The Facts

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GLOBAL REPORT[image, unknown] The Facts

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Starting points
Some of the basic facts and figures behind the
countries and subjects featured this month.


Leader President Roberto Suazo Cordoba

Government The Liberal arty won the November 1981 elections after 18 years of military rule.

Population 3.6 million

Life expectancy 58 years

Income per head Average $530, though half received by 0% f the people

Economy Bananas, coffee, sugar and lumber make up 80% of exports. But while ten years ago 57 pounds of bananas would buy a barrel of oil today 440 pounds are needed

The US fruit companies have traditionally forced land holding into a unequal pattern – with the support of Honduran politicians and the military. The US now looks towards Honduras as an island of stability in Central America and gives strong support to its Army. Aid of that kind is unlikely to help the 50 per cent child malnutrition rate. More positive results can be expected from pressure exerted by the campesino unions.


Leader: President J.R. Jayawardene

Government: United National Party, which easily defeated the opposition Socialist Coalition in the 1977 elections

Population: 14.5 million

Life expectancy 66 years

Income per head $230

Economy Largely self-sufficient in food, but 60% of export earnings from coffee, cotton and sisal are spent on oil imports.

Sri Lanka is economically among the poorest twenty nations in the world. Yet life expectancy is the same as in Portugal, infant mortality id the same as in &Yugoslavia, and literary as high as anywhere in Asia. The reason is the country’s sustained investment in basic social services – free health, free education and subsidised food. The bonus is population slowdown. Overall, absolute poverty is likely to be abolished by the year 2000.


Leader President Julius Nyerere

Government One-party state, with decentralised government committed to ‘socialism and self-reliance’

Population 18 million

Life expectancy 52 years

Income per head Average $260

Economy Largely self-sufficient in food, but 60% of export earnings from coffee, cotton and sisal are spent on oil imports.

Tanzania has been the proving ground for President Nyerere’s concept of ‘African socialism’ – based on self-governing co-operatives, or ujamaa villages. Nearly 90 per cent of the population still live and work on the land and cash crops are the only source of export earnings. But with three-quarters of peasants still earning less than the government minimum wage the pull of the towns is enormous. And a slump in world market prices means both hardship on the land and unemployment in the city.


Leader President Ali Naser Mohammed

Government One-party state with Yemeni Socialist Party pursuing marxist-style policies

Population 1.9 million

Life expectancy 45 year

Income per head Average $480 with government wages restricted to one-to-three scale

Economy Cotton and fish are the only real exports earners. Oil prospecting has been in vain and former British Petroleum refinery at Aden barely breaks even. 60 per cent of foreign exchange comes from the remittances of Yemenis working abroad

With a per capita income barely one-fortieth of its giant neighbour, independent Yemen has sought radical ways of improving self-reliance. Land has been nationalised and agriculture co-operatives launched. But starting with only eight doctors for the whole country foreign assistance was vital to promote health. And now Yemen is pioneering a primary health care programme4 designed to give substance to the WHO slogan ‘Health for all by the year 2000’.


Leader Prime Minister Kare Willloch

Government Western-style democracy; the Conservative Right party won the September 1981 election after 32 years of nearly uninterrupted Labour party rule.

Population 4 million

Life expectancy 75 years

Income per head $10,700

Economy The recent exploitation of large North Sea oilfields together with repeated price increases has made petroleum the country’s major export. Other incomes come from shipbuilding, metals, timber and fish.

Norway has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the West – between two and three per cent – and a highly developed social welfare system. It can boast one of the world’s fairest patterns of wealth distribution, a generous aid programme and a sympathetic stance on many Third World issues. But back home commitment to growth has brought angry protest from environmentalists, NGO’s and the indigenous Lapps whose homelands are being threatened.


• The 1981 harvest was big enough to feed 1½ times the world’s population

• Yet 100 million children went to bed hungry each night

In global terms there is no food problem – production has been expanding faster than population growth. But each year there are more malnourished people because of what the World Bank calls a ‘shortage of effective demand’ for food – people can’t afford to buy it. So one third of world cereal production goes to feed cattle, while 450 million people go hungry. The hungriest continent, Africa, is a net exporter of protein to Europe.


• After thousands of years of steady acceleration, the rate of world population growth has begun to slow down.

• It is now predicted to reach 6 billion by the year 2000.

Contraceptives increases peoples’ control over their lives. But they only lower birth rates if people want less children. Experience suggests that people want smaller families only when they are sure that their children will survive, when incomes increase so that child labour is no longer essential, and when security improves so that children are not the only means of support in illness and old age.


• The global workforce is growing by 75 million a year

• Two out of three workers in the poor world are self-employed. Three out of four work on the land

With no social security in the Third World, people have to work. The problem is that the poor simply don’t make enough from the work they do. Africa’s workforce is predicted to double by the year 2000. Only ten per cent will get jobs in industry. The answer there, as elsewhere, is to give people control of sufficient productive resources – land, technology, capital – to make a living for themselves.


• Four out of five children in the Third World never see a health worker

• Out of 125 million children born in 1981, twelve million will die before their first birthday.

The causes of infant mortality are well known, as are the steps necessary to eradicate them. Primary health care aims to do it by training part-time village health workers. The problem is not in the theory but in the practice: it only works when doctors and hospitals are also made available to the majority through an effective referral system. Otherwise it can just be a way of fobbing off the poor with second-class medicine.


• Two out of every three illiterate people are women

• Women do two-thirds of the world’s working hours, receive one-tenth of the income and own one hundredth of the property

In the industrialised worlds there has been an explosion of women into the labour force – with more than six of every ten American women working out of the home. But the Third World’s growing cash economies tend to exclude women. And the mechanisation of agriculture actually increases their workload. As with family planning, too often it is the men who take the decisions and the women who take the consequences.


• More than three-quarters of all wealth created in 1981 went to the already rich quarter of the world’s population

• Average rich world incomes increased by almost $1,400 whilst the poorest quarter got an extra $30.

During 1981 the Third World’s repayments of past loans totalled about the same as all new aid and loans. The price the Third World gets for its raw materials again fell in relation to the price it pays for manufacturing goods. So industrialised nations benefit from the ‘terms of trade’ as well as the employment and ‘value added’ from processing raw materials on which the poor world depends for its living.

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New Internationalist issue 107 magazine cover This article is from the January 1982 issue of New Internationalist.
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