What the Poor Nations Are Saying
NO ONE wants to be poor. Yet today there are great masses of poor people everywhere. In many countries nearly all the population lives in poverty!
World leaders call such nations “underdeveloped.” But what they really are is poor. These lands are also called the “Third World,” being ranked below the wealthy countries and those nations that have some degree of wealth.
Centuries ago limited communications kept most people in poor countries from observing how those in wealthier lands lived. But today it is different. Poor people everywhere, because of newspapers, magazines, radios and television sets, are observing how “the other half” lives. They want to live that way too.
Many authorities say that the world situation could get very explosive because of the rising expectations of poor nations. It is felt that if their situation does not improve, they may be willing to accept radical solutions to their problems. And it is also generally agreed that the day has passed when the poor nations could be convinced that their condition was simply “fate,” which they should accept passively.
In the spring of 1974, the “underdeveloped” countries sponsored a special session of the United Nations General Assembly. This three-week session was devoted to their problems, especially the use of their raw materials by the richer countries.
Of these meetings, James Reston of the New York Times said: “There is a kind of impeachment trial going on here at the United Nations too—not of a man but of a civilization. The poor nations are drawing up the articles of impeachment every day against the rich nations.”
What were the poor nations saying? Their ‘articles of impeachment’ are shown on the next page.
These are some of the grievances that the poor nations present. They also point out the tremendous overconsumption or even waste in the wealthier nations. For instance, the world now spends over $200 billion a year on armaments, mostly by the industrial lands. The poor nations think of the many things that could be done to help their situation with all that money. And yet, it is a fact that a sizable part of the yearly budgets of most poor nations is also devoted to arms expenditures!
The poor countries can also point out that if Americans ate only one less hamburger a week, the grain saved would be more than India is expected to import in a year. It is also estimated that the fertilizer Americans lavish on their lawns, shrubs and flowers would go a long way toward making up Asia’s fertilizer deficit, helping Asians to feed themselves. Also, according to agriculture experts, the amount of grain used each year to produce alcoholic beverages in the United States could keep 500,000 people in South Asia alive for that same year.
But is it realistic to expect that people in the richer nations would deprive themselves of such things to help poorer lands? James Reston asks: “Can the rich and poor nations go on like this? Can the advanced nations consume and waste and charge for labor as they are, and ignore the misery of the majority of the human race in the poor countries?” He then notes that the poor countries ask: “Will the big countries even listen?” “The answer,” Reston says, “obviously is ‘not yet.’”
And so, as the international debate continues, pessimism increases. Why? Because the problems of most poor nations are not getting solved. They are growing worse.
In spite of all the talk and effort toward “progress,” the number of poor people in the world increases. Today, when men travel to the moon and the power of the atom is harnessed, there are far more hungry, poorly clothed, inadequately housed and illiterate people in the world than ever before in history! How many? United Nations Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim answers:
“The single most devastating indictment of our current world civilization is the continued existence of stark, pervasive poverty among two-thirds of the world population.
“It permeates every phase of life in developing countries: in the malnutrition of children, in the outbreaks of diseases, in widespread unemployment, in low literacy rates, in overcrowded cities.”
The present world population is almost four billion. Two thirds, according to Waldheim, are in stark poverty. That is about 2,600,000,000 people! Yet the world’s population, especially in the poor nations, grows explosively. At the present rate, it will double in only thirty-five years. Thus, Swedish food scientist Georg Borgstrom says:
“The explosive growth in human numbers is threatening to wipe out the advances mankind has made and to undermine all human values, sinking a growing portion of mankind into abject poverty.
“Contrary to general belief and despite our countermeasures, the number of hungry, thirsty, poor, and illiterate is relentlessly increasing, both in relative and absolute terms.”
India, the second-most-populated country in the world, has nearly 600 million people and adds 13 million more each year now. A cabinet minister in that country estimates that now nearly two thirds of India’s people live “below the poverty line.” That is about 400 million people! According to the report, these people have an average income of about six and a half dollars a month. The number of unemployed in the countryside has gone up sixfold in twenty years, from over three million to over eighteen million now. And India’s condition continues to worsen owing to poor crops and the dramatically higher cost of what she must import, such as oil and fertilizer.
The number of illiterates, people who cannot read or write, is increasing. About three quarters of all the people in African nations are illiterate. Half of Asia is. And about a quarter of all Latin Americans are illiterate.
In some countries poverty has become so severe and seemingly hopeless that “it has given the word ‘poverty’ new dimensions,” says Atlantic magazine. Of one Asiatic nation, this publication says:
“One might even say that it is too far gone to be listed among the struggling Third World nations; it heads an emerging Fourth World of young and destitute states kept alive only by heavy transfusions of foreign aid. . . .
“They would sink like stones without international handouts . . . Nobody needs them, or wants them.”
What alarms many authorities is that most poor nations are falling farther behind the rich ones. The incomes of people in Europe and North America have been much larger than the incomes of people in poor lands. And the gap is growing, not narrowing.
For example, statistics kept by the United Nations show that in a recent eight-year period, the income of the average person in the United States increased by an amount 25 times as large as that for the average person in Africa, 16 times as large as incomes in Asia, and 9 times as large as those in Latin America.
The same is true of food production. In a recent six-year period average food production per person grew by 9 percent in western Europe. But during that same time, it decreased by 5 percent in Africa. Latin America and the Near East showed no increase per person at all. And these figures were released before the disastrous food shortages of the recent past in Africa and parts of Asia.
Nor is it realistic for people in poor nations to think that someday they will have the material goods that wealthier nations have. If all nations were to produce the goods that the United States does, it would require world production of raw materials to increase at a fantastic rate. For instance, iron and zinc production would have to grow to about 75 times the present amount. There would have to be 200 times as much lead and 250 times as much tin. In view of the fact that even now the earth’s resources are under a strain to sustain the enormous and growing appetites of the industrial world, such an output to bring poor nations on a par with richer nations is presently beyond the realm of possibility.
Recently the oil-producing nations increased their prices for oil fourfold. This has proved to be a severe blow to the industrial nations. But to the poor nations it has proved to be a catastrophe. These nations were not paying their way even before that increase. That is why Chancellor Helmut Schmidt of West Germany said: “The developing countries are in danger of being left high and dry. Their very existence is threatened by increasing oil prices.”
These grim prospects for poor nations were noted by authors Paul Ehrlich and Dennis Pirages in their recent book Ark II. They pointed out:
“It is clear that cherished beliefs that the [poor nations] can some day catch up with the industrial counties are nothing more than myths propagated by the ‘haves’ to keep the ‘have nots’ in line.
“The data show that the gap between the rich nations and the poor nations is widening, not narrowing.”
The widening gap is also producing serious consequences for the richer nations. This is because of their growing dependence on the raw materials of the nations of the “Third World.” But now these nations have changed their attitudes about how their resources will be used, and paid for.
An example of this was the action taken by the oil-producing underdeveloped nations, sending shock waves throughout the industrial lands. For many decades the poorer oil-producing nations had to sell their oil at a relatively cheap price. But recently, these nations banded together and agreed to quadruple their prices. The shah of Iran voiced the changed attitude of such nations by saying: “The era of cheap oil is finished. We must add that the era of exploitation is finished.”
After observing what happened to oil prices, Chancellor Schmidt of West Germany stated: “The struggle over oil prices may be followed tomorrow by a similar struggle over the prices of other important raw materials.” That view was reinforced by the prime minister of Jamaica, which land is rich in the bauxite ore that produces aluminum. He declared:
“The underdeveloped nations can no longer continue to supply raw materials to developed countries on the old basis and, in an inflationary world, it is important to link the value of raw materials to the value of finished products.”
The poor nations have laid down a clear challenge to the rich nations. They will no longer passively accept what the industrial nations have assumed for more than two centuries. That assumption was that there would always be cheap raw materials available from the poor nations. No longer is this the case.
However, the dilemma of the poor nations is that most of them are not blessed with abundant raw materials. Most of them lack abundant mineral and oil resources. They are largely agricultural lands, and in bad years they have nothing to fall back on to sell to other nations. So they will not have the money to buy the food and other things they need to help them in bad years. That is just what is happening now to various countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Thus, in one poor nation an angry poet wrote: “How do we bear the hot sun? By being burned by it. How do we shield ourselves from the rain? By being drenched in it. How do we keep hunger away? By Starving. How do we cure diseases? By Death.”
How obvious it is that the system of things on earth today is not working! Mankind sorely needs a new system, one that can bring benefits to people of all nations. Only God’s incoming new order can, and will, do that.
[Box on page 9]
‘ARTICLES OF IMPEACHMENT AGAINST THE RICH NATIONS’
1. About one out of three babies born in poor nations dies before it is five years old;
2. For the children who do survive, says Dr. Mubashir Hasan, finance minister of Pakistan, “it is a life of deprivation, desperation and degradation. It is an intense but, mercifully, a short struggle, as their life expectancy is no more than thirty years”;
3. The growing catastrophe engulfing many African nations due to drought and mismanagement is beyond the imagination of the advanced nations. It is also a rebuke to the United Nations, which promised in its Charter to promote “a higher standard of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development”;
4. The nations of what used to be called the Christian West and now is called the Industrial West or the Developed or Advanced World are cheating the poor countries. How? By buying the raw materials and other products from the poor nations very cheap, and selling manufactured products back at a very high price;
5. The rich nations pay their workers from ten to twenty times as much as workers in poor countries are paid. If the pay were roughly equal, the poor countries would receive about $250 billion more each year for their work and products.