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Reference
Bond, Patrick (2010) Development goals that won’t be met. Eye on Civil Society (The Mercury) : -.

Summary

Patrick Bond (Eye on Civil Society The Mercury) 29 September 2010

While most South African political eyes gazed at Durban, last week’s
meeting of national leaders at the United Nations was rather
predictable: more posturing about unmet global needs in relation to the
eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set exactly a decade ago.
Jacob Zuma was too busy restoring order in the ruling party to attend,
but our own performance should still be assessed.

On the upside, was anything positive accomplished? Of course, but thanks
not to Pretoria but to civil society, which gave teeth to Goal 6: Combat
HIV and AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases. Most importantly, access to
AntiRetroViral (ARV) treatment became available in SA public health
facilities in 2004, after a heroic battle was waged by the Treatment
Action Campaign and its allies against President Thabo Mbeki, the
world’s largest pharmaceutical corporations and the US government.

ARV medicines that used to cost $10,000/year per person now are free for
poor and working‑class South Africans, they are available generically
(not branded), and thus can be made locally in Africa. This is a
miraculous change from a decade ago, and probably saved more lives than
any single initiative anywhere, since the end of apartheid.

On the downside, three goals experienced backsliding.

First, the need to 1) Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger ran up
against Pretoria’s economic policies. South African urban poverty
increased from 1993‑2008 according to latest official stats, and rural
poverty declined only because more poor people moved to the cities and
the welfare grant system was extended.

Why? Our economy is structured so as to generate poverty‑expanding
‘growth’ of GDP. As accumulation of capital occurs in much of South
Africa, the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer.

Second, there was an MDG mandate to 7) Ensure Environmental
Sustainability. South Africa’s climate, land, water, mining/smelting,
petro‑chemical, fisheries and timber sectors are experiencing ecological
disasters on a more regular scale.

Why? The large corporations mainly responsible for these problems have a
tight‑knit ‘crony capitalist’ relationship with the ruling party,
bordering on outright corruption (witness the World Bank loan to Eskom
that shovels not only eco‑destructive coal but also millions to the
ANC). At minimum, the revolving door between state officials and capital
confirms laxity in environmental regulation, and even Pretoria admits
the state of the SA environment is in perilous decline.

Third, another MDG is to 8) Develop a Global Partnership for
Development. Under Mbeki’s influence, Pretoria’s international
representatives tried valiantly to stitch together a global elite with
concern for African ‘development’, but to no avail.

Why? There has been a deficit of good governance on every single
global‑scale problem ‑ not just poverty ‑ for at least the last decade,
what with the Bush/Obama regimes’ fusion of neoconservative ideologues
and neoliberal institutions in the UN, Bretton Woods Institutions, World
Trade Organisation, UN Security Council and environmental bodies, such
that since the 1996 ban (in the Montreal Protocol) on
ChloroFluoroCarbons (causing ozone hole growth), there’s been no
global‑scale elite solution to global‑scale problems.

Worse, Pretoria cannot be confident of making progress on any MDG goals,
given the coming austerity associated with a failing global and national
‘Keynesian’ (deficit‑based) macroeconomic strategy that was largely
based on white‑elephant infrastructure investments. Such spending ‑
especially for the now‑empty R22 billion soccer stadiums ‑ plus
declining state revenues (as profits and taxes fell) moved the national
budget from a surplus of around 1% of GDP under Trevor Manuel to a
deficit of more than 7% since the crisis began, as Pravin Gordhan took
over as Finance Minister.

What is therefore likely, within five years, is a similar turn by the
Treasury to an austerity regime now being felt in many other countries
which ratcheted up their deficits to deal with the crisis. As shown in
the recent public sector workers strike, the state is willing to put
educational and heatlh services mainly utilised by the poor majority at
risk to maintain some semblance of fiscal discipline, which does not
bode well for future expenditure on MDG‑related needs.

For example, given the neoliberal orientation of policy‑makers in the
Treasury, Pretoria still appears religiously opposed to subsidising food
or even zero‑rating Value Added Tax for most nutritious goods, much less
providing a Basic Income Grant.

As for improving food security through land redistribution, ANC leaders
did pledge to finally ditch the failed Willing Seller Willing Buyer land
reform policy. After all, the 1994 promise of 30% redistribution of good
land within five years resulted in less than 1%, a figure that may have
risen a few points since. The rural power structure remains extremely
biased towards white farmers, so durable malnutrition even amongst
farmworkers is an indication of the prevailing semi‑feudal social
relations.

Pretoria’s job‑creation programme was limited to a half‑million
so‑called jobs in short‑term public works programmes, and the only
change proposed in 2010 was to develop a two‑tier entry‑level labour
market subsidised by the Treasury so business can employ young workers
at rates below the minimum wage. In sum, the job creation strategies are
merely tokenistic, and the economy’s destructive tendencies mean that
while a mild ‘recovery’ is allegedly underway with 2%+ GDP growth
recorded in the first half of 2010, another 150,000 more jobs were
simultaneously lost.

The state is also losing its so‑called ‘War on Poverty’, and instead,
given that South Africa boasts amongst the world’s highest protest rates
per person, what is more apparent is Pretoria’s war on the poor:
repression and disconnections of water/electricity to people who cannot
afford their fast‑rising utility bills, especially in the wake of
Eskom’s price increases (at least triple the inflation rate for the
foreseeable future).

This state of affairs will generate a growing hostility to politicians,
but it will take a break between labour and genuine communists on the
one hand, and the ANC’s ‘predatory’ leadership (as Cosatu calls them) on
the other, before genuine electoral politics can finally begin.

As the ANC showed last week, that’s going to be difficult, given that
Zuma has the capacity to talk left while walking right as much anyone in
government today.

(Patrick Bond is based at the Centre for Civil Society at the University
of KwaZulu‑Natal’s School of Development Studies.)



South Africa and the MDGs: Talking left, walking right
Patrick Bond First Published in Pambazuka 28 September 2010

Patrick Bond discusses the failings of South Africa’s drive towards meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the extent to which the country’s government continues to operate against the interests of its poor majority.

IPS: Of the eight MDGs (Millennium Development Goals), which has South Africa made the most progress on? What has enabled this?

PATRICK BOND: 6 – Combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases. How? Access to ARV (anti-retroviral) treatment became available in South African public health facilities in 2004, after a heroic battle was waged by the Treatment Action Campaign and its allies against President Thabo Mbeki, the world's largest pharmaceutical corporations and the US government. Anti-retroviral drugs that used to cost US$10,000 a year per person now are free for poor and working-class South Africans, and the medicines are available generically, made locally in Africa, not only by Big Pharma in the North. This is a miraculous change from a decade ago, and probably saved more lives than any single initiative anywhere since the end of apartheid.

IPS: Which goal has been most difficult to pursue? Why?

PATRICK BOND: There's a three-way tie, for MDG goals 1, 7 and 8:

1) Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. South African urban poverty increased from 1993–2008 according to latest official stats, and rural poverty declined only because more poor people moved to the cities and the welfare grant system was extended. Why? The South African economy is structured so as to generate poverty-expanding 'growth' of GDP (gross domestic product). As accumulation of capital occurs in much of South Africa, the rich grow richer and the poor grow poorer. That structuring happens in ways familiar to anyone following the speculative, financial-driven and profit-exporting character of capitalism nearly everywhere these days, interrupted only briefly by the great crash of 2008. Most of Pretoria's economic policies amplify this because of their neoliberal (pro-business) character.

7) Ensure environmental sustainability. South Africa's climate, land, water, mining/smelting, petro-chemical, fisheries and timber sectors are experiencing ecological disasters on a more regular scale. Why? The large corporations mainly responsible for these problems have a tight-knit 'crony capitalist' relationship with the ruling party, bordering on outright corruption (for example, the huge US$3.75 billion World Bank loan to Eskom this year which directly funds the ruling party for a vast coal-fired power plant so the world's biggest mining/metals firms get the world's cheapest electricity). At minimum, the revolving door between state officials and capital confirms laxity in environmental regulation, and even Pretoria admits the state of the South African environment is in perilous decline.

8) Develop a global partnership for development. Under Mbeki's influence, Pretoria's international representatives tried valiantly to stitch together a global elite with concern for African 'development', starting with South Africa's hosting of the 1996 UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development) conference, but to no avail. Why? There has been a deficit of good governance on every single global-scale problem – not just poverty – for at least the last decade, what with the Bush/Obama regime's fusion of neoconservative ideologues and neoliberal institutions in the UN, Bretton Woods institutions, World Trade Organisation, UN Security Council and environmental bodies, such that since the 1996 ban (in the Montreal Protocol) on ChloroFluoroCarbons (causing ozone hole growth), there's been no global-scale elite solution to global-scale problems.

IPS: Within five years, which goals can South Africa be confident in achieving? Which goals do you think will not be achieved? Why?

PATRICK BOND: South Africa cannot be confident of making progress on any MDG goals, given the coming austerity associated with a failing global and national 'Keynesian' (deficit-based) macroeconomic strategy that was largely based on white-elephant infrastructure investments. Such spending – especially for now empty soccer stadiums costing R22 billion – plus declining state revenues (as profits and taxes fell) moved the national budget from a surplus of around 1 per cent of GDP under Trevor Manuel to a deficit of more than 7 per cent since the crisis began, and as Pravin Gordhan took over as finance minister. What is therefore likely, within five years, is a similar turn by the Treasury to the kind of austerity now being felt in many other countries which ratcheted up their deficits to deal with the crisis. As shown in the recent civil servants' strike, the state is willing to put services mainly utilised by the poor majority – public schools, clinics and hospitals – at risk to maintain some semblance of fiscal discipline, which does not bode well for future state expenditure on MDG-related needs.

IPS: What specific plans are in place to promote gender equality and women's empowerment?

PATRICK BOND: Given the fact that during economic crisis and rising mass unemployment – which still characterise South Africa – women typically suffer most, and given the apparent rise in patriarchy experienced in South Africa since President Jacob Zuma's 2006 rape trial and his curious 'Moral Regeneration Campaign' leadership, I suspect that gender equity will suffer and only a few women in political and bureaucratic leadership or Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) positions will be empowered.

IPS: Each year, the African Union summit theme relates to a different MDG. Civil society has lauded the statements issued as a result, but been critical of follow-through and implementation. How have the resolutions at the last three summits helped to shape South Africa's programmes for water and sanitation and investment in agriculture?

PATRICK BOND: As was learned from the failed New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the failing Africa Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), there is a great deal of rhetoric at the African Union not matched by implementation, because as most in civil society soon realised, the promises of good governance are a 'talk left, walk right' manoeuvre. How else would one explain the fact that tyrants have held continental leadership positions in recent years (e.g., AU leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, NEPAD/APRM/climate leader Meles Zenawi and MDG summit co-chair Paul Kagame). Civilised society in Addis Ababa will eventually have to join the more observant, critical forces in African civil society and stop praising the AU's empty rhetoric, given that such praise simply encourages corrupt, repressive elites to continue posturing and distracts the society from the elites' dictatorial practices at home and, especially, their destructive alliances with global power-brokers (e.g., Zenawi and Kagame with George W. Bush and Tony Blair, and Barack Obama and David Cameron for that matter).

IPS: 6 – Reducing poverty and hunger is the first, and perhaps most basic development goal. What will the government's programme to create jobs and sustainably reduce poverty look like?

PATRICK BOND: Given the neoliberal orientation of policy-makers in the Treasury, Pretoria still appears religiously opposed to subsidising food or even zero-rating Value Added Tax for most nutritious goods. As for improving food security through land redistribution, Pretoria did pledge to finally ditch the failed Willing Seller Willing Buyer land reform policy (the 1994 promise of 30 per cent redistribution of good land within five years resulted in less than 1 per cent, a figure that may have only now, 16 years into liberation, risen to 5 per cent).

The rural power structure remains extremely biased towards white farmers, so durable malnutrition even among farm workers is an indication of the prevailing semi-feudal social relations. Pretoria's job-creation programme was limited to a half-million so-called jobs in short-term public works programmes, and the only change proposed in 2010 was to develop a two-tier entry-level labour market with capital subsidised by the Treasury to employ young workers at rates below the minimum wage. Fortunately, that idea of Gordhan's has been blocked by labour. In sum, the job creation strategies are merely tokenistic, and it is a tribute to the South African economy's destructive tendencies that while a mild 'recovery' is allegedly underway with 2 percent plus GDP growth recorded in the first half of 2010, another 150,000 more jobs were simultaneously lost. The state is also losing its so-called 'war on poverty', and instead, given that South Africa boasts amongst the world's highest protest rates per person, what is more apparent is Pretoria's war on the poor: repression and disconnections of water/electricity to people who cannot afford their fast-rising utility bills, especially in the wake of Eskom's price increases (at least triple the inflation rate for the foreseeable future). This state of affairs will generate a growing hostility to politicians, but it will take a break between labour and genuine communists on the one hand, and the ANC's (African National Congresses) 'predatory' leadership (as COSATU (Congress of South African Trade Unions) calls them) on the other, before genuine electoral politics can finally begin.
www.pambazuka.org

BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS


Patrick Bond is based at the Centre for Civil Society within the University of KwaZulu-Natal's School of Development Studies.

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