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2008 Arab Economic Forum: How to make the rich richer and the poor poorer!

Saturday 3 May 2008, by Webmoudir

All the versions of this article: [عربي] [English]

While workers and farmers from Lebanon to Egypt to Morocco struggle against the massive increases in prices of basic food the economic elite of the Arab world and its multinational partners are meeting in Beirut. The 2008 Arab Economic Forum comes at a time of unprecedented economic transformation in the Arab world. Surging oil prices and a rapidly growing petroleum surplus has economically reinforced the Gulf monarchies while other Arab countries continue to push through privatization and “free market” liberalization at the detriment to their citizens. The collusion between the oil-latafundia (oil shuyukh), multi-national corporations and the institutions of globalization (such as the WTO, World Bank, and IMF) have resulted in the successful enrichment of the ruling political and economic elite over the past several years.

While the Forum’s stated goals is to develop “trade” and “development”, its effective program is to establish means to further increase the wealth of oligarchs and local economic elites along with their multinational partners.

The neo-liberal paradigm of the Arab Forum publicly uses the language of civil society and even democracy to justify damaging economic, political and social projects. In reality, financial globalization has increased economic insecurity and inequalities, not only among the poorest classes of the Arab world but effectively also among its working and middle-classes. The principles and actions of the Forum’s participants undermine in not completely bypass the few popular decision-making and democratic institutions that exist in the Arab world. While clamping down on human rights and the democratic movements, the governments will work hard in the Arab Forum to further surrender the economic sovereignty of their countries and betray the states’ responsibility for the economic and social well-being of all their citizens. The Arab Forum brings together a network of interests that are intent on dismantling workers, environmental and societal protections. In their place, they hope to substitute the speculative economic logic of neoliberalism that expresses nothing more than the interests of multinational corporations and financial markets in the guise of “economic development and reform”.

ATTAC LUBNAN urges our Arab, Armenian, Kurdish and Berber sisters and brothers to block the reckless process of neoliberal “reform” that the Arab world is witnessing. It calls on our sisters and brother to insist on the creation and implementation of new democratic instruments of regulation and control, at the national, regional, and international levels.

When more than 30% of the Lebanese are living under the poverty line (less than 2dollars per day according to the UN), the Arab Economic Forum will debate of wellness distribution of wealth to the already rich!

The Forum will discuss of the fortunes of growth due to oil revenues but ignore solving the issues of bread prices, availability of basic food, and the deterioration of basic services that have been at the heart of protests in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunis and Iraq.

While the purchasing power of every Arab currency has plummeted over the past year, the Forum will discuss the investments of public funds that will never reach 99% of the population.

While Arab activists are repressed for demonstrating for democratic representation, women’s rights, the environment and economic empowerment, the Forum will discuss of strengthening Arab and foreign multinationals and the dismantling of regulations that may hinder their unchecked policies.

While they speak of investment with the Arab world under the banner of Arabism, the Forum will discuss strategies to pit Arab laborers, farmers and service workers in competition with one another.

While tightly controlling the borders and ignoring the legal rights of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers from within the Arab world and from Africa, South and East Asia and within the Arab world, the Forum will discuss of free trade agreements that open borders to capital, multi-nationals and billionaire entrepreneurs and oligarchs.

In place of discussing these indecent plans, we ATTAC LUBNAN demand the participants honestly discuss the impossible, namely:

- Means by which a common minimum living wage can be established throughout the Arab world.

- Ways and means to have “growth” benefit the majority of the population including the redistribution of profits to the citizens in most need, the appropriate taxing of industry and multinational corporations and the redirecting of funds into public services and infrastructures.

- Cooperation agreements (such as the Bolivarian Alternative for Americas) where knowledge and solidarity are exchanged instead of capital, where workers’, citizens’ and environmental rights are the guiding principles to economic policies and where the borders are open for people and not for investments.

Attac Lebanon, May 2, 2008

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