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Country-based policies are best

East African, Kenya

Country-based policies are best

By Benon Herbert Oluka, Special Correspondent

16 July 2007

Africa’s poorest countries should develop policies to suit their unique circumstances to replace policies imposed on them by their developed country counterparts, former Tanzanian president Benjamin Mkapa has said.

Mr Mkapa said such policies would enable world’s poorest countries, classified by the United Nations as the least developed countries (LDCs), to benefit from globalisation because “how governments manage the country’s internal affairs determines the extent to which their people benefit from globalisation and are protected from its negative effects.”

He cited the world’s fastest growing economies in Asia and South America as evidence that LDCs can develop much faster if they pursue their own independent development strategies.

“The current success of China, India and Brazil was because they chose national development strategies appropriate to them rather than externally prescribed economic policies. Clearly, a one-size-fits-all approach to development is not appropriate,” he said.

Mr Mkapa was speaking at a Ministerial Conference of LDCs in Istanbul, Turkey. The conference, Making globalisation work for the least developed countries, was organised by the UN and the Turkish government.

He said the present global economic institutions do not reflect the interests of the LDCs but have turned them into “spectators in the global trading system.”

According to World Trade Organisation deputy director-general Valentine Rugwabiza, a number of rules, such as those on subsidies in agriculture, perpetuate bias against LDCs and other developing countries.

Mr Mkapa urged LDC leaders to find a way round their continued dependence on the developed countries.

“It may be time for the leaders to empower themselves through greater economic nationalism and self reliance, as we increasingly see in Asia and Latin America, in order to better manage the effects of globalisation and to be a more proactive participant in that reality,” he said.

The leaders signed an Istanbul Declaration in which they pledged to make globalisation “a positive force for all” through policies to make their integration into global trade beneficial, and urging developed countries to come good on their promises to help LDCs achieve sustainable development.

They also stressed the need for more attention to problems like energy shortages, the technology gap between LDCs and the developed world, as well as distortions in production and trade in agricultural products among others.

According to Mr Mkapa, even the impasse that has continuously dogged the trade negotiations between the developed countries and their poorer counterparts, like the Doha Round on Trade Negotiations and the Economic Partnership Agreements with the European Union, is because of the domination by the Western economies of the globalisation system in its present state.

Earlier, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, announced a $15 million fund to support development projects in LDCs, landlocked developing states and small island developing states, and another $5 million for small and medium scale projects in the LDCs.

The director of the United Nations Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Countries and Small Island Developing States, Harriet Schmidt, called for a more LDC-friendly multi-lateral trading system, saying that if globalisation continues on the path as the past 30 years, it could completely wipe out the LDCs.