Letters to the editor

Issues that have contributed to African poverty

We got three responses from readers to our D+C/E+Z print edition 2017/11-12. We have decided to publish them here where the articles they relate to have also appeared.

Creative policymaking

Re.: Reinhard Woytek, letter: “Investment is key to decent work agenda”, D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2017/11, p. 12.

The Indian experience of the past three decades shows that market liberalisation indeed facilitates private investments, but that in itself does not stem the social plague of poverty. Innovative approaches are needed, as Reinhard Woytek’s letter fails to acknowledge in suggesting that solidarity would only ever amount to subsidising state-owned corporate behemoths. India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, ensuring 100 days of paid work at the legal minimum wage for jobless men and women is an example of creative policymaking that made a difference in some of the country’s most backward agrarian areas. Also, conditional cash transfers proved useful in Latin America.

I feel compelled to add that one should always take into account all international dimensions in this era of globalisation. Rich nations are known to poach health professionals from the developing world, so would it not be only fair if they assumed responsibility in a spirit of global solidarity to plug gaps thus created? One such step may be to allow developing countries to use generic drugs rather than insisting on pharmaceutical corporations’ patented drugs which are often priced at ten times the actual cost and are therefore unaffordable for the citizens of developing countries.

Dr. A.K. Ghosh, Kolkata


Disregarded impacts

Re.: Ndongo Samba Sylla: “Why the Western model does not work“, D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2017/10, p. 24, and Reinhard Woytek, letter: “Investment is key to decent work agenda”, D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2017/11, p. 12.

I found the focus section on formal and informal employment most interesting and generally consider the contributions to be inspiring, substantial and worth reading. In particular, I appreciate the elaborations of Ndongo Samba Sylla who managed to assess the economic situation concisely on two pages, spelling out both major labour market challenges as well as the outlines of an alternative development paradigm.

Accordingly, I found the letter to the editor shocking. It is frustrating to see so-called experts coming up again and again with judgments that are not based on much knowledge, if any knowledge at all. I won’t deal with every misstatement, but only with the letter’s favourable assessment of structural adjustment policies in 1980s and 1990s. The author completely disregards the devastating impacts of those policies.

Let me just quote one African voice on the matter. Moussa Tschangari, the human-rights activist from Niger, stated in the most recent newsletter of medico international: “The greatest challenge is to form a government that is able to stop the decline. (…) That can only be done if one understands how Niger got into this situation. The main reason is the misguided structural policies that destroyed public services in health care, education, food supply and ultimately all other sectors of fundamental relevance.”

As for the statement, that foreign investors will create jobs once the free market reigns, his response is: “Don’t forget the reforms that structural adjustment was about in the 1980s. Labour laws were changed, the labour market was deregulated, laws on mining, oil exploitation, investments and many other issues were reformed. The conditions were made ever more favourable to investors. Over decades, the country was opened and its market totally liberalised. All doors were opened to investors, but still they didn’t come.” Every single statement in the letter could be proven wrong like this, but I will stop here.

Eva-Maria Bruchhaus, Cologne

Oriental slave trade

Re.: Kehinde Andrews: “We’re looking at really big numbers”, D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2016/11, p. 30, and Hans Dembowski: “An era of darkness”, D+C/E+Z e-Paper 2016/10, p. 6.

I find it striking that debate on reparations only focuses on the western slave trade. The so-called oriental slave trade, which served to recruit troops for Indian sultanates and workers for Arab countries, is never mentioned, even though it is estimated that a large number of Africans were captured and sent east as slaves from the 8th century on. (One source is: Roland Oliver and Gervase Mathew, eds.: History of East Africa, Oxford: University Press 1963.)

Moreover, the facts in the review of Shashi Tharoor’s book about British imperialism in India do seem quite familiar. I’m surprised that Karl Marx is not mentioned at all. He pointed out everything discussed in the article as early as 1853 in the New York Daily Tribune (June 5/issue 3804).

Klaus von Freyhold, Bremen

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