Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category
Annual Report Reveals Big Increase in Trade
By Father John Flynn, L.C.
ROME, JULY 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- World military expenditure grew 3.5% in 2006, reaching $1,204 billion. On June 11 the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute published the latest edition of its annual yearbook that provides an ample panorama of armaments and global security issues.
Last year’s increase means that between 1997-2006 world military expenditure rose by 37%. Moreover, almost 50% more conventional weapons were transferred internationally in 2006 than in 2002.
Elisabeth Sköns, one of those involved in writing the report, commented: “It is worth asking how cost-effective military expenditure is as a way of increasing the security of human lives, if we talk about avoiding premature deaths and disability due to current dangers.”
“For example, we know that millions of lives could be saved through basic health interventions that would cost a fraction of what the world spends on military forces every year,” she said in a press release accompanying the report’s publication.
The report pointed out that world military expenditure is unevenly distributed to an extreme degree. In 2006, the 15 countries with the highest spending accounted for 83% of the global total. The United States spent $528.7 billion. Military spending by the U.S. has increased sharply due to the cost of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The report noted that in 2006 China’s military expenditure continued to increase rapidly, reaching $49.5 billion. For the first time it surpassed that of Japan ($43.7 billion), thus making China the biggest military spender in Asia and the fourth biggest in the world. In fact, Japan decreased its military spending last year, for the fifth consecutive year. India was the third biggest spender in Asia, at $23.9 billion.
The arms sales of the 100 largest arms-producing companies in the world (figures for 2005) increased by 3% in real terms compared to 2004, and by 18% for 2002. American companies dominate the top 100 with 40 U.S. firms accounting for 63% of the groups’ arms sales of $290 billion in 2005.
Some 32 Western European companies accounted for another 29% and 9 Russian companies for 2%. Companies based in Japan, Israel and India, in descending order, accounted for most of the remaining 6% of world arms sales.
The report explained that an important factor behind changes in the arms industry is the high and rising costs of advanced weapon systems. In fact, most governments cannot afford to maintain their current levels of arms procurement due to the increasing costs.
In terms of the international trade in conventional arms, the United States and Russia were the largest suppliers in the five-year period of 2002-2006, each accounting for around 30% of global deliveries. Exports from European Union members to non-European Union countries accounted for just over 20% arms delivered. The list of the top-10 arms importers is headed by China and India, but there were also five Middle Eastern countries in the top 10.
The report added that 2006 saw new attention given to the problem of state supplies of weapons to rebel groups, due to the arsenal acquired by Hezbollah from Iran and used in its war with Israel. There is little transparency regarding arms transfers, the report lamented. Although there were improvements in this area in the 1990s, with more and better national reports by countries on their exports no further progress has been made in recent years.
The situation regarding nuclear weapons is worrying, the report commented. In October 2006 North Korea carried out a nuclear test explosion. The explosion followed a series of ballistic missile flight-tests. In addition, Iran has ended the voluntary suspension of its uranium enrichment program.
When it comes to chemical weapons there is concern that the deadline of April 2012 for the destruction of all these arms, established by the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, will not be met by all states.
Regarding biological weapons the report noted that efforts continue in terms of improving surveillance and response, and talks continue regarding non-proliferation and disarmament measures. Nevertheless, there is little reliable public information on the attempts to acquire, develop or use such weapons.
Talks also continued last year to control or reduce conventional weapons, but they continued to remain stalled according to the report. On the positive side, however, the number of states adhering to the 1997 Anti-Personnel Mines Convention is rising. The report also noted that interest in humanitarian efforts to contain the scourge of what it termed “inhumane weapons” is steadily growing.
During the last year, Vatican representatives have intervened on a number of occasions during meetings of the United Nations to put forward the Church’s position regarding armaments.
Last October 6 Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, spoke before the General Assembly’s first commission during a session devoted to disarmament and international security.
He commented that some of the efforts to control arms have failed. For example, last summer’s meetings on the issue on small arms did not produce any concrete results. Moreover, arms expenditures continue to be high.
“Too often, the debates over small arms and nuclear weapons are carried on in abstract terms from preconceived positions and there is little sign of willingness to learn,” said Archbishop Migliore.
He did, however, observe that on the positive side the number of conflicts between states is declining. As well, peacekeeping missions are controlling wars in many places. The Vatican representative urged the United Nations to continue efforts at dialogue on arms issues, noting in particular the urgency of taking steps to control the proliferation of nuclear arms.
Just a few days later, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace published a statement supporting a U.N. resolution on the international control of the import, export and transfer of conventional weapons.
In the statement, dated Oct. 10, 2006, the council noted that over the past decades many millions of deaths have resulted from conflicts in which conventional weapons were used. There are, in fact, the document stated, few controls over the sale of such weapons and no effective monitoring system for conventional arms trading.
“Weapons cannot be considered as any other good exchanged on the global, regional or national market,” the statement declared. “Their possession, production and trade have deep ethical and social implications and they must be regulated by paying due attention to specific principles of the moral and legal order,” the council exhorted.
On the matter of nuclear arms, Monsignor Michael W. Banach addressed a meeting May 1 of the United Nations held in Vienna to review the treaty on the non-proliferation of these weapons.
He commented on the importance of both nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, not only in order to defeat nuclear terrorism, but also as an important step in realizing “a culture of life and of peace capable of promoting in an effective way the integral development of peoples.”
“The truth of peace requires that all — whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them — agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament,” Monsignor Banach stated. As the latest data on arms sales reveals, achieving this truth of peace remains an elusive, but urgent, goal.
Pope Offers Guidelines
By Father John Flynn, L.C.
ROME, JUNE 24, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Confrontations over globalization no longer make headlines, but many concerns remain over the future of the world economy. In past months the question of growing economic inequality has come under increasing attention.
Globalization has delivered many benefits, argued a front-page article published May 24 by the Wall Street Journal. The article did concede, however: “As trade, foreign investment and technology have spread, the gap between economic haves and have-nots has frequently widened, not only in wealthy countries like the United States, but in poorer ones like Mexico, Argentina, India and China as well.”
The experience of the last few years is showing that those with education and skills benefit from globalization. Others, without these advantages, are not so fortunate. While not forgetting the benefits of globalization for many millions of people, the Wall Street Journal also expressed concern that the growing inequalities could provoke a backlash that would damage trade and investment.
Earlier this year, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke also warned of problems stemming from economic inequality. In a speech given Feb. 6 to the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce in Nebraska, Bernanke defended the idea that the free market does not guarantee an equality of economic outcomes, allowing as it does the possibility for unequal rewards due to differences in effort and skill.
Slipping down the ladder
“That said, we also believe that no one should be allowed to slip too far down the economic ladder, especially for reasons beyond his or her control,” he added in the text posted on the Federal Reserve Board site.
Outlining evidence from a variety of sources, the Federal Reserve chairman pointed out that over the last few decades economic well-being in the United States has increased considerably. At the same time, he observed that “the degree of inequality in economic outcomes has increased as well.”
Bernanke admitted the difficulty of resolving the question of how to maintain a balance between a market system that uses economic incentives and stimulates growth, and the need to protect individuals against adverse economic outcomes.
Proposing solutions to this problem involves value judgments beyond the realm of economic theory, Bernanke concluded. He did, however, suggest a range of possible measures, ranging from education and job training, to helping individuals and families bear the cost of economic change, as ways to affront the problem of inequality.
A similar position was expressed in an opinion article by Danny Leipziger and Michael Spence, published in the Financial Times on May 15. The authors, respectively a vice president at the World Bank and a 2001 Nobel laureate in economics, argued that in the globalization debate the most important issue is “who benefits and who loses.”
“Globalization is a positive sum game in the aggregate but one that produces both winners and losers,” they also observed.
Leipziger and Spence supported improvements in education to help workers affront the current situation. In addition, they called for better safety nets, more investment in infrastructure and assured access to services such as health care.
Dignity of the person
Amid the ongoing debate over issues of economics and ethics, Benedict XVI has addressed these issues on several occasions in recent months. On May 26 he spoke to a group of young people from Confindustria, the General Confederation of Italian Industry.
Every business, the Pope noted, should be considered first and foremost as a group of people, whose rights and dignity should be respected. Human life and its values, the Pontiff continued, should always be the guiding principle and end of the economy.
In this context, Benedict XVI acknowledged that for business, making a profit is a value that they can rightly put as an objective of their activity. At the same time the social teaching of the Church insists that businesses must also safeguard the dignity of the human person, and that even in moments of economic difficulties, business decisions must not be guided exclusively by considerations of profit.
The Pope also dealt briefly with the theme of globalization. This is a phenomenon, he commented, that gives hope of a wider participation in economic development and riches. It is a process not without its risks, however, leading in some cases to worsening economic inequality. Echoing the words of Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI called for a globalization characterized by solidarity and without marginalization of people.
Other principles that need to guide the economy are justice and charity, Benedict XVI explained in a message, dated April 28, to the president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Mary Ann Glendon. The letter was sent on the occasion of the plenary session of the academy, held April 27-May 1.
The pursuit of justice and the promotion of the civilization of love, the message stated, are essential aspects of the Church’s mission in its proclamation of the Gospel. Justice and love cannot be separated, the Pope observed, because of the Church’s experience of how the two were united in “the revelation of God’s infinite justice and mercy in Jesus Christ.”
Justice, he continued, must be “corrected” by love, a love which inspires justice and purifies our efforts to build a better society. “Only charity can encourage us to place the human person once more at the center of life in society and at the center of a globalized world governed by justice,” the Pope stated.
The Pope took a closer look at some of the problems facing workers in a couple of speeches earlier this year. In a message dated March 28, sent to participants in the 9th International Youth Forum organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Benedict XVI commented that in recent years economic and technological changes have radically changed the labor market.
This has given hope to young people, the Pontiff conceded, but it also brings with it the need for greater skills and education, and the demand that workers be prepared to travel, even to other countries, in searching for jobs.
Work, he explained, is part of God’s plan for humanity and through it we participate in the work of creation and redemption. We will live this better, the Pope urged, if we remain united to Christ through prayer and sacramental life.
Then, on March 31, Benedict XVI spoke to a gathering of Confartigianato, an association of Italian artisans. Work is part of God’s plan for man, even if because of original sin it has become more of a burden, the Pope explained.
It is important, he exhorted, to proclaim the primacy of the human person and the common good over capital, science, technology and even private ownership. As Christians, we can testify to the “Gospel of work,” in our daily lives, the Pope reminded them.
The Pontiff also had words for those directing workers, in an address to a group from the Italian group, the Christian Union of Business Executives on March 4. Justice and charity, the Pope said, are inseparable elements in the social commitment of Christians.
“It is incumbent on lay faithful in particular to work for a just order in society, taking part in public life in the first person, cooperating with other citizens and fulfilling their own responsibility,” said the Pope.
“Unfortunately, partly because of current economic difficulties, these values often run the risk of not being followed by those business persons who lack a sound moral inspiration,” he also noted. Values which, together with sound economic policies, could go a long way in finding solutions to the ethical challenges in a globalized world.