International -- Readers Report
No Recovery in Sight for the Euro (int'l edition)
"The sick money of Europe" (Finance, May 15) concludes that "at some point, of course, the euro will begin to reassert itself. But it may take even longer for the European Central Bank and governments to appear to be in control of their currency again."
I disagree. The realities are that the European Union, as an institution, has two overriding aims--to control Germany such that it never threatens Europe again, and to establish a Franco-German Napoleonic centralist state to counter Anglo-Saxon free-market (particularly American!) capitalism. The euro is the thermometer of this battle.
No politically contrived currency or exchange rate has succeeded since the collapse of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1973, and the EU is a politically contrived currency, not supported by such strong economic fundamentals as exist in the U.S. It is inevitable that the euro will continue to weaken over the long term because of its very nature. There will come a time when the people of the EU, notably the Germans, will say "enough." What pains me as a Brit, the founding nation of Anglo-Saxon free-market capitalism, is that we joined the opposition.
Redhill, BritainReturn to top
The Roots of Latin Poverty (int'l edition)
To reduce poverty in our countries in this age of globalization, level the field in agriculture ("The fight against Latin poverty," Latin American Edition Cover Story, May 1). End the $400 billion in subsidies that developed countries give their agricultural sectors every year. Not until then can we think of freely exporting peanuts to the U.S. or moving sugar at real-world prices. And let our comparative advantages work to improve our well-being. The rest is peanuts in comparison.
Latin America's biggest problem looks pretty much like "the world's biggest problem" to me. According to the latest U.N. Development Program report (July, 1999), 4.5 billion of the world's population live in developing countries, 1.3 billion don't have access to clean water, and 840 million are undernourished. In UNICEF's State of the World's Children 1999 report on education, poverty appears to lead to lower academic achievement and higher drop-out rates in the industrialized nations. In seven industrialized countries, 10% or more of children live in poverty, and in the U.S., the rate is over 20%.
Your article will help present to your readers several facts that appear unbelievable in this time of progress and modernity. Poverty is not only relative but dynamic. Earning $2 a day in the Colombian countryside could mean being as poor as earning $30 a day in London.
In Mexico's case, the origins of poverty go back more than 500 years and involve different cause-effect combinations that create many vicious circles. One example: A poor environment (poor soil and little water available) leads to scarce food, bad sanitary conditions, bad nutrition, bad health, low education capabilities, deficient training for productive work, low-profile skills, absence of initiative and energy to produce--and, consequently, low income, unsatisfied human needs, and finally more poverty.
In most cases ancient "collective psychological complexes" lead to negative collective behaviors as well as families and individuals with damaging habits, making breaking the circle from outside even more difficult. For instance, many Native American families across Mexico cook inside their "huts," using lumber without adequate ventilation or an exhaust pipe, so they breathe carbon monoxide that can lead to lung cancer. To change those ancient habits and help them overcome their situation is a hard, expensive task that usually takes more than two generations to succeed. Maybe their grandsons will install an exhaust pipe or will move to an urban area to live, obtaining access to other caloric sources such as electric power or butane gas. But three generations of impoverished families could easily mean 100% increase in population.
At different periods of time, the Mexican federal, state, and local governments and businesses had been working with endless approaches and programs to help people out of poverty. Right now many poverty-fighting programs spend billions of dollars to break the vicious circles of the poverty track. As author Geri Smith points out, policymakers are forming alliances with businesses, which see philanthropy as a competitive tool. And certainly we need more of this, because businesses are part of the solution.
This subject will surely absorb more time and arguments, and more Nobel-prize talents, to study poverty, to define it--and hopefully to solve it.
Luciano J. Aimar-Reyes
Leon, MexicoReturn to top