Monday, July 04, 2005


It would be hard to conceive of any other event that would bring together Elton John, David Beckham, Kofi Annan, Snoop Doggy Dog and Bill Gates ('and now I'm pleased to introduce Dido') on the same stage.

(Here is the juice on the Battle of the Backstage Egos by Nicole Lampert, Daily Mail Showbusiness Editor. )

I thought I caught a glimpse of BillG on the BBC highlights, but I don't recall him being mentioned.

Gates told the crowd and a worldwide audience of millions "if you show people the problems and you show people the solutions they will be moved to act".

"The huge turnout for Live 8 here and around the world shows that," he added.

Gates said, if successful Live 8 will prove to be the "best thing humanity has ever done".

People have called Gates many things over the years, andI don't think anyone has ever called him a mug. And yet .... and yet .... I have great difficulty in understanding the mechanism by which Live8 and Make Poverty History will accomplish their goals although I would love to believe it.

Look at this from the Telegraph a week or so ago.

The scale of the task facing Tony Blair in his drive to help Africa was laid bare yesterday when it emerged that Nigeria's past rulers stole or misused �220 billion.

That is as much as all the western aid given to Africa in almost four decades. The looting of Africa's most populous country amounted to a sum equivalent to 300 years of British aid for the continent.

The figures, compiled by Nigeria's anti-corruption commission, provide dramatic evidence of the problems facing next month's summit in Gleneagles of the G8 group of wealthy countries which are under pressure to approve a programme of debt relief for Africa.

Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, has spoken of a new Marshall Plan for Africa. But Nigeria's rulers have already pocketed the equivalent of six Marshall Plans. After that mass theft, two thirds of the country's 130 million people - one in seven of the total African population - live in abject poverty, a third is illiterate and 40 per cent have no safe water supply.

With more people and more natural resources than any other African country, Nigeria is the key to the continent's success.

I thought that Trade Justice was a promising approach but then I read the Make Poverty History manifesto. It is the old discredited collectivist, protectionist mantra. (The very ideas that India's current success has been based on rejecting.) The very first demand is:

Fight for rules that ensure governments, particularly in poor countries, can choose the best solutions to end poverty and protect the environment. These will not always be free trade policies.

How's that gonna work? Remember Nigeria. Think of what is happening in Zimbabwe right now. President Mugabe says "Operation Murambatsvina [Drive out rubbish]" is needed to "restore sanity" to Zimbabwe's cities, which have become overrun with criminals. Isn't that a government deciding that mass demolitions of illegally built houses and stalls is an appropriate solution "to end poverty and protect the environment" even though the south African Methodist bishops' take on it is that "we have on our hands a complete recipe for genocide; we're witnessing a tragedy of unprecedented enormity.?

At the Last Ditch, Tom Paine says:

We have given enough money in Tanzania to buy a farm for every family there. The money has been stolen. If we give more, it will be stolen again.

Not only is it a waste of money, we are actually equipping Africa's dictators with the resources to buy the weapons they need to keep their people in subjection. If we seriously care about Africans, then we should (a) dismantle our tariff barriers so their products can compete with ours, (b) stop dumping subsidised products on them as a by-product of such obscenities as the Common Agricultural Policy, and (c) embargo all arms sales to African nations.

I wish, in all conscience, I could disagree.

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