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JFP 11/19: UN Troops in Haiti - A Timetable for Withdrawal?
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 19 November 2010 - 8:33pm
Just Foreign Policy News
November 19, 2010
UN Troops in Haiti - Timetable for Withdrawal?
Protesters in Haiti are chanting: "MINUSTAH go home." Why do UN troops remain in Haiti? When do they plan to leave?
*Action: Urge Obama to Keep 2011 Drawdown Promise
Vice-President Biden and Speaker Pelosi said that in July 2011 there would be a "serious drawdown" (Pelosi) involving "a whole lot of people" (Biden.) Urge President Obama to keep his promise with a serious and significant drawdown in July 2011.
Rep. Barbara Lee: No Delaying Reality in Afghanistan
President Obama assured the American people that "open-ended war serves neither our interests nor the Afghan people's." The American people agree, Mr. President, and most importantly, they oppose this war. It is time for the Administration and for Congress to come together and end, rather than prolong, America's longest war.
Gareth Porter: Evidence of Iran Nuclear Weapons Program May Be Fraudulent
It is likely that central documents in the IAEA's case against Iran's nuclear program may be forgeries produced by Israel, writes Gareth Porter for Truthout. Once intelligence documents that have been used to indict Iran as plotting to build nuclear weapons are discounted as fabrications likely perpetrated by a self-interested party, there is no solid basis for the US policy of trying to coerce Iran into ending all uranium enrichment. And there is no reason for insisting that Iran must explain the allegations in those documents to the IAEA as a condition for any future US-Iran negotiations.
McKeon's Right: Petraeus Must Testify on Afghan Review
House Republicans are demanding that Gen. Petraeus appear in person to testify on the Administration's December review of policy in the war in Afghanistan, the Politico reports. But the Pentagon doesn't want Petraeus to testify: they are trying to bury the review, because they have nothing good to report.
South of the Border on DVD
Oliver Stone's documentary South of the Border is now available on DVD. The DVD includes an interview with Brazil's outgoing President Lula, in which he calls out the U.S. push for "free trade." You can get the DVD here.
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1) A Quinnipiac University poll found more Americans now oppose the war in Afghanistan than support it, AFP reports. Fifty percent of those surveyed said the US should not be involved in Afghanistan, with 44 percent supporting the US military presence. In a September 9 Quinnipiac poll, 49 percent endorsed the war effort, while 41 percent expressed opposition. Democrats are overwhelmingly negative about the war, with 62 percent saying US troops should not be in Afghanistan. Republicans endorse the war 64 to 31 percent. Among independent voters, 54 percent said the US should not be in Afghanistan. Military families were divided over the war, with 49 percent backing the US role and 47 percent saying the troops should come home.
2) France's defense minister warned Afghanistan is "a trap" for allied troops, VOA News reports. He said France would push within NATO for a more expansive drawdown.
3) A senior European official said that NATO members need to explain to President Karzai that "Afghanistan is not fully sovereign" in response to Karzai's criticism of NATO military operations in Afghanistan, CNN reports.
4) Incoming House Foreign Affairs Chair Ileana Ros-Lehtinen says Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador threaten "the security of our region," Mercopress reports. Connie Mack, main candidate to head the subcommittee on Latin America, said he hoped the Republican majority in the House would "confront Hugo Chavez." The two lawmakers said passing trade agreements with Colombia and Panama was a top priority.
5) It is perfectly feasible for the European authorities to help Ireland recover from its recession without subjecting the economy - and the people - to further punishment, writes Mark Weisbrot in the Guardian. The European authorities could scrap their pro-recession conditions and, instead allow for Ireland to undertake a temporary fiscal stimulus to get their economy growing again.
Instead, European authorities are trying what the IMF calls an "internal devaluation": shrinking the economy and creating so much unemployment that wages fall dramatically, and the Irish economy becomes more competitive internationally on the basis of lower labor costs. Aside from huge social costs and economic waste involved in such a strategy, it's tough to think of examples where it has actually worked. And in this case, Ireland's major export markets don't look like they will be sources of booming demand for Irish exports in the immediate future.
Ireland is far from powerless. The European authorities and their banker allies do not want to see Ireland default on its debt or exit from the euro. But Ireland has already lost more, in terms of output and employment, than it might have lost in a restructuring/default and, possibly, even by an exit from the euro. How much more are the Irish willing to sacrifice in order to satisfy the wishes of the European authorities?
6) The U.S. military is sending a contingent of heavily armored battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war, the Washington Post reports. A US officer acknowledged the use of tanks this many years into the war could be seen as a sign of desperation by some Afghans and Americans. The Marines had wanted to take tanks into Afghanistan in 2009, but Gen. McKiernan rejected the request, in part because of concern it could remind Afghans of the tank-heavy Soviet occupation in the 1980s.
Residents near Kandahar have lodged repeated complaints about the scope of the destruction from recent US military escalation with U.S. and Afghan officials, the Post says. In a recent operation, U.S. soldiers fired more than a dozen mine-clearing line charges in a day. Each one creates a clear path that is 100 yards long and wide enough for a truck. Anything that is in the way - trees, crops, huts - is demolished. Although military officials are apologetic for the destruction in public, they maintain privately that the tactic has a benefit beyond the elimination of insurgent bombs. By making people travel to the district governor's office to submit a claim for damaged property, "in effect, you're connecting the government to the people," the senior officer said.
7) Egypt said it was dismayed by Washington's call for foreign monitors to observe the country's coming parliamentary elections, AP reports. Elections in Egypt are routinely marred by fraud, but the authorities have pledged, as in past years, that the Nov. 28 vote will be fair, AP says.
8) Mexico's Congress is unlikely to pass President Calderon's plans to reform the police and combat money laundering, Reuters reports.
9) Since 2003, 12 million families have joined the Bolsa Familia cash transfer scheme in Brazil, the Guardian reports. The families receive small amounts of money, around $12 a month. The payments are dependent on the family's children staying in school until 17, and attendance must be at least 85% up to 14 years and 75% for the remainder. Another conditionality is that children get vaccinations in their first five years and that mothers attend pre and post-natal care. Inequality has been cut by 17% in just five years. The poverty rate has fallen from 42.7% to 28.8%. Brazil is now being sought for advice on cash transfer programs by countries across Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, the Guardian says.
1) More Americans oppose war in Afghanistan: poll
AFP, November 18, 2010
Washington - More Americans now oppose the war in Afghanistan than support it, a new poll showed Thursday, the latest sign of waning public backing for the US-led mission. The Quinnipiac University poll also found a large majority of Americans want to see an end to the ban on gays serving openly in the military, including voters with a family member in uniform.
The poll results will offer ammunition to opponents of the war and to Democrats in Congress pressing to scrap a law that requires gay troops to hide their sexual orientation or face expulsion from the military.
Fifty percent of those surveyed said the United States should not be involved in Afghanistan, with 44 percent supporting the US military presence, said the poll.
In a September 9 poll by Quinnipiac University, 49 percent of Americans endorsed the war effort, while 41 percent expressed opposition.
Democrats, who are otherwise loyal supporters of President Barack Obama's policies, are overwhelmingly negative about the war, with 62 percent saying US troops should not be in Afghanistan, according to the survey.
Republicans, however, endorse the war 64 to 31 percent, despite their opposition to Obama on just about every other issue. Among independent voters, a majority of 54 percent said the United States should not be in Afghanistan, it said.
The poll showed military families were divided over the war, with 49 percent backing the US role and 47 percent saying the troops should come home.
2) French Defense Minister: Afghanistan 'A Trap'
VOA News, 17 November 2010
France's new defense minister is warning Afghanistan is "a trap" for allied troops.
Alain Juppe told Europe-1 radio Wednesday France wants to begin pulling its forces out of Afghanistan and will discuss the possibility of a more expansive drawdown of western troops at an upcoming NATO summit.
Still, Juppe cautioned France will not withdraw its forces from any part of Afghanistan until the government there is ready to assume responsibility for security in those areas.
3) U.S., NATO troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2014 handover
CNN, Elise Labott and Chris Lawrence,
Lisbon, Portugal - Even with serious questions about President Hamid Karzai's commitment to the military strategy in Afghanistan, NATO members plan to announce an enduring presence there beyond 2014, the new target date for handing off security control to the Afghans.
At its weekend summit, NATO members will tout a three-year plan to transfer security responsibilities by 2014 to the Afghans, beginning early next year on a phased, conditions-based timeline, NATO officials told CNN.
NATO members plan to offer a message of reassurance to Afghanistan that the alliance will remain engaged after security control is transferred to Afghan forces. NATO will endorse an "enduring partnership" with Afghanistan, specifically focused on developing Afghan security forces and police, officials said.
Canada has already committed more than 900 personnel to train Afghan security forces, and other nations, including the Netherlands, are expected to follow suit.
But many troops from other nations will deploy to Afghanistan in noncombat roles, leaving more of the fight to the U.S. and British contingents.
One senior European official said he hoped NATO members would have a "genuine" discussion about Karzai's continued public criticism of the NATO strategy. The official did not wish to be named in order to speak more frankly.
"Yes, we all share the goals he states, but at the moment, we are here because of a United Nations mandate, and we need to explain that Afghanistan is not fully sovereign and we are still in a transition and he has to support that, not undermine it. The West is getting confusing signals and President Karzai has to be confronted that this does damage to his cause."
4) Republicans promise head on battle with 'dangerous' Latam 'autocrats'.
The "dangerous behaviour" of the presidents of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador shows "an undeniable link between the decline of democratic freedoms and human rights and the increase of tangible risks to the security of our region," said US Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl), a Cuban-American lawmaker.
Mercopress, Friday, November 19th 2010
The United States must cooperate with its partners in the region to fight "the decline of democratic freedoms and human rights," led by the governments of Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, said Republican Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen. "The United States should work closely with our partners responsible for fighting this scourge," said Ros-Lehtinen in a statement. The Republican Representative is expected to lead the influential US House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The "dangerous behaviour" of the presidents of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia and Ecuador shows "an undeniable link between decline of democratic freedoms and human rights and the increase of tangible risks to the security of our region" the lawmaker from Florida said.
The leaders of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), headed by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, "have manipulated the democratic systems of their countries to serve their own autocrat purposes" underlined Ros-Lehtinen.
The statement of the Florida Congresswoman was read out at an event on the "dangers" for democracy in the Andean region organized by several conservative think-tanks in the US Congress and with participation of opposition representatives from the ALBA member countries.
"I hope and expect that now with the new (Republican) majority in the House we will do precisely that: confront Hugo Chavez", said Florida representative Connie Mack main candidate to head the subcommittee on Latinamerica.
Among those present at the event was former Ecuadorean president Lucio Gutierrez, accused by the government of President Rafael Correa of being behind the recent coup attempt and police mutiny in the country; Guillermo Zuloaga, president of Globovisión television network with an arrest order from the Venezuelan courts; Luis Nuñez, president of Bolivian province Santa Cruz committee and a fierce enemy of President Evo Morales.
The event triggered a first reaction from Ecuadorean Deputy Foreign Affairs minister Kintto Lucas who said his country "does not need democracy recipes", adding that "we are only interested in a sincere open dialogue with Washington".
Representative Mack who promotes the inclusion of Venezuela in the list of countries promoting terrorism because of its close clinks with Iran said that the former administration of George Bush and the current Obama government have applied a "non intervention hands-off policy" with Chavez.
"I don't see how United States can continue saying we fight for freedom and democracy in the world and we don't face Chavez head-on" said Mack who described the Venezuela president as threat to democracy in Latinamerica and the world.
Mack said the trusts that in the new Congress, democrats and republicans will support legislative initiatives to promote democracy in the western hemisphere. "One of the main and first tasks to address is the free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama which are pending congressional ratification", coincided both lawmakers.
Finally Zuloaga from Globovisión said that "if as we have seen there's a strong voice in Congress" that will fight for freedom and democracy "let's hope they focus on Latinamerica" because so far Washington has "been fleeing" form the "persecution" of the Venezuelan government.
5) Who are the Real PIIGS? European Authorities Pushing Ireland Down the Wrong Track
The EU authorities and IMF are telling the Irish 'there's no alternative' to their brutal bailout conditions. That's so wrong
Mark Weisbrot, Guardian, Friday 19 November 2010 17.30 GMT
As another one of the so-called "PIIGS" countries is being led to the slaughterhouse, it is worth asking whether all the carnage advocated by the European authorities is really necessary. Ireland is in its third year of recession, and income per person has already declined by more than 20% since 2007. Unemployment has more than tripled from 4.3% at the end of 2006 to 13.9% today.
The baseline projection from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is that debt stabilises at close to 100% of GDP by 2014, but even that depends on the volatile and sometimes contradictory sentiments of the "bond vigilantes" - who don't always seem to know what they want. One day, the bond markets are happy because the government is cutting the budget and laying off workers; the next day, they relearn their national income accounting and realise that this will shrink the economy, and make the deficit and debt burden bigger relative to GDP.
Unfortunately, the European authorities do know what they want: they want to squeeze Ireland, they want more fiscal tightening and they want to shrink the size of the government. And they want it now, even if it means that Ireland will sink further into recession.
So, it is understandable that the Irish government would resist an agreement with these authorities - which include the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF. The European Financial Stability Facility was set up in May with the proviso that contractionary conditions would be attached to any "bailout".
Is there an alternative? Yes - in fact, there are many. It is perfectly feasible for the European authorities to help Ireland recover from its recession without subjecting the economy - and the people - to further punishment.
Ireland is a small economy of just 4.5 million people, with a GDP of about 166bn euros. With a small fraction of the funds already set aside for this purpose, the European authorities and IMF can loan Ireland any funds needed in the next year or two at very low interest rates. We are talking about some 80-90bn euros over the next three years, out of a 750bn euro fund.
Once these borrowing needs are guaranteed, Ireland would not have to worry about spikes in its borrowing costs like the one that provoked the current crisis, in which interest rates on their 10-year bonds shot up from 6 to 9% in a matter of weeks. This creates self-fulfilling prophecies in which a debt burden becomes unsustainable - because the "bond vigilantes" think it might be.
The European authorities could scrap their pro-cyclical conditions and, instead, allow for Ireland to undertake a temporary fiscal stimulus to get their economy growing again. That is the most feasible, practical alternative to continued recession.
Instead, the European authorities are trying what the IMF, in its July 2010 Article IV consultation with the Irish government, calls an "internal devaluation". This is a process of shrinking the economy and creating so much unemployment that wages fall dramatically, and the Irish economy becomes more competitive internationally on the basis of lower unit labour costs. This would allow the economy to recover from the stimulus of external demand (that is, by increasing its net exports).
Aside from huge social costs and economic waste involved in such a strategy, it's tough to think of examples where it has actually worked. And it's even less likely in this case, when you look at Ireland's major export markets: the eurozone, UK and US - which don't look like they will be sources of booming demand for Irish exports in the immediate future.
If you want to see how rightwing and 19th-century-brutal the European authorities are being, just compare them to Ben Bernanke, the Republican chair of the US Federal Reserve. He recently initiated a second round of "quantitative easing", or creating money - another $600bn dollars over the next six months. And today, he made it clear that the purpose of such money creation was so that the federal government could use it for another round of fiscal stimulus. The ECB could do something similar - if not for its rightist ideology and politics.
While Ireland may seem outgunned in any confrontation with the European authorities, it is far from powerless. The European authorities and their banker allies do not want to see Ireland default on its debt or exit from the euro. This is true for all the "PIIGS" countries, although they all face different situations. But Ireland has already lost more, in terms of output and employment, than it might have lost in a restructuring/default and, possibly, even by an exit from the euro.
The question is, how much more are the Irish willing to sacrifice in order to satisfy the wishes of the European authorities?
6) U.S. Sending Tanks To Hit Harder At Taliban
U.S. deploying heavily armored battle tanks for first time in Afghan war
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, Friday, November 19, 2010; 12:12 AM
The U.S. military is sending a contingent of heavily armored battle tanks to Afghanistan for the first time in the nine-year war, defense officials said, a shift that signals a further escalation in the aggressive tactics that have been employed by American forces this fall to attack the Taliban.
The deployment of a company of M1 Abrams tanks, which will be fielded by the Marines in the country's southwest, will allow ground forces to target insurgents from a greater distance - and with more of a lethal punch - than is possible from any other U.S. military vehicle. The 68-ton tanks are propelled by a jet engine and equipped with a 120mm main gun that can destroy a house more than a mile away.
Despite an overall counterinsurgency strategy that emphasizes the use of troops to protect Afghan civilians from insurgents, statistics released by the NATO military command in Kabul and interviews with several senior commanders indicate that U.S. troop operations over the past two months have been more intense and have had a harder edge than at any point since the initial 2001 drive to oust the Taliban government.
The pace of Special Operations missions to kill or capture Taliban leaders has more than tripled over the past three months. U.S. and NATO aircraft unleashed more bombs and missiles in October - 1,000 total - than in any single month since 2001. In the districts around the southern city of Kandahar, soldiers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division have demolished dozens of homes that were thought to be booby-trapped, and they have used scores of high-explosive line charges - a weapon that had been used only sparingly in the past - to blast through minefields.
A U.S. officer familiar with the decision said the tanks will be used initially in parts of northern Helmand province, where the Marines have been engaged in intense combat against resilient Taliban cells that typically are armed with assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and homemade bombs. The initial deployment calls for about 16 tanks, but the overall number and area of operations could expand depending on needs, the officer said.
"The tanks bring awe, shock and firepower," the officer said. "It's pretty significant."
Although the officer acknowledged that the use of tanks this many years into the war could be seen as a sign of desperation by some Afghans and Americans, he said they will provide the Marines with an important new tool in missions to flush out pockets of insurgent fighters. A tank round is far more accurate than firing artillery, and it can be launched much faster than having to wait for a fighter jet or a helicopter to shoot a missile or drop a satellite-guided bomb.
The Marines had wanted to take tanks into Afghanistan when they began deploying in large numbers in spring 2009, but the top coalition commander then, Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, rejected the request, in part because of concern it could remind Afghans of the tank-heavy Soviet occupation in the 1980s. As it became clear that other units were getting the green light to engage in more heavy-handed measures, the Marines asked again, noting that Canadian and Danish troops had used a small number of tanks in southern Afghanistan. This time, the decision rested with Petraeus, who has been in charge of coalition forces in Afghanistan since July. He approved it last month, the officials said.
Although Petraeus is widely regarded as the father of the military's modern counterinsurgency doctrine, which emphasizes the role of governance, development and other forms of soft power in stabilization missions, he also believes in the use of intense force, at times, to wipe out opponents and create conditions for population-centric operations. A less-recognized aspect of the troop surge he commanded in Iraq in 2007 involved a significant increase in raids and airstrikes.
"Petraeus believes counterinsurgency does not mean just handing out sacks of wheat seed," said a senior officer in Afghanistan. Counterinsurgency"doesn't mean you don't blow up stuff or kill people who need to be killed."
But many residents near Kandahar do not share the view. They have lodged repeated complaints about the scope of the destruction with U.S. and Afghan officials. In one October operation near the city, U.S. aircraft dropped about two dozen 2,000-pound bombs.
In another recent operation in the Zhari district, U.S. soldiers fired more than a dozen mine-clearing line charges in a day. Each one creates a clear path that is 100 yards long and wide enough for a truck. Anything that is in the way - trees, crops, huts - is demolished.
"Why do you have to blow up so many of our fields and homes?" a farmer from the Arghandab district asked a top NATO general at a recent community meeting.
Although military officials are apologetic in public, they maintain privately that the tactic has a benefit beyond the elimination of insurgent bombs. By making people travel to the district governor's office to submit a claim for damaged property, "in effect, you're connecting the government to the people," the senior officer said.
7) Egypt Rebuffs U.S. Call for Foreign Monitors at Election
Associated Press, November 18, 2010
Cairo - Egypt said Thursday that it was dismayed by Washington's call for foreign monitors to observe the country's coming parliamentary elections, describing it as meddling in its internal affairs. A statement released by the Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the United States was acting like an "overseer" and that it was not respecting Egypt's sovereignty.
Elections in Egypt are routinely marred by fraud, but the authorities have pledged, as in past years, that the Nov. 28 vote will be fair.
Egypt has rejected calls for international monitors, insisting that local groups could do the job.
In response to the Egyptian criticism, the American ambassador, Margaret Scobey, said the United States welcomed Egypt's stated commitment to open and free elections, "including facilitating domestic monitoring by civil society groups."
"In addition, an open electoral process would include a credible and impartial mechanism for reviewing election-related complaints, a domestic election observation effort according to international standards, and the presence of international observers," she said in a statement.
In Washington, the State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, told reporters that the election would be watched very closely to ensure that it met Egypt's requirements and international standards. "We have encouraged Egypt to make sure that there are adequate domestic observers and international observers for this upcoming election," he said.
8) Lawmakers block Mexico's crucial drug war reforms.
Miguel Angel Gutierrez and Mica Rosenberg, Reuters, Fri Nov 19
Mexico City - Mexico's divided Congress is unlikely to pass President Felipe Calderon's pivotal plans to reform the police and combat money laundering, risking a major setback in the war against violent drug cartels.
The conservative president is under rising pressure from investors, the United States and fearful Mexicans to contain a conflict that has killed more than 31,000 people in the last four years. But squabbling in Congress and opposition within his own ruling National Action Party (PAN) are stalling the initiatives Calderon says are crucial to fighting organized crime.
Amid jockeying before elections in 2012 and disputes over political alliances, Calderon appears unable to forge enough support and, at best, will see his plans heavily watered down. "There is no consensus among lawmakers, not even within the PAN. There is a lot of opposition to the proposal for a unified police command," PAN Senator Alejandro Gonzalez, who heads the Senate's justice committee, told Reuters.
Calderon wants to bring ill-equipped and notoriously corrupt municipal police forces under the control of Mexico's 32 state governors, ending a dysfunctional system of 2,200 different jurisdictions across the country. But critics say the measure would concentrate too much power in the hands of poorly run state governments. "One of the principal reasons driving crime and violence in the country is governors not doing their job," Gonzalez said.
Many local jurisdictions have been infiltrated by the cartels who are fighting security forces while battling each other for control of smuggling routes for marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs into the United States. Weapons and cash flow back across the border into Mexico.
In August, Calderon proposed a revision to several laws in an effort to hinder cartels from funneling up to $40 billion a year in drug revenues through the Mexican financial system. "The goal is to hit the criminals where it hurts most, on the economic front," Calderon said on Thursday, adding that the money laundering initiative and the unified police command "are the key to our battle for security."
His plan to go after the proceeds of the drug trade has more support but still faces serious hurdles. "The president introduced this initiative with a lot of force but it got stuck in the Senate," Jose Trejo, the PAN senator who heads the finance committee, told Reuters. "If it passes, it will only be with various changes. It will be complicated in this session." Congress will recess on December 15 and both reforms are not expected to fare much better when it reconvenes next year.
9) Brazil's cash transfer scheme is improving the lives of the poorest.
Bolsa Familia is another example of how the emerging economies are increasingly becoming players in the global debate on aid and development
Madeleine Bunting, Guardian, Friday 19 November 2010
Rumour has it that when senior civil servants at the Department for International Development (DfID) tried to interest the development secretary Andrew Mitchell in cash transfers, they couldn't get anywhere. One morning he came across a column by my colleague Aditya Chakrabortty and was converted.
Within a short space of time the "must read" book for senior DfID officials was Just Give Money to the Poor, which charted the success of projects all over the world where aid was given straight to the poorest people - without all the consultants on fat salaries to analyse poverty reduction.
Mitchell jumped on the idea as a version of the "Big Society" applied to aid - bypass the institutional structures and empower the people directly. Interestingly, another DfID minister is believed to be less enamoured. Alan Duncan worries about that bogeyman of Conservative party nightmares: dependency. Won't the poor just get hooked on handouts?
Probably the biggest and best known of all the cash transfer schemes in the developing world is the Bolsa Familia in Brazil. Since 2003, 12 million families have joined the scheme and receive small amounts of money (around $12 a month). Inequality has been cut by 17% in just five years, which is perhaps one of the most dramatic achievements in welfare ever recorded. The poverty rate has fallen from 42.7% to 28.8%.
Such is the fascination in this "social technology" that Brazil is now being sought for advice on cash transfer programmes by countries across Africa (Ghana, Angola, Mozambique), the Middle East (Egypt, Turkey) and Asia (including India). Even New York City has implemented a version of the programme.
"It's social policy diplomacy," suggested one of the ministers involved in the Brazilian programme, Dr Romulo Paes de Sousa, when I caught up with him in London after speaking at the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex earlier this week.
He's delighted by the interest. "Brazil is developing a new model of donor whereby we give expertise as well as aid. Brazil is already one of the largest donors of food aid in the world." He is also struck by the paradox that Brazil is expanding its welfare state just as Europe is cutting back on welfare.
There are some aspects of the programme, he explains, which have attracted particular interest. The first is conditionality. The payments are dependent on the family's children staying in school until 17, and attendance must be at least 85% up to 14 years and 75% for the remainder. Another form of conditionality is that children get the full set of vaccinations in their first five years and that mothers attend pre and post-natal care.
"Bolsa Familia has definitely contributed to the improvement in infant and maternal mortality that we are seeing in Brazil," said Dr Paes.
One of the advantages of the conditionality is that the investment in welfare has a real bang for its buck. For just 1% of GDP, Brazil is simultaneously boosting education levels, improving dire health indices and reducing poverty.
Inevitably, the programme has led to criticism that it will generate a dependency culture. Unlike another comparable programme in Mexico, it is not time limited. But Dr Paes points out that the level of support is low so it is designed to supplement income from a job, never replace it. It helps that studies of its impact show how the injection of this cash into particularly poor communities is helping stimulate the local economy. Other studies have shown that the vast bulk of the money is spent on necessities such as food, school supplies, clothing and shoes - that helped squash arguments that if you gave money to the poor, they would simply spend it on alcohol.
Such evaluations (including publications by the World Bank) have helped the programme win legitimacy, but Dr Paes admits it was very hard at the beginning, when the Brazilian economy was weak, to persuade middle class voters of this disproportionate investment in the "bottom of the pyramid". "It's got easier since then as the Brazilian economy has grown," he added. It seems as long as everyone's share of the cake is growing, the middle classes are prepared to tolerate this modest degree of redistribution.
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