After two decades of war, Cambodia is rebuilding its State institutions. Economic growth has been high, but the country needs significant investment in human resources, especially in areas such as education and health. The global economic crisis is having a devastating impact, jeopardizing the realization of some national development programmes. Some NGOs are defending the rights of indigenous peoples, which have been threatened by government land concessions for plantations and development infrastructure. Other NGOs are demanding greater budget transparency.
Under the ruling Military Junta, the Burmese people live with perpetual crises, whether related to the economy, politics, food or the environment. These have combined to create a situation of extreme poverty, lack of basic rights and increasingly deteriorating social conditions. People’s organizations, which may constitute a part of civil society in the future, are underdeveloped, banned or persecuted by the Government. Rights are reserved only for the military elite and their cronies, while the most vulnerable citizens are disproportionately affected by crises and disaster.
Bulgaria, the poorest country in the European Union, has been enjoying some economic benefits from joining the EU. However, Government assurances that the economy is solid notwithstanding, investment and exports are dropping and the GDP will soon contract. Government measures to mitigate the impact of the global crisis will probably not be sufficient. NGOs are demanding that both employers and the Government adopt emergency measures to rein in inflation, agree to wage settlements that increase real income and assess the impact of the crisis on the most vulnerable sectors of society.
Brazil has paid the price of being “integrated” into the global economy. As foreign investors and speculators pulled out, the securities markets slumped and the currency was sharply devalued. The Government’s response has been somewhat timid, with expenditure lower and slower than needed. Brazil still may be able to ride out the crisis if the Government rises to the challenge, however. Meanwhile, the world economy has a unique opportunity to promote environmentally sustainable growth strategies and new rules for making financial systems work for development and the redistribution of income and wealth.
As a cycle of world growth roared past, Bolivia stood by and watched, unable to take advantage of the opportunity to establish its own rhythm of development. Its economy was just beginning to pick up speed, when the global boom began to stall and then go into reverse. In recent years, distributive tendencies in the world economy have been weak. Bolivian entrepreneurs are part of this trend, responding to the severe global downturn through unequal negotiations that shift the burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of their workers through layoffs and reductions in benefits and wages.
The multiple global crises have had a varied impact on Benin’s economy and the population as a whole has become more vulnerable, especially the poorer members. Civil society has worked both as a partner and in liaison with Government in promoting ways to combat the crisis, develop a new green revolution and provide school food programmes. It has also encouraged investment in agriculture and combating climate change, as well as technological exchange.
When the shares of banks and the principal enterprises in the country collapsed, the Government went to the rescue of the banks and provided deposit guarantees. The crisis is still causing unemployment to rise, while the cost of the bank rescue is making itself felt in the drastic increase of public debt, with serious repercussions in the provision of social security.
Poverty, vulnerability and food insecurity have increased in Bangladesh. The high price of food grains and the high level of inflation have led an additional 12.1 million people into poverty. There is increased frequency and severity of natural disasters. Two consecutive floods, plus Cyclone Sidr, together with the global price of food have led to food supply problems. It is the poorest and the female-headed households who are worst hit by the hike in prices for basic goods.
The Bahrain’s economy is growing, along with per capita income. However, along with the increasing numbers of millionaires the middle class is shrinking and the lower class is becoming impoverished. There are increasing confrontations and tension between the impoverished groups and security forces. A strategy to shield society from the negative impacts of globalization is urgently needed.
Inflation, poverty and indigence levels are far higher than official statistics indicate. Measures taken to combat the imminent economic crisis should be designed to diminish the concentration of resources and inequality. This would require an agenda that includes social policies that reverse the dynamics of exclusion the country has endured in recent decades and create a citizenship based on individual and social rights. Sustaining these social policies will require ensuring access to reliable official information – a significant change from what has been provided lately.
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