Another setback for the development agenda Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
October 15, 2001

SPEAKING recently on a GBC panel discussion on the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, Guyana Foreign Minister, Dr Samuel ‘Rudy’ Insanally made an insightful observation. The war on terror launched by the coalition of countries headed by the United States and Britain, he argued, would have a profound impact on the existence of peoples in the Third World because, once more, the development agenda would be sacrificed in order to divert funds to this initiative.

Foreign Minster Insanally noted that whenever there is a concerted initiative to bring stability and order to countries undergoing social turmoil or conflict, invariably the first casualty would be the development aid, which poor countries desperately need to keep their societies in some semblance of decent and civilised existence.

He cited the mid-1990s crises in Bosnia and Rwanda where mass killings resulted in the displacement of millions of people, who had to depend on the humanitarian assistance of western governments and agencies such as the Red Cross and the various arms of the United Nations.

Earlier this month, World Bank President James Wolfensohn warned that global poverty was likely to rise, particularly in Africa, in the wake of the September 11 atrocities in New York and Washington DC. Wolfensohn is reported by Reuters to have said: “We have seen the human toll in the recent attacks wrought in the United States with citizens from some 80 nations perishing in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania. But there is another human toll that is largely unseen and one that will be felt in all parts of the developing world, especially in Africa.”

The World Bank chief went on to observe that some ten million more people will be living below the poverty line of US$1 per day because of the attacks, and more people will be thrown into poverty if development strategies are disrupted. “As a result of the impact on developed countries, growth in developing nations will be significantly reduced. In the developing countries, the Bank originally forecast economies would expand at a 2.9 per cent clip this year, but this has been revised down slightly to 2.8 per cent. In 2002, economies in the developing world are now expected to grow 3.5 - 3.8 per cent, down from 4.3 per cent before the attack,” the Reuter story noted.

But even before Mr Wolfensohn made his economic prediction known, the negative ripple effect of the terrorist disasters was being felt in the pockets and purses of people even here in Guyana, which like so many other developing nations, was the recipient of significant cash remittances from relatives in the Untied States workforce.

Firstly, there were deaths or disappearance of many people and the destruction of thousands of workplaces. Then came the grounding of all flights in and out of the United States for a few days after the hijackings, and even when the airports were re-opened and airlines given permission to take to the skies again, thousands of scared commuters changed their minds about flying anyway.

The terrible result was approximately 200,000 jobs slashed in the aviation and travel industry. This translated into fewer tourists to Caribbean resorts, and another slashing of jobs in the hospitality sector of the region. If this situation continues for much longer, it would have disastrous consequences for those territories that depend heavily on the tourist dollar for survival.

Now, with American President George W. Bush predicting that the first war of the 21st century is likely to be waged over the next two years, it is unlikely that more than desultory attention will be paid to the immediate needs of developing nations. One must continue to hope, however, that the process of manufacturing items for the war effort will somehow quicken the United States economy, which process should have a positive ripple effect on the world economy.