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In the lead up to the G8 summit in Enniskillen, Eoghan Rice reflects on the impact of the current global system of trade, tax and finance on the world’s bottom billion people, who remain trapped in extreme poverty.
First, let’s look at just some of the facts:
The current system that dominates the world of trade, tax and finance simply aren’t working for a great many of the world’s people. By any objective analysis, change is needed.
Caption: top left – Jennifer McCann, MLA signing up to the IF campaign before the start of the G8 summit; bottom image – a gathering of IF campaigners.
It is against this backdrop that the leaders of the G8 nations meet in Enniskillen next week. Trade and tax have been put top of their agenda, although it is difficult not to be cynical and suggest that this has more to do with their own faltering economies than any attempt to undo structural injustices that have left the world’s poorest people trying to push a boulder up a mountain.
To that extent, the make-up of the meeting reveals a lot. Developing countries are noticeably absent from Fermanagh, despite the fact that there is an unprecedented shift in world dynamics.
According to the UN, for the first time in 150 years the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies – Brazil, China and India – is about equal to the combined GDP of the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and the US.
In 1950, Brazil, China and India together represented only 10% of the world’s economy, while the six northern powerhouses accounted for more than half. By 2050, the UN estimates that the three emerging economies will represent 40% of global output, far surpassing that of the six northern countries.
Yet, the incredible growth of Brazil, China and India masks the miserable reality of daily life for the world’s poor. Statistics show that almost a billion people have been lifted out of poverty in the last 20 years, but China alone accounts for three-quarters of those people (680m).
The world’s poorest countries – such as Somalia, South Sudan, Haiti and Democratic Republic of Congo – have shown no such growth. In countries like these, the world’s bottom billion people remain trapped in extreme poverty.
Even within these growing economies, shocking inequality remains – India alone is home to one-third of the world’s poorest people.
What has this got to do with the G8?
Well, trade rules that favour the rich, land grabbing by western corporations, widespread tax avoidance by foreign ‘investors’, climate change caused by carbon emissions, and the destruction of food crops in order to allow the growing of biofuels for cars are just some of the issues that are contributing to this. Tinkering with systems that are broken will not fix the problem. At the G8, talk isn’t cheap – it is costing the lives of millions of people every year.
We need real action on trade, tax, climate and biofuels. We need an alternative path.