At the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, Kofi (I've-got-gareth's-job) Annan has
called for greater business investment in poorer countries. This makes a
welcome change from the usual calls for greater handouts from rich,
hard-working nations to poor, badly managed ones. Or does it?
Presumably Kofi feels that the rich (those with capital), instead of
investing in ventures in rich countries, should instead be investing in
ventures in poor countries. Why does he think that they don't do so already?
Well Kofi, there are several possibilities
- They are totally irrational and don't know any better;
- They are all racists,
and want to hurt the poor countries out of spite; or
- They will get higher returns and/or greater security in the richer
The first seems a little unlikely. Rich people are rich for a reason: they
make good financial decisions. The second seems pretty unlikely too - surely
there are enough rich people who don't care whether they feed starving Africans
or not - they just want to get richer. Surely there are enough people in the
world who are more greedy than racist?
That really only leaves the third option, Kofi. But surely the undeveloped
world (offering more potential for 'development') should offer greater
potential benefits. Surely the money should be flocking into these countries!
On the other hand, maybe there is no point building a building which is
likely to be suddenly seized by corrupt government officials. Maybe there
isn't much point in importing machinery which is going to smashed by rampaging
mobs. Maybe going to do business with you is unattractive when they have to
bribe corrupt officials at best, and at worst be beaten, assaulted and robbed.
Maybe there is no point is building infrastructure when a greedy government
will break their contract, dictate exactly how much you can charge for it, and
then set arbitrary taxes to strip any profits.
Maybe the poorer countries should be looking within themselves to work out
why the rich are interested in investing in rich countries which provide
guarantees of the rule of law and secure private ownership. If they want to be
rich, maybe they should take a closer look at what the rich countries do to
The song remains the same - the call for investment is just a disguised
demand from more money handouts.
Meanwhile many of the 60,000 delegates at the Earth Summit are complaining
about the richer countries hijacking the agenda. This seems only appropriate in
Johannesburg, which (since the appointment of Nelson (the-rich-must-pay)
Mandela) is the car-jacking capital of the world.
At least they have excelled at something.