Is Daewoo the new East India Company?

Last week the South Korean multinational Daewoo announced it had secured a 99-year lease (i.e. more or less bought) for 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of Madagascar’s land, mostly in the Indian Ocean island’s arid west. Daewoo aims to grow 5m tonnes of corn (maize) a year by 2023, and produce palm oil from…

By admin December 24, 2008 Off

New UN update on the Least Developed Countries

UNCTAD’s 2008 Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Report, was published last week. Given 7% average annual growth rates in the 50 LDCs over the last 3 years, the report is surprisingly downbeat, arguing that even these levels of growth are failing to make a dent on poverty (as of 2005, 36% of the LDC population lived…

By admin December 24, 2008 Off

Publication day

That was a long day. Oxfam launched the book on Monday, so I head off for BBC radio’s Today programme at 6.15 in the morning, and finish with Al Jazeera TV news at past 10pm. The interviews are interspersed with interminable debates with the London media’s wonderfully globalized (and opinionated) cab drivers: the BBC guy…

By admin December 24, 2008 Off

It's Doha déjà vu (all over again)

Back in April, I spoke at a workshop on the WTO’s Doha round of trade negotiations where the EU negotiator Peter Mandelson got a laugh by saying ‘we have six weeks to get a deal… and I really mean it this time.’ Three months on, Mandelson will doubtless really mean it again, along with about…

By admin December 21, 2008 Off

Can states be built?

Do you read Prospect magazine? If not, why not? I don’t always agree with it, but it gets the intellectual juices flowing. The current (June) issue includes a counterintuitive piece on food prices (high prices do not increase global hunger – I disagree), a brilliant essay arguing that video games foster collaboration, not individualism, and best of all, a great, angry blast on how the wrong kind of aid has failed to build effective states, and has in fact often undermined them.

By admin December 21, 2008 Off