Monday 7 September 1992


Jakarta 4 Sept (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- Using unfettered market forces to run an economy is rational for those who are economically strong, but you can't marketise development and poverty alleviation, Idris Jazairy, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, told a press conference here Friday morning.

Only social organization of the poor and increasing their negotiating power and productive capacity, as well as the creation of level playing fields can help the poor and increase food security of countries, Jazairy said.

In an address to the NAM Summit here, the head of IFAD appealed to the NAM leaders to mobilise funds for Africa which is now facing again severe drought and famine conditions, and, he said, whose food security and freedom from hunger could only be ensured through the type of rural agricultural development that IFAD was sponsoring.

Rural women, Jazairy told the NAM, carried the prime responsibility for household food security and welfare in Africa and they had to be helped through social organisation, and credit and other assistance to help themselves.

Food security, he told a press conference, was the key to economic and political independence. And poverty alleviation in the South could not be overcome by welfare programmes, but only through programmes that would enable the weak to increase their productivity in agriculture and food.

Jazairy said that IFAD was the creation of the NAM, as a result of decisions taken at the 1973 NAM summit in Algeria. It was the unique international financial institution with a democratic decision-making structure, and the South should focus on and strengthen IFAD for poverty alleviation work rather than create new institutions.

Jazairy also noted the paradox of the developing world seeking democratisation of international financial institutions, but preferring to contribute for development cooperation to those institutions over which they had little or no control rather than to institutions like the IFAD.

In making a strong plea for support to the IFAD programmes for sub-Sahara Africa, Jazairy noted that the first special programme launched in 1985 with a target of $300 million had been reached and had financed 32 projects in 21 countries, though so far the second programme had only garnered $90 million of its goal of $300 million. "Is it that the winds from the East are pushing out of people's minds the claims from the South?" he asked.

Jazairy was asked to comment on the recommendations for marketisation and globalisation as a solution for development and food security of countries, and the paradox of the North subsidising its own agriculture while the IMF and the World Bank were pushing countries to abolish all subsidies, and the GATT was pushing to create `level playing fields' for transnational corporations.

"Marketisation is a process that is rational for those who are economically strong. But social organization is the only process that can help those who are economically weak. Only by social organisations can basic groups of beneficiaries increase their negotiating power. It is clear that you cannot marketise development and poverty alleviation.

"Markets know no equity and if you leave the markets alone, it cannot alleviate poverty ... It will then create a situation of inequality and bring about a situation of conflicts that we have been witnessing in the course of this century. If we don't want history to repeat itself we have to find ways together with development of market forces to develop social organisation which will give power and opportunity to the poor to act by creating level playing fields."

The IFAD head noted the 200 billion dollar annual subsidy to its agriculture by the North while the countries of the South were being pushed to abolish subsidies on fertilizers for their agriculture.

IFAD was hence pressing for gradual ending of the Northern subsidisation of agriculture, and at the same extend a small percentage of that to development assistance for agriculture to the developing countries. Assistance to agriculture stood at eight billion dollars annually for the last ten years. Doubling it would not only ensure food security in the South but would also enable the North to sell its own agricultural produce to the South without subsidy and costs to the tax payers.