News & Current Affairs
18 November 2014
by Sean Stinson
P20 leaders’ summit cancelled due to lack of point.
With all the fuss surrounding the storm in a teacup that was the G20, I’d just like to give a shout out to another notable recent non-event. While our very own treasurer Joe Hockey posed for photo ops with the leaders of the free market, talking up the need to ‘lift people out of poverty’ as the basis for boosting economic growth by 2% above normal growth expectations, the leaders of the world’s 20 poorest countries didn’t meet for multilateral discussions last week, mostly because they weren’t considered important enough get an invite, since they clearly had nothing to bring to the table, and probably could not afford the airfare anyway.
Nonetheless, in the spirit of fairness and equality, let’s take this opportunity to give an enthusiastic hoorah for the undefeated title holder of poorest country in the world, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, whose people Belgium’s King Leopold II is said never to have committed genocide against, killing 10 million.
In a close second place, let’s also raise a glass and a box of used condoms to Zimbabwe, ground zero for the HIV/AIDS epidemic which now affects 20% of its population. Of course this has nothing to do with WHO clinical trials involving human test subjects and a polio vaccine which had been cultured in the kidneys of rhesus monkeys, allowing the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) to jump species – so let’s not talk about that.
Followed by a length and a half is Burundi whose economy consists solely of exporting coffee beans but has no sea ports and no direct access to markets so 80% of its population still live in poverty.
In fourth place is Liberia. A nation founded and colonized by freed slaves from America. Is this a dystopian nightmare on steroids? Or a social experiment gone badly, badly wrong? Liberia is still recovering from the civil war which raged through most of the 1980’s killing hundreds of thousands, and is now threatened by the Ebola pandemic.
At the time of writing the world’s fifth poorest country is Eritrea. Gatekeeper of the Suez Canal, in colonial times it was seen as a region of great geopolitical importance by the Italians who ransacked it first, and later the British. Since independence it’s been more or less constantly at war with neighbouring Ethiopia.
Coming up on the inside is the Central African Republic. This is more than likely where those diamonds in your pretty engagement ring come from. 62% of its population live on less than $1 a day.
Next is Niger and then Malawi. 80% of Niger is SAND. Malawi is another landlocked rural economy without access to trade.
In ninth place is Madagascar. If it’s not the exploitation of mineral wealth then it’s tourism which is the cornerstone of most third world economies. Home to some of the most diverse flora you’ll ever see. I should like someday to visit.
Afghanistan is the tenth poorest country in the world. It’s hard to believe that just 30 years ago was a burgeoning socialist economy.
In eleventh place is Mali and in twelfth place Togo, where things are looking slightly up – It’s reported that the average wage in Togo has risen from $1 a day to $1.25 in just under 10 years.
Bringing up the rear are Guinea, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau, Comoros, and South Sudan.
Second to last we have Nepal, the world’s 93rd largest country by land mass, with a population of approximately 27 million. Bordered by China and India it is home to the world’s tallest mountain peaks including Mount Everest. It’s also reportedly home to some of the happiest people on earth. Up until 1951 Nepal was an agrarian society, arguably oblivious to its lack of schools, hospitals, roads, telecommunications, electric power, industry or civil service for hundreds of years. Nowadays Nepal is “committed to a program of economic liberalization.” Thank God for progress.
In last place is Haiti, the world’s twentieth poorest country whose citizens are lucky enough to live on $2 a day. All but swept out to sea by a 7.0 Mw earthquake in 2010, despite the billions gifted to NGOs the rebuild infrastructure, there is no indication of economic recovery any time soon.
The global bumblebee fart which was the G20 summit will soon fade away into a cloud of coal dust, remembered most fondly by anyone who happened to catch a glimpse of president Obama, and for the $400m it cost to close down Brisbane for a week, plus whatever Putin’s mini bar bill comes to. Once again our beloved Prime Minister has taken the opportunity to make a complete dick of himself and the rest of us in front of the entire world, playing apologist for big mining in the face of falling iron ore prices and impending climate catastrophe, and whining to his newfound peers how sad it is that the democratic process will not allow him to pass his $7 GP tax or push through his plan to make university degrees less affordable.
Of course none of this should come as any surprise. Maybe we should cut the man some slack? Looking at the P20 it’s pretty clear that mining, agriculture and tourism have been the primary cash cows of some of the most-likely-to-succeed third world economies. I guess you need to see it from the point of view of a sociopathic bottom feeder to understand that old Tones is really doing the best he knows how. It may be another 20 years before Australia gets to play host to such an important event again. Given our current economic trajectory we may be lucky to attend future summits at all. It’s hard to imagine that we will number among the world’s 20 strongest economies for long if we continue on our current path. Still, given the choice between the indignity of poverty and the embarrassment of Abbott’s pointless posturing, this may be for the better.