Marcus M. Mottley Ph.D
Wednesday, 10 November 2010 06:55
By Marcus M. Mottley
“We will stop at nothing in ensuring that our brothers and sisters in the region receive the level of support required in this time of urgent need.”
This was reportedly the statement of one of the region"s Prime Ministers in response to the recent devastation in St Lucia.
Of course, the Prime Minister added that the “We will stop at nothing” assertion was conditional. Her country must benefit from any aid she gave to St Lucia. In other words, she was looking for a return on her gift. The gift, it seems, was an investment wrapped in gift paper.
Supposedly, not only was there to be a return on the gift… the giving "in time of urgent need," might never occur if the return benefit was not wrapped up with the "gift package".
Across the region, the criticism of her statement has been quick and vociferous. While some people think that her comments were at least in bad taste, others think that, at worse, her comments were obscenely opportunistic and a crude attempt at capitalizing on the plight and misery of a country (and people) in need.
But, Caribbean and other countries in the so-called developing world should be accustomed to opportunistically crude offers of assistance from the so-called more developed countries. Rarely does any aid come from these countries without draconian, "dracularian" and self-serving conditions attached.
However, most of these "aid packages" come at the request of governments seeking "developmental aid" for one public sector project or another.
Examples are our own Government"s history of begging – sorry – asking for aid from America, Canada, or European nations. Two examples are the construction of the Deep Water Harbour and the scandal-hit project at the airport – both under the VC Bird Administration. A more recent example would be our hat-in-hand request for aid from the Washington-based so-called "world bank" and the resulting "head bowed and on bended knee" acceptance of their monetary handout.
What surprises me now, however, is that there are "brother and sister" countries in our region that see themselves in the role of the colonial minded, profit-at-any-cost giants of the north.
Don't misunderstand my position: If the country borrows money – we should repay it. If you beg for help and you accept the terms of such help – even if they are "dracularian" – then you should fulfill your obligations and agreements.
The recent situation in St Lucia is different. St Lucians have suffered a major natural disaster. They need immediate help. They need disaster relief now. This is the time to give "aid" to relieve their current humanitarian plight.
This is not the time to negotiate re-development aid! Now is not the time for any country – rich or poor – to try to capitalize on the plight of the St Lucian people. There is a name for that kind of activity. It is called "disaster capitalism". And, it is sad… no… it is revolting that one of the larger and naturally blessed countries in this region would seemingly seek to introduce such an evil and monstrous practice within the family of Caribbean nations. It is tricky, opportunistic and predatory, and should be condemned by all.
Disaster capitalism? This has been defined as the exploitation of a disaster (natural or man-made) to further the profits of national and multi-national corporations. In practice, it is used by governments to bolster their own economies by swiftly responding to societies in severe crises with the types of "aid" which further their hegemonic profit-only driven corporations. (For more on this topic read The Shock Doctrine – The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (2007) by Naomi Klein).
To watch the unfolding of classic disaster capitalistic maneuvers, pay close attention to what happens next in Haiti"s economic development.
Additionally, the so-called rebuilding of New Orleans presents a perfect study in the tricky ploys of "profit-only" corporate interests and their government surrogates.
I think that everyone should join in a solid rejection of this type of behaviour within the Caribbean, whether it is perpetrated by interests external to the region or by any Caribbean government on behalf of their corporate giants. Situations such as this should not be seen by any government – particularly a "brother/sister" nation, as opportunities to prop up their own faltering economies, win votes at home or pay back the corporate sponsors of their election campaigns.
No… The indefensible cannot be defended.
St Lucia's disaster and its current need for relief is not an opportunity for tricky corporate interests to reap sweet benefits from their Trini-tricky-treat "humanitarian" aid!