ALBA's vitality versus the neoliberal living dead

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Tortilla con Sal, Telesur English, 18 de octubre 2016
http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/ALBAs-Vitality-Versus-the-Neoli...

Continuing their ancient war on the world’s impoverished majority, Western elites, having bled dry their own countries’ economies, are now fighting once more to entrench their local allies in power across Latin America and the Caribbean. In under a year, Argentina under its right wing regime has lost over 130,000 jobs and inflation adjusted wages have dropped by 10%. Very soon Brazil will certainly be reporting even worse relative numbers. The same criminal Brazilian elite that overthrew President Dilma Rousseff have now got their corrupt proxies in the country’s legislature to make any increase in social spending, health or education for example, impossible for 20 years.

This is a sentence of hardship and death for millions of impoverished people in Brazil in years to come. In both Brazil and Argentina, illegitimate neoliberal regimes have decided to follow the example of the US and the European Union, rendering their countries economies easier prey for the global vampire elites than ever before. But across Latin America and the Caribbean, people are fighting to stop foreign elites and their local clients reinstating and deepening neocolonialism so as to compensate for falling profits in the West. The latest wave of conquistadors fly in business class, wear debonair suits and blather finance-speak while wielding smart mobile devices instead of swords and pistols.

But the nitty gritty of conquest is the same as it has always been – what the foreigners can extort from their nation-victims; what cut the local elites will settle for; and what level of repression for the impoverished majority. That is why Western politicians and media support right wing regimes in the region while attacking the governments of the main ALBA countries, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela. Those countries' governments have massively reduced poverty and inequality, putting to shame much wealthier countries under neoliberal regimes. The ALBA countries have demonstrated the superiority and resilience of their socialist inspired social and economic models, despite every assault from the West and its corrupt local proxies.

To illustrate the performance of the ALBA countries relative to other countries in the region, the following table highlights the countries that increased their per capita GDP by around 75% or more between 2006 and 2014.

 

GDP per capita (PPP) US$2006

GDP per capita (PPP) US$ 2014

GDP per capita (PPP) % change

Nominal GDP US$Bn

Gini Index

Human Development Index

Argentina

13700

17900

30.66

585

42.3(2013)

0.84

Belize

6800

8700

27.94

1.8

53.1(1999)

0.71

Bolivia

2700

5000

85.19

34

46.6(2012)

0.66

Brazil

8400

11700

39.29

1534

51.9(2012)

0.76

Chile

11300

18200

61.06

297

50.3 (2011)

0.83

Colombia

7100

10700

50.70

253

52.5(2015)

0.72

Costa Rica

10100

12500

23.76

52

40.7(2009)

0.76

Cuba

3300

10200

209.09

82

0.38(2000)

0.76

Dominican Republic

6600

9500

43.94

71

47.1(2012)

0.71

Ecuador

3900

10200

161.54

109

46.6(2012)

0.73

El Salvador

5100

7300

43.14

30

43.5(2013)

0.66

Guatemala

5200

5200

0.00

66

55.1(2007)

0.62

Guyana

3800

8000

110.53

2.7

44.5(1998)

0.63

Haiti

1600

1200

-25.00

20

60.8 (2012)

0.48

Honduras

2800

4700

67.86

19

55.3(2007)

0.60

Mexico

10100

15400

52.48

1200

48.1(2012)

0.75

Nicaragua

2400

4400

83.33

12

40.5(2010)

0.63

Panama

7100

15400

116.90

47

51.9(2012)

0.78

Paraguay

4900

6100

24.49

26

48.2(2012)

0.67

Peru

6100

10600

73.77

217

44.7 (2013)

0.73

Suriname

4100

12300

200.00

5

52.9(1999)

0.71

Uruguay

16000

15900

-0.63

53

41.9(2013)

0.79

Venezuela

6500

13500

107.69

185

44.8(2013)

0.76

Special circumstances may or may not apply to Guyana, Peru, Panama and Suriname, but the under-performance of the main wealthy countries in the region is clear. The ALBA countries out-performed them during the world’s most serious economic crisis in nearly a century. One completely damning statistic in favor of Cuba is that in the Human Development Index, Cuba ranks above Colombia, Mexico and Peru, level with Brazil and Costa Rica. Another striking feature of the statistics for the ALBA countries is the clear trend towards greater equality with Cuba again leading the way.

All these numbers are worth noting at a time when ALBA members Ecuador and Bolivia are recovering from the negative effects of volatile global prices for their oil and gas. Ecuador’s case is compounded by the dollarization of the economy inherited from earlier right wing governments. But despite those difficulties and this year’s devastating earthquake, Ecuador’s smart policies of economic resistance will enable the government to defeat future political challenges from the country’s right wing. In Venezuela, the government has just presented a budget for 2017 far less dependent on oil revenues. This means the right wing’s economic sabotage, supported by the United States, has failed to wreck President Maduro’s social spending and investment plans.

The UN Economic Comission for Latin America and the Caribbean predict higher growth for Bolivia relative to the rest of the region and also for Nicaragua, as well the Dominican Republic and Panama. The Dominican Republic has reduced poverty with socially inclusive policies and help from Venezuela’s Petrocaribe program. Panama, a notorious tax haven and financial enclave, is enjoying the benefits of the recent enlargement of its Canal, but the socially constructive benefits of that are far from clear. In Bolivia’s case, a big anxiety is that it may lose as much as US$2 billion from a probable drop in exports to Argentina and Brazil. Even so Bolivia’s model of community-based social and economic production is much better able to defend the country from potential shocks than the right wing zombie policies applied in Argentina and Brazil.

Like Bolivia, Nicaragua’s economy since 2010 has grown at about 4.5% a year, markedly and consistently more than its neighbors. Like Bolivia, Nicaragua's economic model stresses economic democratization across all sectors the of country’s economy, including the so-called informal sector. 70% of Nicaragua’s labor force either work on their own account, in small businesses or on small farms. The country is virtually self sufficient in food production. At the same time President Daniel Ortega has greatly diversified the country’s trade and investment partners, cutting across ideological differences in a way similar to the win-win style promoted by China.

Reflecting on all of this information makes it clear that under current conditions governments have little choice but to respect macroeconomic equilibrium. Bolivia and Nicaragua have reactivated their domestic markets by deliberately increasing consumption by the impoverished majority, promoting social stability which in turn has encouraged investment. All the ALBA countries prioritize economic democratization as decisively important, through measures like nationalizing natural resources and land, programs of preferential credit, especially for low-income women, defense of food sovereignty and recognition of the informal economy

Obviously, progressive political forces have to promote a socially constructive society for the majority, abandoning economic structures and practices designed and managed to enrich brutally ruthless elites. A focus on mere economic growth is practically meaningless without qualitative, redistributive policies to reduce inequality. Focusing simply on growth as an end in itself blinds an appropriate perception of specific national needs and opportunities, correct appraisal of timing and, too, the likely risks in local social and environmental contexts. The ALBA countries have demonstrated convincingly that equitable, rational development of productive forces is both a precondition and a result-in-process of a social and economic order capable of superseding capitalism.