Walden Bello , co-director, Focus on the Global South, a research institute in Thailand, has done extensive work on the East Asia Miracle Paradigm. Author of several books, Bello is associated with Greenpeace International and Oxfam America. On a recent visit to India, he spoke with S S Jeevan on the various issues that confront Southeast Asian countries
On whether the World Bank ( wb ) has a hidden agenda while helping developing countries:
I think its agenda has always been the belief that development can best take place in a free market system and that the role of the state in the economy should be reduced. Deregulation for the wb is the most efficient way of organising the economy. It is not a hidden agenda but it is a mistaken agenda because the wb and the International Monetary Fund (imf) do not know or acknowledge its implications. No formal adjustment is possible in this system because the economies of the South are increasingly being subordinated to the interests of the us .
India has still the time and the strength to avoid the crisis of globalisation. The full integration of the local capital market with that of the international financial market is a bad fundamental. It should be cautious about the whole process and should realise that the requirements of the domestic market are important. It should raise the capital for its development internally, by means of effective taxation and through certain reforms, including land reforms, and by adopting a better distribution system.
On the strategy for an alternative development in the countries of the Asia-Pacific region:
At present it seems that the strategy of foreign capital dependency or high speed or fast-track capitalism will not work. People need to think of new strategies. One is the short-term controls on capital flow. Another is taxing capital flow through the so-called Tobin tax (named after the Nobel Prize laureate, James Tobin). The whole idea is to tax capital flow and thus slow it down. A third strategy is to have development through domestic resources. The fourth, of course, is to make people rely less and less on export and begin to think about the domestic market more.
The logic of economic rationality will coincide with the logic of social justice. A part of this process is the principle of ecological sustainability. High economic growth rates resulted in the degradation of the environment in all sectors. Ecological sustainability also means stronger control of population so that there is a more balanced relationship between humans and the environment.
On the Southeast Asian countries' lip service to environmental issues:
The Southeast Asian countries have often paid lip service to environmental issues. Many of them may have good laws for environmental regulation and sustainable development, but the laws are not enforced. They are afraid that capital inflow will skip the country if there is tight enforcement of environmental laws. So there is a lot of doublespeak there.
On ways to counter imposition of the views of the North on the South through organisations such as the World Trade Organization ( wto ):
Governments of the South should work closely with non-governmental organisations ( ngo s) to counter the pressures of international agencies. Some governments in the North are sensitive to the needs of the South. It is important to create a coalition that can ward off efforts to deepen the process of globalisation, such as the multilateral agreement on investment. Countries in the South should work with ngo s within the little space available in the wto in which we call for accountability, treaties and review of the cultural accord. There are a number of points within the wto system which are legitimate. They are used to slow down or aggregate the wto process. Countries which are with the wto are supposed to be equal. But there is a difference between reality and the law. We can make use of the differences to mobilise alliances between ngo s and governments of the South, and some governments in the North, to drive wedges in the 'coalition' of the countries of the North. I think we should not underestimate the differences, say, between European countries, the us and Japan.
For instance, the us is basically taking a retrograde line by opposing cuts on emission of greenhouse gases. For this, it has drawn criticism from the European Union. So it would be imperative to unite with these forces of the North to isolate the most powerful, (and at times the most retrograde) nation. Beyond this defensive mechanism, I think it would be very important to articulate different visions of development.
On the need for Southeast Asian countries to work closely as a pressure group to have a say in the formulation of global policies:
I would like to stress the importance of working together as sub-groups. I think Southeast Asian countries need to work together to be able to have a common front against the imf , which is trying to restructure and readjust their economies so that 'free market' forces are released. However, these governments are weak. They tend to yield to imf pressures. In such a position, I do not think inter-governmental cooperation alone is going to succeed. What is required is the coordination of the civil societies and the mobilisation of populations in Asia to resist the imf model. We have a crisis, but we also have a situation of opportunity. The opportunity will come from the delegitimisation of the globalisation model by the Southeast Asian experiences and faster growth in all sectors in these count-ries, moving towards alternative development. This is an opportunity that we must not miss.