War By Other Means

“Remember Live Aid in 1985, that symbol of concern and generosity? Did you know that during that year the hungriest countries in Africa gave twice as much money to us in the developed world as we gave to them?”

The issue of Third World debt is taken up by John Pilger in War by Other Means, which reveals that the money owed to the rich world by the Third World is far greater than the aid or charitable donations they receive. In the Philippines, he discovers that 60 per cent of the government’s budget goes in paying off the interest on an un-repayable debt incurred by the Marcos regime, leaving little money for housing and public services.

Pilger meets a family living on a rubbish heap on Smoky Mountain, in Manila Bay, without clean water or sanitation – just a few among the 70 per cent of the population who live in poverty. This has risen under President Cory Aquino, who has given priority to paying off the banks. International Monetary Fund policies are estimated to lose 500,000 workers their jobs this year, which will lead to more children on the streets, some taking drugs and others turning to prostitution.

Examples of the United States using the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to shore up support for its foreign policy include billions wiped off Egypt’s debt and Iran and China given loans in return for backing in the Gulf War. Yemen’s vote against a UN resolution to go to war resulted in American aid being stopped to one of the world’s poorest countries.

With debtor countries postponing their debts, the only solution, says Pilger, is for those to be written off completely or repayments channelled back into genuine development that puts food growing, health and education before so-called economic growth – and the World Bank and IMF should be replaced by a non-profit-making, real development agency free from political strings.

War by Other Means (Viewpoint 92, Central Independent Television), ITV, 19 May 1992

Producer-director: David Munro (52 mins)