California’s Energy Debacle Continues Andrea Cappannari

Despite the fact that California was spared the many days of rolling blackouts that experts predicted would hit the state during the summer of 2001, the region's energy supply has failed to stabilize. As the new year begins, the energy crisis in California has simply taken on a new form: a vast oversupply, the cost of which is being disproportionately borne by working people. According to a report issued in November by the state's Department of Water Resources (DWR), California will have a gross surplus of energy for the next nine years. The reason for this lies with the costly…

South African Finance Minister Admits he was Wrong

Finance minister Trevor Manuel advocated spending cuts, the dismantling of trade barriers and fighting inflation during the past six years, all under the guidance of World Bank economists. He is still waiting for the payoff. South Africa's economic growth has topped 4 percent only once since the mid-1990s. A third of the workforce is jobless. The government has faced a wave of strikes driven by anger at the slow gains in living standards since apartheid ended in 1994. Now, Manuel and even some World Bank officials say Africa's largest economy has not gained as expected from the lender's advice. Their…

Hearings Reveal Enron at Center of California Energy Crisis Andrea Cappannari

In a hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee on April 11, California Public Utilities Commission President Loretta Lynch and California Power Authority Chairman S. David Freeman charged that Enron Corporation's manipulation of the energy market was at the root of California's energy crisis last year. According to authorities, by late 2000 Enron oversaw 30 percent of energy bought and sold in the state's deregulated market, giving it enormous leverage over supply and pricing. California is currently demanding Enron and other energy suppliers refund the state $8.9 billion because of unfair trading practices. Wenonah Hauter, from the watchdog…

As Zambia Courts Western Markets, Used Goods Arrive at a Heavy Price Jon Jeter

The flea market here is as dark and hazy as an opium den, its flimsy tin roof turning back the midday sun as Edward Mansa robotically unbundles the shipment of secondhand clothes that has just arrived. The dull, red DKNY T-shirt catches his eye. "This," he says admiringly as he holds the shirt up to the dim light, "is not bad." He says he can probably get a dollar for it. The shapeless plaid skirt is another matter, however, as is the dowdy, ruffled blouse and the banana-yellow sport coat that causes Mansa to shudder. He'll be lucky to get…

While People Die due to Poor Sanitation, OECD Forces Privatisation

A recent report by a British relief and development agency brings out the plight of 2.4 billion people worldwide, almost all of them in Asia, Africa and Latin America, who suffer from poor sanitation and lack of clean drinking water. More than two million children die every year of diarrhoea and people suffering from water-borne diseases occupy half of the world's hospital beds, says the British Charity 'Water Aid and Tearfund’ in a report titled, The Human Waste. Rapid urbanisation is worsening the crisis. The Bangladesh capital Dhaka has seen its population grow from 250,000 in the early 1970s to…

Economics Behind the Siege of Ramallah

The ongoing siege of Ramallah by Israeli forces is not just about removing Yasser Arafat, whom Ariel Sharon has accused of siding with terrorists, from power. It is hardly the case that once Arafat is out, Israel will grant the Palestinians whatever they are asking for under their new leader. In fact the current siege is probably much less about "controlling terrorism" and much more about who will have control over natural resources like land and water, and also over human resources. Control over water and land seems to be the key issue. Ever since the Israelis captured the West…

Venezuelan Crisis: The oil factor

The oil sector is at the heart of the current political crisis in Venezuela in which President Chavez was first ousted by a coup on April 12, 2002 and then reinstated by a counter-coup, only two days later. Venezuela is the fourth largest oil exporter in the world. The critical importance of the oil sector for the national economy is underscored by the fact that oil generates nearly 75% of Venezuela's export revenue and 50% of its tax income. Additionally, Venezuela is an important overseas source of oil for the US, accounting for 13% of its fuel imports. Incidentally, one…

The Continuing Railtrack Saga: How the british people have paid for privatisation, as consumers and now as taxpayers

The declaration to privatise the railway system in Britain was one of the more spectacular – and symbolic – statements of Margaret Thatcher's government. It was seen as a confirmation of the belief that many public utilities and infrastructure services, which were earlier thought to be “natural monopolies,” could in fact be privatised, and subjected to competition through market forces. Of course, this was only one of the many privatisations that occurred in the period between 1979 and 1997. State assets were sold for a total of 65 billion pounds, and more than 1 million workers were transferred from public…

A Peculiar Economic Recovery in the US Nick Beams

Everything seems to be on the up and up so far as the recovery in the US economy is concerned. Last week the Commerce Department made a second revision of its estimate of the annual growth rate in the fourth quarter of last year, lifting it to 1.7 percent, compared with its initial estimate of only 0.2 percent. This was followed by the news this week that manufacturing activity in March rose to its highest level since February 2000 as factories boosted production to meet the biggest increase in demand for eight years. One of the key indicators of future…

World Bank / IMF Threw Colombia Into Tailspin Tony Avirgan

As the United States drifts deeper into the Colombian quagmire of drugs and war, policymakers need to take a new look at the problems of poverty, joblessness, and hopelessness that have made that country such a trouble-spot. And, if they explore how unemployment in Colombia almost doubled from 10.5% in 1990 to 19.7% in 2000, they will find a surprising pair of culprits: not drug kingpins, leftist guerillas, or right-wing death squads, but the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, which sponsored draconian "economic reforms" that damaged the nation'sindustries and agriculture. The policies promoted by these international lenders, including…