Johnson, executive director of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, which was financed with $50 million from Mr. Soros. “ And that’s a good thing. That’s what artists do, and I think the pope is sensitive to the lack of legitimacy of the system.”
Many Catholic scholars would argue that Francis is merely continuing a line of Catholic social teaching that has existed for more than a century and was embraced even by his two conservative predecessors, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Pope Leo XIII first called for economic justice on behalf of workers in 1891, with his encyclical “Rerum Novarum” — or, “On Condition of Labor.”
Mr. Schneck, of Catholic University, said it was as if Francis were saying, “We’ve been talking about these things for more than one hundred years, and nobody is listening.”
Francis has such a strong sense of urgency “because he has been on the front lines with real people, not just numbers and abstract ideas,” Mr. Schneck said. “That real-life experience of working with the most marginalized in Argentina has been the source of his inspiration as pontiff.”
Francis made his speech on Wednesday night, in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, before nearly 2,000 social activists, farmers, trash workers and neighborhood activists. Even as he meets regularly with heads of state, Francis has often said that change must come from the grass roots, whether from poor people or the community organizers who work with them. To Francis, the poor have earned knowledge that is useful and redeeming, even as a “throwaway culture” tosses them aside. He sees them as being at the front edge of economic and environmental crises around the world.
In Bolivia, Francis praised cooperatives and other localized organizations that he said provide productive economies for the poor. “How different this is than the situation that results when those left behind by the formal market are exploited like slaves!” he said on Wednesday night.
It is this Old Testament-like rhetoric that some finding jarring, perhaps especially so in the United States, where Francis will visit in September. His environmental encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” released last month, drew loud criticism from some American conservatives and from others who found his language deeply pessimistic. His right-leaning critics also argued that he was overreaching and straying dangerously beyond religion — while condemning capitalism with too broad a brush.
“I wish Francis would focus on positives, on how a free-market economy guided by an ethical framework, and the rule of law, can be a part of the solution for the poor — rather than just jumping from the reality of people’s misery to the analysis that a market economy is the problem,” said the Rev. Robert A. Sirico, president of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, which advocates free-market economics.
Francis’ sharpest critics have accused him of being a Marxist or a Latin American communist, even as he opposed communism during his time in Argentina. His tour last week of Latin America began in Ecuador and Bolivia, two countries with far-left governments. President Evo Morales of Bolivia, who wore a Che Guevara patch on his jacket during Francis’ speech, claimed the pope as a kindred spirit — even as Francis seemed startled when Mr. Morales gave him a wooden crucifix shaped like a hammer and sickle as a gift.
Francis’ primary agenda last week was to begin renewing Catholicism in Latin America and repositioning it as the church of the poor. His apology for the church’s complicity in the colonialist era received an immediate roar from the crowd. In various parts of Latin America, the association between the church and economic power elites remains intact. In Chile, a socially conservative country, some members of the country’s corporate elite are also members of Opus Dei, the traditionalist Catholic organization founded in Spain in 1928.
Inevitably, Francis’ critique can be read as a broadside against Pax Americana, the period of capitalism regulated by global institutions created largely by the United States. But even pillars of that system are shifting. The World Bank, which long promoted economic growth as an end in itself, is now increasingly focused on the distribution of gains, after the Arab Spring revolts in some countries that the bank had held up as models. The latest generation of international trade agreements includes efforts to increase protections for workers and the environment.
The French economist Thomas Piketty argued last year in a surprising best-seller, “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” that rising wealth inequality is a natural result of free-market policies, a direct challenge to the conventional view that economic inequalities shrink over time. The controversial implication drawn by Mr. Piketty is that governments should raise taxes on the wealthy.
Mr. Piketty roiled the debate among mainstream economists, yet Francis’ critique is more unnerving to some because he is not reframing inequality and poverty around a new economic theory but instead defining it in moral terms. “Working for a just distribution of the fruits of the earth and human labor is not mere philanthropy,” he said on Wednesday. “It is a moral obligation. For Christians, the responsibility is even greater: It is a commandment.”
Nick Hanauer, a Seattle venture capitalist, said he believed Francis was making a nuanced point about capitalism, embodied by his coinage of a “social mortgage” on accumulated wealth — a debt to the society that made its accumulation possible. Mr. Hanauer said that economic elites should embrace the need for change both for moral and pragmatic reasons.
“I’m a believer in capitalism but it comes in as many flavors as pie, and we have a choice about the kind of capitalist system that we have,” said Mr. Hanauer, now an outspoken proponent of redistributive government policies like a higher minimum wage.
Yet what remains unclear is whether Francis has a clear vision for a systemic alternative to the status quo that he and others criticize. “All these critiques point toward the incoherence of the simple idea of free market economics, but they don’t prescribe a remedy,” said Mr. Johnson, of the Institute for New Economic Thinking.
Francis acknowledged as much, conceding on Wednesday that he had no new “recipe” to quickly change the world. Instead, he spoke about a “process of change” undertaken at the grass-roots level.
“What can be done by those students, those young people, those activists, those missionaries who come to my neighborhood with the hearts full of hopes and dreams but without any real solution for my problems?” he asked. “A lot! They can do a lot.
“You, the lowly, the exploited, the poor and underprivileged, can do, and are doing, a lot. I would even say that the future of humanity is in great measure in your own hands.”
Jim Yardley reported from Asunción, and Binyamin Appelbaum from Washington. Laurie Goodstein contributed reporting from New York, and Simon Romero from Asunción.
ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE (Reuters) – Pope Francis acknowledged on Monday he had neglected problems of the middle class and said he was willing to have a dialogue with Americans who disagree with his criticism of capitalism. Francis, speaking to reporters on the papal plane returning from a grueling 8-day trip to Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay, also said he hoped the Greek crisis could lead to more oversight so other countries would not experience the same problems. During the hour-long conversation with the Francis, who has made defence of the poor a major plank of his papacy, a reporter asked why he had hardly ever spoken about the problems of the “working, tax-paying” middle class. He offered a rare papal mea culpa, thanking the reporter for his “good correction.” “You’re right. It’s an error of mine not to think about this,” he said. “The world is polarized. The middle class becomes smaller. The polarization between the rich and poor is big. This is true. And, perhaps this has led me to not take account of this (the problems of the middle class),” he said. Francis said he spoke about the poor often because they were so numerous but that ordinary working people had “great value.” “I think you’re telling me about something I need to do. I need to do delve further into this ….,” he said The pope, who is due to visit Cuba and the United States in September, said he was willing to have a dialogue with Americans who have seen his criticism of the global economic system and capitalism as an attack on their way of life. “I heard that there were some criticisms from the United States … I haven’t had time to study this well but every criticism must be received, studied and then dialogue must follow,” he said. He sought to downplay the Vatican’s part in the rapprochement between Cuba and the United States, even though both Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro have praised him for it. He said the Holy See had done “only small things” to facilitate the accord that led to the resumption of diplomatic relations after more than 50 years of enmity. Asked if Cuba now risked losing parts of its identity, he said both sides would lose something but “both will gain peace, encounter, friendship, collaboration.” He refused to be discuss Cuba’s human rights record, saying human rights were for all and that there were a number of countries, including several in Europe, where religious freedom was not totally respected. Asked about the Greek crisis, he said “it would be too simple to say that the fault is only on one side.” “I hope that they find a way to resolve the Greek problem and also a way to have oversight so that the same problem will not fall on other countries. This will help us move forward because this path of loans and debts, in the end, it never ends.” Francis said he “did not feel offended” when Bolivian President Evo Morales gave him a gift of a sculpture with the body of a crucified Jesus nailed to a hammer and sickle – the symbol of communism. The sculpture was a replica of a creation by Jesuit priest Luis Espial Camp, an artist and poet who was a strong defender of miners’ rights and was killed by a Bolivian right-wing paramilitary squad in 1980. Francis said the sculpture should be seen as “protest art” and a product of its times, when some Roman Catholic priests were involved in forms of Liberation Theology that used Marxist political analysis to help the poor. Francis said he brought the gift back to the Vatican with him. Several times during the freewheeling conversation that has become a standard of papal flights, he showed his humour despite signs of fatigue. “I never tasted coca (leaves), let’s be clear about that,” he said, when asked how he managed to keep up the demanding pace at age 78. There was speculation that he might have chewed coca leaves to ward off altitude sickness in Bolivia. He said he felt like “a great-grandfather” when young people asked to take selfies with him. “It’s another culture … I respect it,” he said.
Pope Francis has urged the downtrodden to change the world economic order, denouncing a “new colonialism” by agencies that impose austerity programs and calling for the poor to have the “sacred rights” of labor, lodging and land.
In one of the longest, most passionate and sweeping speeches of his pontificate, the Argentine-born pope used his visit to Bolivia to ask forgiveness for the sins committed by the Roman Catholic church in its treatment of native Americans during what he called the “so-called conquest of America”.
The pontiff also demanded an immediate end to what he called the “genocide” of Christians taking place in the Middle East and beyond, describing it as a third world war.
“Today we are dismayed to see how in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world many of our brothers and sisters are persecuted, tortured and killed for their faith in Jesus,” Pope Francis said.
“In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”
Quoting a fourth century bishop, he called the unfettered pursuit of money “the dung of the devil,” and said poor countries should not be reduced to being providers of raw material and cheap labour for developed countries.
Some months ago, I flew from Sao Paulo to London on British Airways. The first snack on the plane was nuts produced by the Kenya Nut Company! Wow! A Kenyan company with a global contract with British Airways!
And a few weeks before that, the packaging of the soap in the Geneva hotel where I stayed stated it was made from Fair Trade Avocado Oil from Kenya. I took a picture of it!