Debt diatribe is too simplistic

Marketing Week’s reporting has always been distinguished by its ability to separate substance from froth. Sadly, George Pitcher’s article (MW May 14) on debt forgiveness does the opposite and fails to divorce symptoms from causes.

He rails against “bad” governments such as Bangladesh, Malawi and Ethiopia, suggesting that their external debt is a lever with which “good” Western governments can encourage them to be nice to their citizens. He also chides the Third World governments for growing cash crops for export, instead of subsistence crops – a sure sign of their wickedness.

Mr Pitcher conveniently forgets that many of the latter regimes were installed and supported by these “nice” Western governments and their allied banking and commercial interests. After all, their brutality was a reflection of their ability to maintain social and economic order. Equally, these countries have been encouraged, frequently against local opposition, to grow cash crops to provide cheap raw materials to these self-same “nice” Western interests.

In the case of Sudan, lovingly and inaccurately caricaturised by Mr Pitcher into a Islam v Christian punch-up, there is clear evidence that the civil war has been exacerbated by Western funding of the rebels who are more amenable to Western oil interests than the Khartoum government.

The real issue is, therefore, a radical reform of the currently iniquitous global trading system. Debt forgiveness is merely the first stage in such an endeavour. It is also in the interest of Western business to see these markets growing into viable markets for their own goods and services.

Paul Simon



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