Monday, July 09, 2007

You Can Bank on Something Big Happening in MERCOSUR!

There is something rather peculiar about the calibre of political leaders in Latin America that I don not find on the continent of Africa.

Somehow, it's that ability to look beyond the handouts of the IMF and the neoliberal policies that have afflicted them, and come out with a vision that is people-centred. When Africans, especially the South Africans, are keen to espouse the notion of NEPAD, and contemporraneously and ineluctably link it with the integration of Africa, somehow, somewhere, these Latin American leaders are turning agianst this type of Pavlovian attachment to what is, frankly in my view, a new colonialism, predicated on financial ties.

It is no surprise therefore to see that there's something big coming from Latin America again--specifically the MERCOSUR region.

The Bank of the South--described as "an ambitious and strategic gambit[sic--gamble??] in regional integration"--is going to radically transform how regional integration is done in that region. It only had to be the idea of the more progressive of the MERCOSUR countries--Venezuela and Argentina.

Despite a hitch between these two countries in a joint proposal against the Ecuadorians in the conception of the Bank of the South, it is clear that this Bank is going to deliver. IT is ambitious, without a doubt, and has vision unmatched in the region thus far.

In an explicit attempt to divest itself of the IMF/WB and other neoliberal financial policies, this bank, aiming to start operations in 2008, has five key characteristics:

1. bank's clients should not be large corporations;

2. rather it should give loans "to the public sector, to small producers, to local communities, to municipalities, and to states or provinces." (Toussaint)

3.Finally the document asserts that BoS should not be a behemoth like the World Bank with its 13,000 employees,

4. it should account for operations and activities on an annual basis.

5. It required an annual public debate for the bank to explain its activities to the citizenry whose taxes it used

Chile and Uruguay are absent from the debate on the BoS on account of their proximity to the US, deemed not just antagonistic, but which policies are necessarily anathema to the progressive vision of the BoS.

It was going to be evident the US would complain about a project like this. If there have been muted complaints, it's probably because Rice and her cohorts are too busy trying to carve Africa, EU-style, by way of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act Forum due in Accra from 16 July this year (next week).

Either way, the Bank of the South is going to be reclaiming the state:

the Bank of the South can play a decisive role in reuniting a region divided by decades of neoliberalism. To implement the neoliberal model, its main beneficiaries—the financial institutions and monopolistic corporations—have weakened or dismantled the power of the nation state. It may be that one of the primary tasks of the BoS could be rebuilding state control and regulations

It's important to just touch very briefly on how MERCOSUR is doing things, If we take the example of the BoS, we read that:

Energy will be one of the first priorities of the new bank and one of its first projects will be to finance the proposed South American Gas Pipeline, which will link Venezuela with Argentina, passing through Brazil. This will be a real regional integration project because the gas transport is oriented toward regional economic development as opposed to exporting it to markets in the developed world.

I couldn't help but shake my head in wonderment about the--yet again--Pavlovian response by ECOWAS countries towards the West African Gas Pipeline, which has CHEVRON owning a stake. Euphemistically speaking, it is the project manager.

Honestly, can ECOWAS countries not manage their own ECOWAS gas pipeline? Perhaps, it's time to start taking cue from our MERCOSUR friends!

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