Defy the creditors and get away with it*

By Walden Bello

The unexpected death a few days ago of Nestor Kirchner deprived not only Argentina of a remarkable, albeit controversial leader. It also took away an exemplary figure in the Global South when it came to dealing with international financial institutions.

Kirchner defied the creditors. More importantly, he got away with it.

Philippine leaders, from Cory Aquino to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, could have learned important lessons from Kirchner but chose not to. President Benigno Aquino III, if he chooses to, still can.

The Collapse


New Economics for a New Administration

by Walden Bello*

The dominant feature of the Arroyo administration was pervasive corruption, but its most destructive legacy in the long term will probably be its policy failures.  The ascent to power of a new president, backed by a new Congress, provides the opportunity for a fundamental shift in policy in order to end poverty and re-launch the Philippines on the road to development.


Greece : same tragedy, different scripts

by Walden Bello

Athens. Cafes are full in Athens, and droves of tourists still visit the Parthenon and go island-hopping in the fabled Aegean.  But beneath the summery surface, there is confusion, anger, and despair as this country is plunged into its worst economic crisis in decades.

Greece, tiny Greece, has been presented by the global media as the epicenter of the second stage of the global financial crisis, much like Wall Street was portrayed as ground zero of its first stage. 


Does corruption create poverty?

By Walden Bello*

From Common Dreams, April 23, 2010

The issue of corruption is a very resonant one in developing countries.  In the Philippines, for instance, the slogan of the coalition that is likely to win the 2010 presidential elections is “Without corrupt officials, there are no poor people.”

Not surprisingly, the international financial institutions have weighed in.  The World Bank has made “good governance” a major thrust of its work, asserting that the “World Bank Group focus on governance and anticorruption (GAC) follows from its mandate to reduce poverty—a capable and accountable state creates opportunities for poor people, provides better services, and improves development outcomes.” (1)

There is no doubt that corruption is to be condemned and corrupt officials resolutely prosecuted because it erodes trust in government.  It also weakens the moral bonds of civil society on which democratic practices and processes rest.  But while research suggests that corruption has some bearing on the spread of poverty, the claim that corruption is the principal cause of poverty and economic stagnation, although popular with voters, is questionable.

World Bank and Transparency International data show that the Philippines and China exhibit the same level of corruption, yet China grew by 10.3 per cent per annum between 1990 and 2000 while the Philippines grew by only 3.3 per cent.  Moreover, as a recent study by Shaomin Lee and Judy Wu shows, “China is not alone; there are other countries that have relatively high corruption and high growth rates.” (2)


FOCUS ON TRADE Number 150, January 2010

In this issue of Focus on Trade, Walden Bello analyses China's role in the Copenhagen climate talks, Shalmali Guttal takes the pulse of the WTO ten years after Seattle, and two participants report on the New Year Gaza Freedom March.

Walden Bello

Shalmali Guttal

Statement of Climate Justice Now! on the COP 15

Walden Bello

Javad Heydarian

Why fighting corruption is not enough

by Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello

From Philippine Daily Inquirer

After nine years of witnessing increasing poverty among the masses and spiraling corruption in high places, it is understandable that Filipinos see a strong correlation between corruption and poverty. And the judgment of many is probably correct that the candidates that are free of the taint of corruption stand the best chance of turning this country around. Moral leadership may not be a sufficient condition for successful leadership but it certainly has become a necessary condition in a country that has been so deprived of exemplary public figures like the Philippines.
Corruption, however, has become the explanation for all our ills, and this brings with it the danger that, after the elections, campaign rhetoric might substitute for hard analysis on the causes of poverty, leading to wrong, ineffectual prescriptions for dealing with the country’s number one problem.
Let me be more explicit: Corruption must be condemned and corrupt officials must be prosecuted because being a violation of public trust, corruption undermines faith in government and leads to an erosion of the moral bonds among citizens that serve as the foundation of good governance. Corruption, however, is unlikely to be the main cause of poverty. Wrongheaded policies are, and clean-cut technocrats have been responsible for more poverty than corrupt politicians.


The China-Asean Free Trade Area : propaganda and reality

by Akbayan! Representative Walden Bello

ON JAN. 1, 2010, the China-Asean Free Trade Area (Cafta) went into effect. Touted as the world’s biggest Free Trade Area, CAFTA is billed as having 1.7 million consumers, with a combined gross domestic product of $ 2 trillion and total trade of $ 1.3 trillion.

Under the agreement, trade between China and six Asean countries including Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore has become duty-free for more than 7,000 products.

By 2015, the newer Asean countries, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar, will join the zero-tariff arrangement.

The propaganda mills, especially in Beijing, have been trumpeting the FTA as bringing “mutual benefits” to China and Asean. A positive spin on Cafta has also come from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who hailed the emergence of a "formidable regional grouping" that would rival the United States and the European Union.

The reality, however, is that most of the advantages will probably flow to China.



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