vendredi 13 avril 2012

From the Organization of American States to...France : poverty's challenge !

by Jean-Jacques COURTEY, Doctor in Economic Geography, Ph. D

Tomorrow is opening for two days the VIth summit of the OAS (Organization of American States) in Cartagena (Colombia), under the lead of Barack Obama (born in 1961), president of the USA. The chart of this regional organization is dating from 1948. It has got 34 members from North to South America, but 30 countries are expected to be actually represented : Cuba wouldn't come and neither Venezuela, nor Ecuador or Nicaragua most likely.
The present General Secretary of this organization is the Chilean José Miguel Insulza (born in 1943).
The summit purpose will be to enforce new measures to stimulate integration in all the continent, for an expanded prosperity in the whole hemisphere. It is very ambitious and it can !
As a matter of fact the central theme is "Connecting the Americas : partners for prosperity".
The USA target is clearly to stimulate economic and social change in Latin America, as this area of the world is absorbing already 40% of their exports. Politically and economically, it would imply a rarely seen move to try eradicating extreme poverty. It is suggesting an important effort to actually lift the level of the millions people concerned by this everyday life drama of being poor.
In that way, access to consumption is considered as a key for this accelerated development policy.
A recurrent question will certainly be the full readmission of Cuba in the OAS, asked by Latino-American members to get the whole American family reunited, after the so far year 1962 .
Another topic would be the US continuing policy of struggle against drug cartels.
This summit will be quickly followed by the General Assembly of the OAS to be held next june (3-5) in Cochabamba - Bolivia.

In the USA, the poverty rate rose in 2010 to 15.1% of the population - because of the financial crisis of 2008 -, from 12.8% in the 1990s.
In Latin America, poverty was affecting around 31.4 % of the population in 2010 (it was 48.4 % in 1990). And the extreme poverty rate dropped spectacularly by half in those last twenty years from 22.6 to 12.3 %.
But if you consider France in Europe, you realize that the present figure of a bit more than 17% is quite astonishing and striking for a so developped country.
Indeed, with already more than 11 million poor people, France is taking the lead in Western Europe, in spite of complicated statistics not following the same basis as Eurostat and the use of alternative definitions of poverty. It's already 3 million more than in 2007, but the trend was already bad in the nineties. And it's a record it shouldn't be proud of, as its economy is at the moment healthier than the ones of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Malta, or the newly unsettled Hungary.
At the time of the French Revolution, officially made against the King Louis XVI (1754-1793) for the people's sake - but officiously launched for more greedy reasons by an anti-royal part of Nobles and the Clergy more than "bourgeoisie" of the Third Estate -, the percentage of poor people was between 13 to 15%. This was connected to the severe agricultural crisis of 1787-1789 and the ruineous consequences of the War of America (1776-1783). And in Paris the poverty rate was even higher (around 20%) : so a lot of people were disponible for agitation, in front of privileged people refusing to make the tax effort the King wanted them to do to save the country's finances.
And presently, a massive and accelerated pauperisation (impoverishment) is France hidden shame and worry again. It cannot certainly be solved by blaming the weak. And even in the hectic time of the French Revolution, only the strong were blamed at least.

When the French King was sincerely saying he was concerned by his peoples (note the plural), he was talking in the name of France and its still big empire. Because at that time, with the huge Louisiana possession from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico (sold by Napoleon in 1803 to the USA for 15 million dollars all together with New orleans) for instance, around one third of the present USA were French.
By comparison, modern France has shrinked a lot since, but not its structural problems.
If we don't doubt much the OAS can eradicate progressively a part of Americas' poverty by the troubled years to come, we are far less convinced for France. Catchwords or counter-productive measures might be launched, but that's could be all.
From the Revolution time, we French people are "fed" with beautiful (and unhappily empty) words more than good food and joy. It's time to wake up !
Modern France has accustomed too much to the unacceptable decay of its Social Security and welfare protective system, introduced in 1945 by the great General de Gaulle (1890-1970). Abroad, French tourists are recognized to their bad teeth if not bad eyes, and everybody chuckles at them.
And this decay didn't start at all with the recent Debt crisis, but far before for more ideological reasons, entertaining poverty and excessive health costs : this is depriving a growing part of the population of the most elementary protection and care in reality.
Is it still time to open the eyes and change before a quick France's collapse...for the sake of people whatever they are poor or rich ? The situation is ambiguous, and generous compromises will be necessary.

Everything depends on which ambitions are pursued : for the OAS, they are clearly to create and distribute wealth in the direction of the lowest classes of the American hemisphere...for the sake of a refound and needed expansion. And this American idea is becoming paradoxically "social". The summit motto could be "a bit of talk and immediate action !"

In France at the opposite, the motto would rather be "a lot of talks and inaction...or absurd and useless stigmatization" ! It shouldn't follow an ultra-liberal blind trend to be proficient.
The present financial crisis, whatever the name you give it ("Euro crisis" or "Debt crisis", or both before the Big one), is also a good opportunity to rethink our future for the best...and not for the worse. America was at least able to retain the lessons of the 2008 financial crisis.

We, people of France, will vote to elect our new president on next april 22nd and may 6th.
But after that, it will be the winner to lead us with courage, skill, and responsability towards our new common destiny.
Capitalism is able to change the face in the Americas, so why not in France ?
Then, let's say in advance to the happily elected one, we don't need great words but really powerful, efficient and generous actions !

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