International -- Readers Report
Weighing in on the Alaskan Wilderness Debate (int'l edition)
I had to read "Gore's `reckless and offensive' passion for the environment" (Economic Viewpoint, Nov. 6) twice to make sure this was not a satire. As an expert he should know that the oil won't last forever and that these resources are controlled by a cartel of exporting countries that can set the price as they like. Exploration in Alaska won't change this, at least not in the long term.
As far as the environment is concerned, the exploration for oil as well as the pollution produced by the various processes to convert oil into energy is a threat to the planet. The author describes Alaska as "a vast wilderness that is not especially attractive and that most of us will never see" and wants to put a price tag on the destruction of nature. To prove that the profit outweighs the damage, he calls this a "cost-benefit approach to the environment."
He also criticizes Al Gore for his attempt to initiate a rethink of this matter. To find a solution, it is mandatory to create awareness among all groups. That's what Gore is trying to do. This is neither reckless nor offensive but wise.
Braunschweig, GermanyReturn to top
Global Capitalism Needs Some Fine-Tuning (int'l edition)
For those of us at the forefront of human rights advocacy, the answer to "Global Capitalism: Can it be made to work better?" is yes. It must. The authors couldn't be more correct in stating that globalization is in need of "badly overdue" reassessment.
Had reporters been assigned to Tibet, they might have witnessed construction of roads, buildings, and oil and gas pipelines with the support of Western corporations such as BP Amoco PLC and Agip. All could seem well with China's "great western development" scheme. But reporters would have discovered that most economic benefits go toward the state and non-Tibetan settlers, while disempowering the Tibetans. They would have observed a country being transformed into a resource colony, one that is being inundated with an influx of unwanted settlers.
So can global capitalism work better? Maybe, but only when the people most affected are given their say.
International Campaign for Tibet
WashingtonReturn to top
Colombia: Signs of Progress in the Contraband Fight (int'l edition)
Thanks to President Andres Pastrana's policy and to action by the National Custom & Tax Agency, the country has shown a clear intention of fighting contraband trade ("Looking to crack down on contraband," Latin America, Oct. 30). This illegal trade has always existed but on a small scale. It exploded during the past 10 years, when it was mixed with money laundering.
For foreign companies, doing business in Colombia has not been easy. Import procedures were complicated, prices depended on who imported and how, and on differences between official and black-market rates. Consumer behavior was erratic--many middle- and upper-class people prefer to buy from the San Andresitos (that is, smuggled goods) to get bargains and avoid taxes.
Cooperation between the government and multinationals is essential. Colombian authorities have simplified importing. Duties are reducing gradually, especially products under tariff preference from Mexico, to reduce the price gap between the legal and illegal market. There is also a campaign in the mass media to educate consumers to buy legal. With these actions and a strong will, we are sure that contraband--at least electronics goods--will soon be history in Colombia.
Peter Do Lum
BogotaReturn to top