Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
September 30, 2001
Conflicts that come with wealth promotion
“The promotion of prosperity and employment is at the heart of the government’s agenda,” according to the foreign policy statement Canada in the World. It is the first of three key objectives, including the protection of security and the projection of Canadian values.
It calls for an “open, fair and predictable set of rules governing trade and investment to ensure that Canadian firms can take advantage of promising market opportunities.”
Foreign policy and international trade are lumped together in one portfolio, and, as you would expect, it is mostly about protecting our own prosperity.
But, as the handbook explains “We also wish to see other countries prosper” because “our own economic security is increasingly dependent on the security of others.” Hence the development assistance program administered by CIDA.
Countries measure their prosperity by Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is a flawed index, which among other shortcomings, does not take into account the distribution of wealth.
Canada’s per capita GDP is around $20,000, Brazil’s is around $4,400, that of El Salvador is around $1,700 and the per capita income of Ethiopia is only $113. None of these figures indicate the extent of disparity between rich and poor in each country.
It does not show that one per cent of Brazil’s population owns most of the land or that El Salvador’s land is controlled by a few families. Nor does it reveal that Canada ranks only number 11 among the richest nations in terms of its care for the poor.
Here is something else you should know about GDP as a measure of prosperity. It is estimated that the equivalent of one third of the total global gross domestic product is now held in financial havens — undisclosed, untaxed or under-taxed.
A Canadian example concerns a law passed by the federal government a few years ago, to allow one of our richest families to move over $2 billion in assets out of the country without paying the $750 million it owed in taxes.
The use of tax havens deprives not only the poor in our own country from essential social services, but it denies developing countries the revenues required to meet basic human needs.
More than $50 billion, or roughly the equivalent of the total worldwide annual overseas assistance to alleviate poverty in the developing world, is lost each year to tax havens.
The globalization of financial markets have turned the world of international finance into a planetary gambling casino. More that $1.8 trillion gets filtered and laundered through the currency market each and every day.
Big business, transnational corporations and wealthy individuals take advantage of loopholes to escape their obligations to society, while least developed countries are obliged by these speculators to lower corporate tax rates on foreign investment.
How is that for spreading the wealth and promoting prosperity?
These are just a few examples of the inherent conflicts associated with wealth promotion. Leonardo Boff, in his essay Ethics for the New Millennium, argues that we need to return to essential caring if we want to secure the survival of the planet.
“Caring means getting involved with people, paying attention to them, feeling them in our hearts, entering into communion with them, valuing and understanding their integrity.”
Justice demands that the global economy serves not only the elite, but the well being of all people as well as the earth.
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