Development cooperation as a form of colonialism

Development cooperation as a form of colonialism

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By Rafael Carrasco Quesada

That much of the planet lives under intolerable limits of poverty is an unquestionable fact. But the solutions that are proposed go through the imitation and imposition of European models, extremely dependent on the "laws of the market" and technology, and which involve enormous investments, financed by international organizations, in exchange for fulfilling neoliberal restructuring plans of the economy and the implementation of social, cultural and consumption patterns in most cases far removed from their traditional ways of life.

That much of the planet lives under intolerable limits of poverty is an unquestionable fact. But the solutions that are proposed in innumerable and endless world congresses, international conferences, summit meetings, universal symposia, or whatever the media term of the moment, always go through the imitation and imposition of European models, extremely dependent on the "laws of the market" and technology, and that involves huge investments (financed by international organizations in exchange for fulfilling neoliberal plans to restructure the economy) and the implementation of social, cultural and consumer guidelines in most cases far removed of their traditional ways of life.
The reasons why all the solutions completely ignore any other type of economic measures and models are multiple (the "natural" character of the market economy, the integration of the Third World in international spheres) but they all coincide in using as argumentative evidence the "success" of the model in the West. However, an analysis of the situation not based on an uncritical communion with the ideas of the free market or the interests of Western corporations, points to a clear and deliberate strategy: to perpetuate the economic situation created by colonialism, camouflaging it under the promise of development. .

Development: origin and diffusion of the concept

"The old imperialism - exploitation for foreign profit no longer has a place in our plans. What we think is a development program based on the concepts of democratic fair treatment. [1]" In 1949, just five years after the World War II, the American leadership in all areas (political, economic, social, cultural) is indisputable. Its only possible competitor, Europe, is torn and impoverished after a conflict that has left millions of dead, and thanks to US aid it is preparing for the largest reconstruction work undertaken to date. As a result of this situation, the United States feels entitled to claim its position as hegemonic power, based on its role as defenders of freedoms, against the recently defeated Nazism, and against the expansion of the communist bloc. To consolidate this hegemony, a global political campaign is launched, the idea of ​​development, with the meaning that is understood today, and that is presented for the first time in its new form in the inauguration speech (I underline the symbolic charge of the chosen moment, in the line of the most brilliant publicity campaigns) of the American president Harry Truman. But the modern and humanitarian concept assumes an evident continuity with the system of exploitation that prevailed in the last century, and in reality hides a reformulation of a Western project of proven efficacy, colonialism, or imperialism, according to Marxist terminology.

By appropriating a Marxist political and philosophical proposal, North American politics manages to change the perception that most of the planet [2] has of itself, turning it overnight into underdeveloped (that is, not organized according to the American capitalist model -industrial-democratic-consumerist) and present its hegemonic program as a project to direct it on the path of prosperity and freedom. They are key to the appearance of the term, both the historical context of the moment (the Cold War) and a series of factors and historical facts, relevant antecedents in its conception: the colonization of Africa in the 19th century, the attempts to repulse European trade in China and Japan, the industrialism of the early 20th century, or the role of the Hollywood propaganda apparatus, to name a few.

This process of propaganda diffusion turns the concept of development into a de facto truth, assumed for decades as the only paradigm of economic organization and evolution. The notion of development thus comes to be equated with the concept of evolution, and even used to define human activity in general.

The implementation of development

"By the middle of the 20th century, European traders and investors could successfully operate within the political framework provided by most of the rebuilt indigenous states as their predecessors would have wanted to operate a century earlier, but without having to deal with the problems they had made. a formal empire is necessary. [3] "Imperialist colonialism of the 19th and 20th centuries, once local economies and traditional societies have been dismantled, gives way to a more subtle form of colonialism, less costly to maintain at the political level and military, more politically acceptable and consistent with the staunch defense of democracy in Western countries, and more efficient for the penetration of European markets, which have all the advantages in an economy governed by fair competition and a free market . Obviously, countries with high levels of industrialization and production are the most inclined to defend a free market, and to promote it through the promotion of economic development.

This process of implementation of the development model is carried out through methods of proven efficacy: destruction of local economies, tightening the ties of dependency with the old metropolis to the maximum; favoring the conversion of local elites to "developmentalism", who happen, suitably armed, to act as representatives of the developing powers (the examples are innumerable: Argentina, El Salvador, Chile ...); support for coups, in order to overthrow unfavorable governments, with the help of the elites mentioned above (sadly, the examples are also innumerable: Chile, Venezuela, Haiti ...); direct military intervention, when none of the above measures have worked. But without a doubt the method that exemplifies this new type of colonialism is the system of loans with the name of "aid", granted to the pro-development elites when they come to power, and which in return makes markets completely available to the powers. and natural and human resources, and that it should be used for projects that promote economic development, and returned in dollars.

As Goldsmith argues, there is no compelling reason to argue that foreign loans, even at low interest rates, translate into economic growth, much less poverty eradication, or that debt can be paid off by increasing exports. Among the newly industrializing countries, only South Korea accepted sizeable loans for its exit from underdevelopment; however, countries typically exemplified by their rapid ascent to the first world, such as Taiwan or Singapore, did not resort to huge international loans to do so [4].

Much of this money is usually used in commissions to members of the elites (again, countless examples: Saddam, Suharto, Marcos), weapons to maintain the repression, and projects, in most cases, unviable, contracted to companies. foreign. Many of the countries that received these loans in the 1970s were military dictatorships, such as the Philippines, El Salvador, Chile or Uruguay, loans supposedly destined for development but mostly used to finance "counterinsurgency" operations. In this way, countries now democratic or in the process of democratization are in the terrible situation of having to allocate a large part of their GDP to repay the debt that their dictators contracted and spent on arms for their repression. Many economic and political analysts use the term "immoral loan" to refer to this practice as "development aid".

The host country tends to see its debt increased to the point of allocating a large part of its GDP to its payment, and to see its economy intervened by international organizations at the service of pro-development interests, such as the IMF or the World Bank, until reaching the situation of over-indebtedness, in which a country's debt exceeds its ability to pay it in the future. For every dollar that is sent in aid to sub-Saharan Africa, 1.5 goes to cover the debt (Noreen Heertz, The Debt Threat: How Debt is Destroying the World). The average debt in Latin America accounts for 177 percent of its gross domestic product (WEO, 2006).

Once this situation of over-indebtedness has been reached, the indebted country becomes a de facto colony of the lender countries, which demand economic concessions of all kinds, and subject their weak economies to drastic reconversions, in exchange for meager facilities in the debt payment. The ability of global financial institutions to impose strong economic sanctions on defaulting countries, annihilating their only source of income (the export of raw materials), are more than enough motivation for indebted countries not to delay in paying a debt whose interests already exceed any possible repayment capacity.

The direct intervention of transnational corporations, which exercise direct control of resources instead of national states (as in the era of formal colonialism) eliminates any type of responsibility and transparency in their management, while avoiding the contradictions involved in defending democracy and the equality of peoples, while condemning most of them to dependency and poverty.

A novel factor is the introduction of the humanitarian element, whereby the NGOs act as intermediaries between the recipient country and international aid, usually in the role of consultants, with exorbitant salaries for the recipient country, and little knowledge of the terrain and its resources. cultural idiosyncrasies.

Similarly, humanitarian aid campaigns after natural disasters or war conflicts, previously led by the UN with the help of NGOs, are now managed by private companies subcontracted by cooperating countries. Under the pretense of rebuilding the area, the cooperation is rapidly transformed into a complete reconversion of the local economy, privatizing public resources, and practically rebuilding the affected countries from scratch (literally creating new territories) always for the benefit of the countries "in solidarity" or of the corporations they represent. Shalmali Guttal, a Bangalorean researcher working for the NGO Focus on the Global South comments: "Before we had vulgar colonialism. Now we have this sophisticated colonialism, which they call reconstruction" [5]. Naomi Klein calls this new strategy "disaster capitalism."

The cases are as numerous as recent: Afghanistan, Iraq, Haiti, those affected by the 2005 tsunami, such as Sri Lanka or Thailand ... and it does not only affect underdeveloped countries, such as the case of Hurricane Katrina in the United States. of humanitarian aid to those affected by the floods in Myanmar, and in the face of the resistance of the Military Junta to allow the entry of international aid workers, international pressure increased exponentially to the point of combining the idea of ​​a "justified" military intervention in the country. The fact that Myanmar is the last area in Southeast Asia where corporations do not roam at ease is certainly a mere coincidence.

The conclusion is simple: in any of its new formulations, development is a form of colonialism, since it shares its objectives and methods, implemented by multinational companies, local elites, and opaque and undemocratic global institutions like the World Bank or the Monetary Fund. International, and imposed, if necessary, by force of arms. A comparative analysis of a significant number of specific actions of both systems of economic control in developing countries should yield more than enough evidence to establish the validity of this statement.

Rafael Carrasco studies Humanities at the Pablo de Olavide University, Seville. This article was originally published in the written version of the Pueblos Magazine in its number 34, September 2008.

[1] Truman, Harry S. (1967): Investiture Speech, January 20, 1949, in Documents on American Foreign Relations, Connecticut, Princeton University Press.
[2] Some countries, especially the communist bloc, refused to recognize themselves as underdeveloped. Cuban director Tomas Gutiérrez Alea masterfully satirized the American idea in his film Memories of Underdevelopment (1968).
[3] Own translation of the text by Fieldhouse, D. K., Economics and Empire, 1830 to 1914. Macmillan, London, 1984, cited in "Development as Colonialism", The Ecologist Vol. 27 No. 2, March / April 1997.
[4] Goldsmith in The Case Against the Global Economy and for a Turn Towards Localisation, Earthscan, London, 2001.
[5] Quoted in The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, Naomi Klein. Published in The Nation, May 2, 2005

Video: What Countries Will Be Colonized In The Next Decades? What If (June 2022).


  1. Voodoole

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  2. Olaf

    I can't resolve.

  3. Barrick

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  4. Tok

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  5. Arnon

    It's not quite what I need.

  6. Benny

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