10 points post COVID-19 by Vijay Prashad

10-point agenda for the developing world after COVID-19

Vijay Prashad
Tricontinental Institute for Social Research

In 1974, the UN General Assembly approved the New International Economic Order (NIEO), which was promoted by the Non-Aligned Movement. There a clear plan for the structural transformation of the world system was exposed, which was on the verge of a crisis and would be forced to take a neoliberal course; This neoliberal orientation deepened the crisis and led us to this impasse for human possibilities. It is for this reason that developing countries need to build a clear alternative to the capitalist path. The ten-point agenda developed by the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research presented here, starts from the 1974 NOEI and is framed in the spirit of the International Humanitarian Fund (visualized by President Hugo Chávez). We hope that ALBA can promote this agenda within the NAM and return to the UN General Assembly for a new resolution on the International Economic Order.

  1. Attack the global pandemic

Our priority is to attack the global pandemic. To this end, increasing public sector production towards face masks, protective equipment, respirators, field hospitals and tests for the entire population should be central – as it is already in Vietnam and Venezuela. Workers’ control over working conditions must be established so that workers – who are in the best position to make these decisions – can provide a hygienic work environment. Given what has been the absence of adequate public action, governments need to create work plans to hire people for projects that break the chain of contagion and ensure that the people are fed, clothed and remain healthy; Such public actions could learn from those of the cooperatives in Kerala and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in Cuba. The closed sector workforce – such as tourism – should immediately be hired for jobs that counter the pandemic.

  1. Medical Solidarity

A united front of Developing Countries must reject the IMF and the limits imposed by creditors on public administration wages; Due to these limits, developing countries have been losing medical personnel to the North Atlantic States. States must use their precious resources to expand public medical education and to train health workers within communities to provide public health services. ALBA’s medical internationalism – with the Cuban brigades at the forefront – must become a model for the world through the WHO; Chinese medical internationalism would play a key role here when the US leaves the WHO. The entire public health sector should be nationalized and smaller medical centers should be created so that people can easily access public health facilities. The public health system must be strengthened, including the production of medical equipment and medicines and the distribution of essential medicines (whose prices must be regulated).

  1. Intellectual Heritage

Developing countries should push for reconsideration of the TRIPS Agreement (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), which grants unrestricted property rights over assets that must be part of global heritage. This applies directly to the COVID-19 vaccine, which must be offered without consideration for production in different countries, but it also applies to any drug, many of them produced with public financing, and must apply to the energy technologies that would quickly lead us from fossil fuels to renewable fuels, as well as communication technology (such as 5G). In the short term, Developing Countries must expand the mechanisms for the transfer of science and technology among themselves.

  1. Debt Cancellation

Reasonable estimates suggest that developing countries owe $ 11 trillion in external debt, with this year’s debt service alone estimated at $ 3.9 trillion. With the coronavirus recession, such payments are unthinkable. Debt relief must go beyond the 47 Least Developed Countries and include all developing countries; This relief must not only be a postponement, but must be the cancellation of the debt (both from public and private creditors). An international alliance must be formed so that debt service is fully channeled towards the most urgent needs of society.

  1. Food Solidarity

Half of the world population fights against hunger. Food sovereignty and food solidarity are essential antidotes, as has been demonstrated by platforms such as Via Campesina. As much as possible, corporate control over agriculture must be disputed and food production must become a human rights priority. Funds should be directed toward expanding food production; these funds need to be invested in infrastructure for agricultural production (including the expansion of projects such as an ALBA Seed Bank). Universal food distribution systems should be strengthened to give farmers higher incomes and to guarantee food distribution to the people. In turn, a more robust rural landscape would decongest cities and attract people to live meaningful lives in rural areas.

  1. Expand public

CoronaShock has shown that the private sector is simply not capable of dealing with emergencies, much less human needs. Developing countries must lead by offering robust public sector advocacy, not only for the production of key goods and services (medicines and food), but also for everything essential to modern life – more public housing, more public transportation, more public WiFi and more public education. Allowing the profit sector to turn these parts of human life into merchandise has eroded our ability to build a civilized society.

  1. Taxes on fortunes

Currently, nearly $ 32 billion rests in offshore tax havens and unknown amounts of money are simply not counted in tax collection. Two things are necessary: ​​first, to recover the illicit financial flows and, secondly, that the taxes on fortunes are duly applied to the upper echelons of the bourgeoisie and the wealthy landowners, as well as to the financiers and those involved in the financial speculation. These funds would be sufficient to redirect priorities towards eliminating poverty, hunger, illiteracy, indigence and lack of dignity.

  1. Capital controls

Without capital controls, a country does not have effective economic sovereignty. Developing Countries must create an international platform that commits each one to impose controls on capital; This is a political issue that cannot be implemented by a single country. Capital controls are measures taken by a government to regulate the flow of finance inside and outside the country. Such controls include transaction taxes, minimum permanence requirements, and limits on the amount of currency that can be moved across borders. Controls on capital and democratic control over the Central Bank would prevent capital flight and should give governments sovereignty over their currencies and their economy.

  1. Regional trade without the dollar

De-dollarization is an essential part of a new agenda. 60% of the world’s reserves are in dollars and world trade is mostly conducted in dollars. The Dollar-Wall Street Complex has almost asphyxiated finances and international trade; not surprisingly, unilateral US sanctions are capable of having a catastrophic impact on countries not because they depend on the dollar but because their trading partners are embedded in it. The dollar has become a weapon to undermine development. It is necessary to dust off alternative payment systems such as Sucre and create new global financial institutions to facilitate electronic transfers. In the short term, this could create a regional service without the dollar, although there is a need for global institutions to emerge that put aside the immense advantage that the dollar, as a global currency, gives the United States. Relatedly, there is a need to strengthen regional trading blocs that would accept barter as payment mechanisms.

  1. Central planning, decentralized life

The pandemic has shown us the power of central planning and the importance of decentralized public action. Economies that are not allowed to plan to use their resources faltered in the face of the virus. It is necessary to establish participatory central planning mechanisms on a scale that grows more and more to rethink world production more towards necessity than towards profit; These plans must derive from the maximum democratic contribution and must be transparent to the public. Central planning would allow the nationalization of sectors such as mining (including energy production), plantation production, food processing, and tourism; these would be placed under worker control through cooperatives. It would be an instrument to minimize waste, including waste on military spending. An increase in local self-government and cooperative production, as well as popular associations and unions, will allow social life to become increasingly democratic.

Temas: High-level Conference: the ALBA-TCP post-pandemic economy.