UN's Rosy on Asia, Except Japan, North Korea and
Timor-Leste, Carbon and Growth
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, April 18 -- "Reaping the one-off
demographic dividend" is something the UN cautions against, in its Survey of
Asia and the Pacific being released today. The report is upbeat, but there are
holes in the data and unexplained dark clouds on Eastern horizons, particularly
"Inequality and poverty are on the rise
in Japan," the reports states, citing an OECD study and referring to "declining
household income and more homeless people in urban areas."
The UN proffered a briefer on Tuesday,
DESA director Robert P. Vos. Inner City Press asked him about the Japan portion
of the report and he apologized: he is not its author. Where is the author --
Japan? Actually, the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific is
based in Bangkok, Thailand. DESA has a center in Japan, in Nagoya. There is no
decline in income for workers at that center, far from it.
The report cites UN Habitat that "570 million slum-dwellers in the region --
more than half the world's total -- experience the cumulative impact of labor
oversupply, tenure insecurity, poor infrastructure, pollution and congestion."
On pollution, the tables at the back of the report
include a comparison of countries by how much carbon dioxide they produce.
Tuesday at UN headquarters, a day-long Security Council debate pitted generally
rich countries, favor the Council as venue, versus poorer countries which wanted
the debate in the General Assembly, which they called more democratic. India,
for example, 1.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide were produced per capita in 2003.
Indian Ambassador Nirupam Sen said Tuesday that the UN Security Council "may not
have the mandate: to make an uncertain long term prospect a security threat
amounts to an informal amendment of the Charter."
Australia's Ambassador Robert Hill on
Tuesday called the venue of the Council for the debate "warranted." Australia
produced 18 metric tons of carbon dioxide were produced per capita in 2003 -- 15
times as much as India.
view of Asia: Timor-Leste
The report lists North Korea has
declining in carbon dioxide production, from 12.4 metric tons per capita in 1990
to 3.5 tons in 2003. Is that progress? Is Kim Jong Il green or does he just like
(and counterfeit) green?
While the report lists 23% of children
under five in North Korea as underweight, things are worse in Pakistan (37.8%),
Nepal (48.3%) and India (48.5%). Cambodia, Laos and Timor-Leste are no day at
the beach either. Of Timor-Leste the report note it went from net out-migration
between 1995 and 2000 to immigration now, up 19% from 2000 to 2005. North Korea
has zero net migration -- unless, of course, you could the fleeing refugees. But
how many are there? The report does not say.
UN Office: S-453A,
UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439
(and weekends): 718-716-3540
UN's Africa Report Sidesteps Zimbabwe's Fall,
Embraces Privatization of Banks
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at
UNITED NATIONS, April 3 -- Africa's economic future
is painted, in nuanced but generally upbeat tones, in the 2007 report of the
UN's Economic Commission on Africa. The report was presented Monday at UN
Headquarters by Ejeviome Eloho Otobo, something of an in-house UN intellectual,
who repeatedly pitched two of his publications, one in the New School Economic
Review, the other a letter to the editor of the Financial Times.
Inner City Press asked Mr.
Otobo for his views on the economic downturn in Zimbabwe, which the ECA puts at
negative 4.4% growth last year, and which the UN's humanitarian affairs office
last week put at a 40% decline since 2000. Mr. Otobo ascribed the drop to
"political tensions," but did not explain why political tensions in other
African states, from Cote D'Ivoire to Somalia to Uganda, did not result in
anywhere near Zimbabwe's decline. Video
from Minute 36:22 to 39:32. In fact, tension-wracked Sudan was one of the eight
fastest-growing African countries in 2006.
On Monday, Ban Ki-moon
returned to UN Headquarters from a lengthy Middle Eastern trip. Inner City Press
asked Mr. Ban two Africa questions, about Somalia -- click
for that story -- and about Zimbabwe. The Harare Q and A, from the transcript:
Press: ... while you were away, on Zimbabwe, the Secretariatís briefer to the
Council said that the situation in Zimbabwe is not a threat to international
peace and security. I am wondering if thatís the Secretariatís view, or what is
your view on that?
SG: We are also very much concerned about
the situation in there. It is necessary for the leaders of the Zimbabwean
Government to strictly abide by all democratic rules, to firmly establish
democratic rules again. Click
ECA "Economic Report on Africa 2007" states, at page 32, that "only one country
-- Zimbabwe -- recorded a negative growth rate in 2006." On page 39, this
decline is diplomatically ascribed to "political difficulties." Inflation makes
its appears on page 41: "In Zimbabwe, inflation increased to 1216 per
cent in 2006 compared to 237.8 per cent in 2005, owing to inflationary financing
of the budget deficit." Still, Zimbabwe scored high in tourism.
Otobo, Ms. Montas, UN hand-signals
The ECA report, formally
entitled "Accelerating Africa's Growth and Development to Meet the Millennium
Development Goals - Emerging Challenges and the Way Forward," purports to deal
with the financial services sector in less than one of its 182 pages. The
report's approach is surprising: "financial sector reforms have resulted in a
gradual move towards market-based interest rate determination and curtailment of
the governmentís presence in the financial sector through privatization of
government-owned banks. While these are welcome developments" -- that is, ECA
unequivocally portrays bank-privatization as welcome, regardless of buying.
In Mr. Ban's native
South Korea, banks sold by the government were snapped up by predatory investors
like Lone Star, subsequently sued for fraud. Would ECA really like to lure Lone
Star to Africa? There is no discussion of the so-far seminal African
bank-acquisition deal, Barclays return to South Africa by purchasing Absa. Given
the report's 189 pages, this deal merited discussion.
Inner City Press, in the
course of reporting on another of the UN's regional economic commissions,
ESCWA in Lebanon,
received detailed reports from Addis Ababa regarding abuses under the 1995-2005
head of UNECA, K.Y. Amoako of Ghana, including that he unceremoniously had
ejected from Ethiopia any dissenters among his ranks, family first. How these
far-flung UN commissions can remain accountable and credible is a question for
reform, and a question of the objectivity of their reports. We'll see.
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