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Friday, April 16, 2010

The Economic Forum of the Multinationals

By Aurelio Suárez Montoya, Bogotá, April 12, 2010
(Translated by Emily Hansen, CSN’s Program Assistant)

The World Economic Forum of Latin America was held in Cartagena between the 6th and the 8th of April, 2010.  This event was sponsored a Swiss foundation called the World Economic Forum. Other programs sponsored by the Swiss foundation include the session in Davos and others in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North Africa.
The Colombian government spent 4,500 million pesos to promote and put on the event, which caused Colombia to be “designated” as the headquarters.  Among the attendants were fifty high-level Colombian executives, four foreign Presidents (none of them from the principal economies in South America), and 600 “high level” participants.
The forum would not be significant if it had not coincided with the terminal phase of Uribe’s government and with the Presidential election for his successor.  The end of Uribe’s term as President impacted the forum because Colombian officials invited to the conference an inordinate number of people who would speak favorably of Uribe’s Investor Confidence campaign.
“Colombia stands out as an example of economic results and social benefits in equilibrium, and for its solid political environments,” wrote Klaus Schwab, director of the social issues of the World Economic Forum, of the Forum’s host country.
It is a shame that this comment does not represent reality. Did he know that Colombia is the second most unequal country in Latin America, and that if anything can be said about its policies and politics, it would be that they are unequal? Does Schwab ignore the chaos of the public health system? Does he know about the glyphosate fumigations and that the system of environmental institutions has been dismantled and that there is no ministry focused on the environment? Did they tell him that in Cartagena, the city that changed its “unjustified reputation” before the Forum, that 75% if its inhabitants live below the poverty line, that 45% are indigenous, and that it is the capital of Bolivar where 200,000 people have been displaced by the violence and are currently suffering from subhuman living conditions? Did he not see the Peripheral Avenue? Has the city really undergone “an unprecedented transformation” as he said?
Regarding the Presidential election, the Forum also served to confirm that the country’s economic policies are in line with free trade, free markets and the Free Trade Agreements. None of the Presidential candidates, Santos, Sanin and Mockus, lifted so much as a finger in objection; on the contrary they joined the chorus that sees the opportunities of the country in the usual areas: natural resources and cheap manual labor (that is now called human capital), and also in the “public-private” associations that exploit the Colombian people to their maximum potential.
Not in vain, Professor Hartmut Sangmeister, of the University of Heidelberg, upon expressing that the Forum did not offer concrete solutions for the problems of Latin America said, “it is not much more than a showcase for politicians in the region that want to win the election”; this is how the multinational forums are.

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