Ideas for alternative

10 January 2004 by Eric Toussaint


The UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights interprets the obligations of the Pact as follows: “A member State in which a large number of individuals are deprived of basic foods, primary healthcare, decent clothing and housing or elementary education, is not fulfilling its obligations as laid down by this Pact.”

Despite this, and the fact that total world wealth has increased eight-fold since 1960, at the present time one in two human beings lives on less than two dollars a day, one in three has no access to electricity, one in four lives on less than a dollar a day, one in five has no access to clean drinking water, one in six is illiterate and one in seven adults and one in three children suffer from malnutrition.

Several specialised United Nations institutions co-wrote a document estimating that 80 billion dollars (80.000.000.000 USD) a year for ten years would be enough to guarantee to every human being living on this planet access to basic education, basic health care, adequate food, drinking water and sanitation, and for women, gynaecological and obstetric care.

80 billion dollars represented in 2003 about four times less than the sum repaid on its external debt by the Third World; it’s about a fifth of the US Defence budget; 9% of world military expenditure; 8% of what is spent annually on publicity world-wide; half the cumulated wealth of the four richest people on the planet, 0.3% of the combined wealth of the richest one thousandth of the global population.

Present day misery could be transformed with such wealth...

The laws of the market and profit Profit The positive gain yielded from a company’s activity. Net profit is profit after tax. Distributable profit is the part of the net profit which can be distributed to the shareholders. cannot be expected to satisfy essential needs. The 1.3 billion people deprived of clean drinking water and the 2 billion without access to medicines or healthcare have too little purchasing power to interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. the markets. There is not enough profit to be made.

Only resolute public policies can ever guarantee the fulfilment of basic human needs for all[9]. This is why the public authorities must have at their disposal the political and financial means of honouring their obligations towards their citizens.

The latter must also be able to exercise fully their right to play a central role in the political life of the State. To bring that about, efficient judiciary mechanisms and economic policies must be implemented in a dynamic of participative democracy. The example of a participative budget as practised in Porto Alegre since the early 90s should be adopted on a world-wide scale and inspire original policies of radical democracy.

The application of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Pact for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has to be backed up by a powerful social and citizens’ movement. This can only be an authentic revolutionary project, no more, no less.

Firstly, the haemorrhage of wealth represented by debt repayments has to be stemmed. Next, different sources of funding must be found for socially just and ecologically sustainable development. Finally, we must break away from the old logic that leads to the cycle of indebtedness, to embezzlement and large-scale pillage of local wealth, and to dependence on the financial markets and condition-laden loans of the international financial institutions.



Traduction: Vicky Briault.

Eric Toussaint

is a historian and political scientist who completed his Ph.D. at the universities of Paris VIII and Liège, is the spokesperson of the CADTM International, and sits on the Scientific Council of ATTAC France.
He is the author of Debt System (Haymarket books, Chicago, 2019), Bankocracy (2015); The Life and Crimes of an Exemplary Man (2014); Glance in the Rear View Mirror. Neoliberal Ideology From its Origins to the Present, Haymarket books, Chicago, 2012 (see here), etc.
See his bibliography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%89ric_Toussaint
He co-authored World debt figures 2015 with Pierre Gottiniaux, Daniel Munevar and Antonio Sanabria (2015); and with Damien Millet Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank: Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers, Monthly Review Books, New York, 2010. He was the scientific coordinator of the Greek Truth Commission on Public Debt from April 2015 to November 2015.

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