New Internationalist

Update

Issue 111

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[image, unknown] THE ARMS RACE [image, unknown]

Disarming facts
UN report on alternatives

COULD all the money and manpower devoted to the arms race really be put to a more productive use? A new report to the UN General Assembly provides strong evidence that it could. 'Disarmament and Development' is the organisation's first detailed look at the resources that could be freed if disarmament ever became a reality.

The scale of waste is immense:

  • At least 50 million people around the world are employed in providing military goods and services.
  • Almost 20 per cent of the world's engineers and scientists are engaged in military activities.
  • Half-a-million qualified professionals work in military programmes which spend $35 billion a year in search of new weapons technology.
  • There are now more people in military uniform worldwide than there are teachers.

The UN study disputes the notion that without a high investment in weapons technology the world would have been deprived of significant developments for peaceful purposes.

The average military product, it says, is about 20 times more research-intensive than the average civilian product and 'it is likely that the present stock of useful knowledge is much less than it might have been had we not pursued the arms race so enthusiastically'. It is true that several technological developments have been brought to fruition at an early date because of their perceived military utility, but it does not follow that progress would have been slower in the absence of a military approach. It is more likely that progress in an economic and social environment would have been more efficient.

The report does not expect that military production could be redirected to social purposes overnight. But given the hope of partial disarmament of the order of 25 per cent during the 1980's and a further 15 per cent in the 1990s, they suggest that developing countries could expect to raise their GNP by at least 3.7 per cent and their agricultural output by 4.6 per cent. More significantly perhaps, per capita consumption could be boosted by as much as 21 per cent in the medium-income countries of Latin America, 47 per cent in low-income Asia and 166 per cent in the poorest arid countries of Africa.

The study also rejects a popular argument that the machinery of a $500 billion a year industry could not be dismantled without a major disruption of the world economy at large.

Ian Steals
DESI

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[image, unknown] BABYFOODS[image, unknown]

Keeping perfectly mum
Breastmilk substitutes in the UK

'WITHIN the United Kingdom, I am happy to say, British manufacturers already take a responsible attitude towards advertising and marketing their breastmilk substitutes, voluntarily confining their advertisements to specialist publications.'

That statement was made in February 1981 by Britain's then Under-Secretary of State for Health, Sir George Young. But a new report tells quite a different story. Called Breast or Bottle? Factors influencing the choice of artificial feeding in the UK, it documents nearly 1,700 contraventions of the code of ethics urgently recommended by the World Health Organisation in Geneva last May.

The survey was undertaken by a British charity, War on Want, together with Oxfam, the Baby Milk Action Coalition and Third World First. The responses to their questionnaire came from 98 communities, from health clinics, maternity wards and hospitals throughout the UK. The gist of their findings is this: 'The "specialist" publications referred to by Sir George Young are indeed very specialist - magazines, newspapers and booklets that are targeted directly at pregnant women and parents of young children.' As the report points out: 'It is precisely promotion to this audience that the international code of marketing sought to eliminate.'

One manufacturer of teats and bottles, for example, announced in the Sept 19 issue of Chemist & Druggist, 'This year we're promoting bottles, in a bigger way than ever before with colour pages, in all the mother and baby magazines.' But article 5.1 of the code calls for a halt to all promotion to the public of teats and bottles as well as of the artificial milks that the bottles contain.

Even more worrying than the sheer volume of promotional material, though, is the dependence it appears to have created in health facilities. Manufacturers bombarded them with vaccination records, educational leaflets, tape measures - all heavily laced with bottle feeding promotion. Money is short, health staff fear that they must accept these hidden-hook gifts or do without. One Wyeth 'educational' leaflet on infant development, for instance, blandly includes a reference to how you should hold a baby during feeding - and the only illustration on that page is of a baby with a bottle plugged into its mouth.

Of course governments could make it illegal to include company name or logos on such donations - after all, the companies insist they are deeply concerned about infant welfare per se. But that would be to acknowledge that the WHO Code needs to be made law, no longer a cosy, unenforced 'gentleman's agreement'. And some gentlemen wouldn't be too happy about that.

Until the Code becomes law, however, there is no way to stop advertisements like Babysafe's 'Every baby's guide to the perfect mum'. The 'perfect mum' is defined as knowing 'how to take the very best care' of baby and preoccupied with making up correct bottle feeds. There is, again, not so much as a mention of breastfeeding - Babysafe keeping 'perfectly mum' on how to take the very best care.

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[image, unknown] MOZAMBIQUE[image, unknown]

Black booty
Marxists face crime wave

FROM the criminals on one side and the police on the other, Mozambique is facing something of a crime wave.

Mass meetings have been held in suburbs of the capital Maputo to hear the complaints of resident. These involve a number of police crimes — from the theft of goods from people in police custody to the sale of police uniforms.

From the more conventional lawbreakers the major problem seems to be black-marketeering. Nearly 300 offenders were arrested recently including 200 in single raid on the well-known unofficial market adjoining Maputo’s central fruit and vegetable market.

The cause of the black market is low production and high inflation. Most state farms and industries are running at a loss and commodities in general are in short supply. On the other hand there has been a significant rise in wages and a big expansion in bank credit — economists say that Mozambique’s entire programme of investment is being funded on credit. So inflation is well-entrenched.

But the government has taken steps to see that the poor have some protection from all this. The prices of staple foods such as rice and bread are low and fixed and distribution is tightly controlled by rationing — so the traders have less chance to cash in.

The FRELIMO government now fears that inflation may hit some of its cherished ideals — decreasing the gap between rich and poor, the elimination of corruption and the promotion of rural development.

Haramhee African News Service

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[image, unknown] EL SALVADOR[image, unknown]

Mobile victims
Hondurans harass refugees

THE position of Salvadorean refugees who continue to flood into Honduras to escape fierce fighting in El Salvador’s northern provinces, is worsening daily.

According to Christian Aid, as many as 70,000 Salvadorean refugees may now be in Honduras, 80 per cent of them women and children. They began to arrive in 1980 and despite constant harassment by Salvadorean and Honduran military forces have struggled hard to establish facilities for themselves in the border area, planting crops, rearing poultry and beginning cottage industries.

But the Honduran Government, through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has now begun to move the refugees 50 kilometres inland, against their wishes and against the advice of relief agencies working with the refugees. The government has claimed that the moves are necessary ‘for delicate reasons of security and control.’

Fearing that the new camp is in effect a prison camp, under strict military control, hundreds of refugees have left the La Virtud border camp in recent weeks. Some have said that they would rather face death than move. They claim that what little security they have in Honduras is provided by the poor Honduran peasants in the border region. They also fear that the move will isolate them further from their families and allow Salvadorean troops a freefire zone in which civilians could be attacked with impunity.

Even with the presence of relief agencies in the border camps many Salvadorean refugees have been abducted by Honduran troops and the Salvadorean National Guard. Others have simply disappeared.

In an attempt to act as a restraining presence, church and humanitarian agencies from the USA, West Germany and Britain are now sending observers week by week to monitor events in the camps.

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[image, unknown] MEXICO[image, unknown]

Oily inflation
Poor lose out in oil boom

IF you believe its advertisements 'Every hour of work is an hour of progress' for PEMEX, Mexico's nationalised oil company. But the progress of PEMEX has been neither as smooth nor as rapid as the ad men suggest. Indeed, according to the French magazine L'Expansion, PEMEX is the most inefficient oil company in the world. In 1980 it lost nearly $2,300m - and its total external debt at the end of 1981 was over $14,000m.

During the past six years the Mexican government has put its faith - and its money - into PEMEX. Oil, so the Mexican people were told, would bring modernisation, development and wealth. Between 1974 and 1980 state investment in PEMEX grew 21 per cent, while state investment in the rest of the rest of the public sector rose only 10 per cent.

All this brought more foreign capital into Mexico, and industry has both modernised and developed. But it did not create the promised jobs, nor did it distribute the promised wealth. Sixty per cent of Mexico's population still earns only 17 per cent of the national income, and the main effect of the oil boom on them has been the dramatic increase in the cost of living.

The injection of 'petro-pesos' into the economy has helped fuel inflation and wages have not kept pace. The official inflation figure for 1981 was 29 per cent but the Mexican Association of Industrial Economists puts it at nearer 40 per cent. And the prices of some basic foods, such as potatoes and onions, have risen as much as 167 per cent Mexico City is now more expensive than London, but the 1982 minimum wage is less than $12 a day: hardly enough to support one person, let alone a whole family.

So, who has gained from Mexican oil? First, there are the industrialists, both foreign and Mexican. US-owned multinationals now enjoy cheap energy as well as cheap labour south of the border. They share these incentives with their Mexican counterparts, who by law have to control at least 51 per cent of industrial enterprises. Corporate profits in Mexico have been rising continuously as the real amount companies pay for energy and labour has fallen. In 1982 the government will subsidise industry to the tune of $6,000m in oil alone. It dares not insist on wage rises in the industrial sector for fear of driving away investors.

Other beneficiaries of the oil boom include the highly paid executives of PEMEX itself. Forty per cent of PEMEX's expenditure goes on administration. It is not known how much is creamed off by the malpractices of those executives; their corruption and inefficiency are legend.

At last the government has realised that it has to do something. But instead of lowering subsidies to industry or investigating PEMEX, it has taken the easy way out. It has raised the price of petrol. It is hoped that this measure will increase PEMAX's 1982 revenue to $4,000m and service part of its debt. However, the question remains: who will pay? A major part of the cost will be borne by the Mexican middle-class, who have developed a taste for fast cars. The rest will be paid by ordinary Mexicans, as the price of basic commodities is pushed up even further by increased transport costs.

PEMEX has not been the answer to Mexico's problems. It has plunged the country into economic chaos; it now accounts for over a third of Mexico's total external debt. Meanwhile, the rich reap the profits while they can and the poor pay the increased cost of living.

Lindsey Hilsum

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[image, unknown] PHARMACEUTICALS[image, unknown]

Doctored Sales
Swedes boycott Ciba-Geigy

SWEDISH medics have gone onto the offensive against pharmaceutical companies selling drugs in the Third World. Just over a year ago, we reported on anti-diarrhoeal drugs, promoted in Japan in the early seventies by Ciba-Geigy and two local companies which had been responsible for more than 10,000 cases of SMON (a disabling disease of the nervous system similar to multiple sclerosis). Although the drug in question, clioquinol, marketed under the brand names of Enterovioform and Mexaform, was subsequently withdrawn from sale in Japan and most Western countries, it is still available in the Third World. Diarrhoea is a widespread problem in developing countries, but here the ability to trace a disability back to a particular drug is minimal.

Because of the dubious ethics of Ciba-Geigy in still selling this drug in developing countries, Swedish doctors began in 1977 a boycott of the company's products. Veterinary surgeons also joined in the action and, according to the UK Medical Journal The Lancet, have achieved a substantial dip in Ciba-Geigy's sales graph.

Between 1976 and 1980 sales of the company's medicinal preparations where alternative sources of an identical product existed fell by 38 per cent. After the veterinary surgeons joined the boycott, sales of readily replaceable veterinary products supplied by Ciba-Geigy fell by 22 per cent. Ciba-Geigy's total share of the Swedish market fell from 4.3 per cent to 3.2 per cent. This amounts to a loss of about $12 million.

Commenting on these figures, a spokesman for the Swedish Ciba-Geigy company thought that the boycott accounted for only a small part of the fall in turnover. The unsatisfactory sales figures for certain drugs he suggested were in part due to 'reduced promotional efforts for preparations of doubtful efficacy'.


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