May 18th 2002

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY: U.S. Farm Bill ends free trade illusion

EDITORIAL: Paid maternity leave: who benefits?

Languishing Labor fills its quota

East Timor becomes independent on May 20

Straws in the Wind: Le System / Apocrypha: Dave's lost column / Ides of March / Sin

LAW: US repudiates International Criminal Court

MEDIA: Jonestown

Refugee response (letter)

Middle East (letter)

Swift solution (letter)

Neighbourly aid (letter)

Quarantine: NZ suspends California grape imports

HEALTH: The politics of AIDS in South Africa

OPINION: Media diversity: should the market decide?

TRADE: Oxfam report shows rigged rules of world trade

ASIA: Taiwan comes in from the cold

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Neighbourly aid (letter)

by Suryan Chandrasegaran

News Weekly, May 18, 2002

I refer to Dr Peter Carter's letter (NW, April 20) regarding water and population.

In regards to water, I congratulate Professor Lance Endersbee on his proposals to make more efficient use of Australia's water resources (which are otherwise wasted). There are possible solutions available to deal with salinity problems which have been previously raised in News Weekly.

I would suggest to Dr Carter that if he does not agree with Professor Endersbee's proposals, that he presents proposals of his own to prevent this current waste of water.

In regards to population, Dr Carter proposes increased funding for "family planning programs" in Indonesia to prevent a flood of boat people to Australia in the future.

However, such programs are usually failures unless some means of physical or financial coercion (for example, forced abortions) by the State is present (such as in mainland China) since most people in those countries would not be willing to voluntarily have small families.

Experience in developed and developing nations over the last 50 years has shown that most people will voluntarily choose to have smaller families when their economic situation improves and their society reaches a level of consumerism and prosperity such as that found in Australia and other OECD countries.

If Dr Carter is serious about reducing Indonesia's population, he should advance proposals aimed at making Indonesia a country with long-term, entrenched prosperity.

The breakdown of the Indonesian economy in 1997 shows that globalisation by itself will not deliver this objective.

A significant part of Indonesia's population was progressively lifted out of poverty by globalisation over a number of decades, but were hurled back into poverty by those self-same forces in a matter of weeks.

Indonesia's lack of capital controls allowed the free flow of short-term capital (so-called "hot money") into and (disastrously) out of the country and its currency in a very short space of time.

In Indonesia's case, a crisis in the Indonesian currency led to a loss of investor confidence in Indonesia's real economy, and a loss in confidence in all South East Asian economies.

A similar lack of controls exists in relation to Australia's currency. Movements in the Australian dollar are now largely due to the actions of currency speculators.

Perhaps a better way of assisting Indonesia to long-term prosperity (and preventing Australia from suffering a similar crisis in investor confidence in the future) would be the introduction of a "Tobin Tax" on these flows of short-term capital so as to discourage foreign currency speculators.

In summary, therefore, let us help the Indonesians by helping them become more prosperous, rather than just handing out contraceptives.

Suryan Chandrasegaran
Leongatha, Vic

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