EDITORIAL: Libya and the ‘international community’ - Monday, March 28, 2011

Source : http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2011\03\28\story_28-3-2011_pg3_1

Finally Pakistan has woken up to the disastrous military intervention by the western forces in Libya. On Saturday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office expressed serious concerns over the foreign forces’ strikes on Libya. Briefing the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said, “Pakistan’s position is very clear and principled. Everyone should respect a country’s sovereignty.” Mr Bashir said that the UN resolution on Libya was faulty and allowed the west to do “anything”. He further stated, “The prescription of democracy, pluralism and human rights is acceptable but it has to be done as people want and through peaceful means.”

The UN resolution on Libya is indeed faulty and quite vague. The consequences of passing such a resolution can now be seen. Even though it was not mandated in the UN resolution, the west now wants to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The mandate of the resolution was ambiguous. We also need to question the term ‘international community’. Basically the term refers to powerful countries of the west led by the US. This term has been used whenever an imperialist intervention has taken place on so-called ‘humanitarian grounds’. The west continues to support autocrats in countries that do not threaten its hegemony, in fact help keep it intact, such as the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia. Military dictators in Pakistan were supported by the west till the time that the tide turned against those despots.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has tried to justify this war by saying, “We are beginning to see, because of the good work of the coalition, his [Gaddafi’s] troops begin to turn back toward the west — and to see the opposition begin to reclaim the ground they had lost.” The US and its allies should know that though their attacks on Gaddafi’s forces and air force have weakened the Libyan forces, there is little possibility that Gaddafi would give up easily. It is now clear that the west actually set out to effect a regime change in Libya as has been stated by the British and French leaders. How is it justified that if the west does not like a leader, it intervenes militarily to achieve its aims? This is not the first time such things have happened and is unlikely to be the last. Ever since the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the world has seen a horizontal expansion of capitalism into the formerly socialist countries and under the rubric of globalisation into the rest of the world. The world’s dominant countries, who like to call themselves the ‘international community’, have set out to re-conquer the world through military means. It started with the Balkans, and via Afghanistan and Iraq, is now being witnessed in Libya. The goal is Pax Americana (global empire).

The US is on the decline as an economic power despite the triumphalism of the US after the Cold War ended in 1991. The global recession may not have affected the US’s military power, but it increasingly resembles nothing more than a colossus with feet of clay. Europe, which was seen to be the next world power, has been rendered hollow after the global recession and remains the US’s subservient ally.

Libya is a relatively weak country when it comes to the global powers but this provides no justification for attacking it. The world today is emerging as a multi-polar world where many countries like China, India, and Brazil are now economically getting stronger. Russia, too, is re-emerging as a global power. History’s verdict will one day be witness to the fact that like colonialism came to an end, imperialism, whether masquerading as ‘humanitarian’ or otherwise, too will not last forever. The sooner the ‘international community’ comes to terms with this fact, the better all round. *

SECOND EDITORIAL: Economic management

Bowing to inevitable necessity, the government is mulling over a fresh IMF loan programme. The existing Standby Arrangement stands stalled in its tracks because the tax reforms proposed by the government itself to the IMF made shipwreck on the determined opposition of virtually all parties across the board, except of course for the PPP. In particular, the RGST could not be implemented, thereby exacerbating the fiscal difficulties of the economic managers. To tide over the few months remaining till the next budget, the government imposed, through presidential ordinances, flood and other surcharges on income tax, excise duty and some services. This was always going to be a one-time measure. Therefore the IMF would like to know, before finalising the fate of the stalled Standby Arrangement and any fresh loan agreement, how, through permanent reforms, the government intends to tackle its revenue shortages, the energy crisis, etc, on a sustainable basis that would allow the IMF loans/s to be repaid without hiccups. The government is even contemplating issuing sovereign bonds in the international market and offering these against the IMF liability/ties. It is not known, however, what the IMF’s response to this new proposal, which may make eminent sense to our economic managers as a way of relieving the pressures on our debt servicing, may be.

While the economic managers contemplate their IMF relationship, the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) has kept the policy (discount) rate unchanged at 14 percent. The SBP, under its new governor, Shahid Kardar, insists this is necessary to control stubborn inflation. This nostrum might be acceptable if there was any evidence that the present strict monetary policy, of which the policy rate is the key, was succeeding in its avowed aim of curbing inflation. If the SBP is not lulled into complacency by our official (traditionally less than credible) statistics on inflation, and checked these against other, independent findings and the empirical experience of the markets and consumers, it may come to understand that its own stubbornness in maintaining high interest rates through the policy base rate is flying in the face of the facts on the ground and arguably exacerbating the dearth of investment, local and international. High borrowing rates do not bother the government as borrower, although we have it on the SBP governor’s authority that it has of late curbed its profligate borrow-and-spend ways. But they do discourage private sector borrowing and therefore investment in these times of the high cost of living, let alone doing business. Recession-hit economies everywhere in the world, particularly the developed world, while monitoring inflation carefully, are cutting interest rates to encourage investment and economic recovery. For Pakistan, with the dubious distinction of being one of the last destinations of choice for investment, given our terrorism and law and order crises, should take a leaf out of their book and, in recognition of the fact that high interest rates are discouraging investment while failing to curb ‘stubborn’ inflation, revisit the current monetary policy. *

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