Thursday, July 21, 2005

Niger vs. Center-Left Western Preoccupations

While the Bliar government is praising itself for having done such a good job for Africa with the G8 debt relief and blasts the CAP as hurting Africa, and the US pro-Democrat blogosphere is a-buzz with every aspect of minute details of 'Plamegate', the agent identity leak case that sprung from the scandal of the Niger yellowcakes story, there is a real disaster building in - yeah, Niger, Africa.

In Southern Niger, some 2.5 million people are hit by famine after their food supplies ran out. But generosity isn't forthcoming - altough the money needed is relatively small:

With some 2.5 million people living on less than one meal a day, the UN has raised its emergency appeal from $16 million to $30 million, but so far, only $10 million has been pledged by donors.

First help came from the French - but only a French NGO:

The airlift from the French non-governmental organization (NGO) RĂ©unir to Maradi consisted of 16 tons of oil, sugar and plumpy'nut (a highly nutritious paste for young children). A further airlift will take place over the weekend with 40 tons of millet and 28 tons of oil.

With this backdrop, the 'debate' over the CAP (the EU common agricultural policy that includes subsidies) is truly sickening. On one hand, as explained here at EuroTrib, arguing for free trade in food with Africa is disingenious, as African states currently have special agreements with Europe that ensure preferential access for their products to the European market, while those who would stand to benefit from abolishing the CAP would be second-tier states with advanced industrial agricultures (in the hands of the local elite) like Brazil and Argentina, with Africa losing out.

On the other hand, even if the former wouldn't be true, isn't something terribly wrong with the idea of Africa selling more food to Europe while millions of Africans starve?

Of course, most of those starving probably couldn't afford to buy even food produced by other Africans. But if Europe (or the US or Japan etc.) wants to help that, subsidizing food redistribution within Africa would be the best idea, not transporting some food 10,000 kilometres from there to here and some other (as aid) 10,000 kilometres back.

In the meantime, you can help out the UN in place of your governments, and donate.

UPDATE: As Disillusioned Kid writes in the comments, my speculations proved more than right: see his link, or Lenin's Tomb's take, this food crisis was caused by sharply rising food prices after Western-induced free-market reforms, prices a lot of people couldn't afford...

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Who Killed Most Iraqi Civilians?

If you believe the US propaganda, the 'insurgents' (collective). If you read the several posts on the issue on my blog, you could have gotten a clue that it's the occupation forces and criminals.

Now, for the first time, a major news outlet reports the above truth too - the BBC:

Nearly 25,000 civilians have died violently in Iraq since the US-led invasion in March 2003, a report says... The survey was carried out by the UK-based Iraq Body Count and Oxford Research Group...

37% of all non-combatant deaths were caused by the US-led coalition... Insurgents are said to have caused 9% of the deaths, while post-invasion criminal violence was responsible for another 36%.

I note: the latter is also the occupiers' (ir)responsibility. I also note: the IBC is based on (Western) media reports, which represents a significant undercount, while health-related excess deaths (which were included in the Lancet study) are ignored.

(You find the original Iraqi Body Count report here, but I thought the mainstream media reporting is a major part of the story.)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Is the Euro Area Really Worse On Jobs Than the US?

Below, I will first make an argument for treating the ratio of those with jobs to the total population, rather than to working-age population or to workforce, as the ratio that really matters.

After that, I'll calculate that ratio for the USA and Germany - with surprising results.

I already argued the first on this blog, but let's recap. We are often treated to projections of an exploding number of retirees, who will all live off of ever less working people's taxes/retiree fund contributions.

However, I think that picture ignores two important things: possible changes to retirement age, and real existing joblessness. If ever more retirees would be a root problem, the former would be a solution. But if we do that, we just increase the numbers of the jobless. In fact, even today, there is a practice of virtually reducing retirement age: when companies 'rationalise' by sending workers to early retirement.

Now, jobless people also 'live off' the taxes and contributions of those with jobs. So I think it would make more sense to measure the weight of society on the shoulders of workers by treating retired people and the jobless together.

But, once that thought has sunk in, one can go one step further. Children, while mostly not paid for by the state, are still a weight on the shoulders of those who work in financial terms: they too represent money not paid on themselves. If there are less old people and more children, the overall picture is the same. And there I am: the ratio that matters from a socio-economic perspective is that of people with jobs to that of the total population, whatever the demographics or the statistical tricks involved in counting the jobless.

Now, let's make the comparison across the pond.

In the USA, using the payroll survey that is said to be more reliable on overall numbers, there were a seasonally adjusted 133.537 million Americans in non-farm jobs in June. In the household survey, which is more reliable on relative changes (and has to be adjusted regularly), there were 141.638 million total with jobs. According to the population clock on the US Census Bureau, right now, there are 296,642,102 US residents. That gives a ratio of 45.02% for non-farm jobs in the payroll survey and 47.75% for jobs in the household survey.

For a European comparison, I take "economic basket-case" Germany. For people with jobs, I use the German Statistical Institute's May number, 38.84 million. For population, I'll take the latest number [pdf], the 82.501 million at the end of last year. The ratio is 47.08%.

So, in the end, there is barely a difference in the ratio of people who earn money and people who live from what others earn. In fact, if the US household survey errs upward in the absolute number of people with jobs, Germany may be ahead!

[Repost of my latest diary entry at EuroTrib]

In related matters, Scott Martens @ Fistful Of Euros takes on the meme that no French company in the top 25 was founded in the last 40 years, while 19 of the Top 25 American firms were...