How the Rich Profit off the Poor

By Huebner, Albert L. | The Humanist, May 2000 | Go to article overview

How the Rich Profit off the Poor


Huebner, Albert L., The Humanist


After many years in which developed countries were more part of the problem than the solution, the United Nations Conference on Population and Development, held in Cairo in 1994, established some goals to begin reversing this pattern. Unfortunately, although the developed nations paid lip service to this reversal, they've done little to bring it about.

In truth, what action there has been has weakened accomplishments at Cairo. For example, within only a few months, the United States agreed to pay some of its back dues to the UN in a so-called compromise that inhibits the ability of family-planning groups around the world to provide reproductive health services.

More recently, Vice-President Al Gore told delegates at the first UN Security Council session on a global health issue that "the number of people who will die of AIDS in the first decade of the twenty-first century will rival the number that died in all the wars in all the decades of the twentieth century." Calling this--reasonably enough--a "threat of the greatest magnitude," he added proudly that the United States hoped to increase its overseas spending on AIDS by $150 million.

Ironically, however, according to testimony before a congressional subcommittee by Dr. Peter Lurie of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, the United States could increase poor nations' access to critical medications "without spending a penny." Mechanisms called compulsory licensing and parallel import--perfectly legal even under World Trade Organization rules--could substantially lower the price of needed life-saving drugs. Instead, the U.S. government has pressured developing countries not to implement these mechanisms, placing, said Lurie, "the profit motive of multinational drug companies over the public health needs of desperately ill patients."

In fact, the aid programs of foreign elites have often benefited donors more than the needy for whom the programs were designated. The 1954 bill establishing the Food for Peace program--the main avenue of U.S. food aid--was designed to "improve the foreign relations of the United States" and "to provide the economic stability of American agriculture and the national welfare." It wasn't until 1961 that "to control hunger and malnutrition and to encourage economic development in developing countries" was added to the statement of purpose, although Food for Peace continued as a political rather than humanitarian instrument. Finally, in 1975, Democratic Senator Hubert Humphrey introduced legislation to make disaster relief the first priority of the program.

Aid programs are also frequently tied to the construction of unwieldy, even useless projects. What analysts call "aid monstrosities" rely on complex technology and costly expertise that mostly benefit those companies that design and construct the projects. There is the mango canning plant in Ghana that has never run anywhere near capacity because its capacity is greater than the entire world trade in mangos. There is the milk bottling plant in Sudan that has never produced a bottle of milk because the Sudanese like to drink it fresh from the animal. And there are the giant grain storage silos in Senegal that have remained empty because they're built in places where Senegalese peasants never go. Even when such aid monstrosities are benign instead of pure self-interest, this path of development often debases local living conditions, aggravating rather than relieving poverty.

Worse yet, ruling local elites, often kept in power by industrial nations--the names Marcos, Mobutu, and Suharto immediately come to mind --have copied this style of development, taking out huge loans to build showcase projects or to buy tanks and fighter planes. The result is a developing-world debt crisis that's been growing bigger every year for decades.

The price imposed for relief from this backbreaking debt is "structural adjustment": cuts in wages and in public spending, currency devaluation, and in some cases swapping debt for shares in profitable developing-world companies. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

How the Rich Profit off the Poor
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.