Indur M. Goklany is
a science and technology policy analyst for the United States Department of the
Interior, where he holds the position of Assistant Director of Programs,
Science and Technology Policy.
He has represented
the United States at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and
during the negotiations that led to the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change. He was a rapporteur for the Resource Use and Management
Subgroup of Working Group III of the IPCC First Assessment Report in 1990, and
is the author of Clearing the Air (1999), The Precautionary Principle (2001),
and The Improving State of the World (2007).
On its website
Oxfam reminds us that its name comes from the Oxford Committee for Famine Relief. Today it claims to work to
“find lasting solutions to poverty and injustice.” So imagine the surprise when
I read on WUWT that Oxfam is now pushing an international tax on maritime
Why the surprise?
Such a tax would
increase the price of all goods that are traded via shipping. First, it would
add to the difficulties that many developing countries have in meeting their
demand for food. In particular, a substantial share of the food consumed in
developing countries is imported:
· In least
developed countries, cereals account for 57% of the calories consumed.
But net imports of cereals amount to over 15% of domestic production. [Data
· In Africa,
cereals account for 50% of food calories consumed, but net imports amount to
41% of indigenous production.
Thus, even a small
increase in the price of imported crops would push many who are already living
on the margin in these areas into poverty and hunger. The UN Food and
Agricultural Organization estimates that 925 million people suffer from chronic
hunger worldwide. Adding to these numbers would seem to be antithetical to the
purpose of the Oxford Committee on Famine Relief.
Second, a tax that
would increase the price of traded goods would reduce trade and, with that,
economic growth. But economic growth is the best antidote to poverty.
Historical experience shows that poverty is reduced fastest where economic
growth is greatest, as suggested by the following figure.
This figure shows
that the most spectacular reductions in poverty occurred in East Asia and the
Pacific, where the number of people living in “absolute poverty” (defined as
living on less than $1.25 per day in 2005 dollars), dropped from 1,071 million
to 316 million between 1980 and 2005. And as anyone who has bought anything in
the past few years ought to know, their economic growth was driven
substantially by trade.
despite Oxfam’s claim that it works to “find
lasting solutions to poverty and injustice,” the policies it pursues
assures that it will never be out of a job.
As seen from the pie diagram, more than 1/3rd of Oxfam's revenue is from
official sources. And as share of official aid to total revenue
increases, the more Oxfam aligns its policy to find a fit with those congruent
with official aid and less so with the people of developing countries
which it arrogates itself to speak on their behalf.
So when it becomes a
toss-up between the priorities of the people of the developing countries and of
official aid, Oxfam opts for the latter so much so, Oxfam's policies today find
a more tighter fit with the World Bank rather than the constituency which it
claims to represent. Its advocacy of global shipping is just one
expression of this reality. The more dangerous advocacy is of climate smart
agriculture which causes more starvation and poverty.
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