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The Forum > Article Comments > Plenty of aid, but is it for a 'Greater' Mekong? > Comments

Plenty of aid, but is it for a 'Greater' Mekong? : Comments

By Andrew Hewett, published 10/10/2007

The Australian Government has an obligation to ensure its new aid program in the Mekong does not create or perpetuate poverty.

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Andrew, I totally agree and thank you for posting this. Australia is about the launch a land certification project which may or may not be any good unless there is an independent appeal system by which people can withstand the pressures to forfeit land for the latest mad project which greases the already greasy palms of those in power. That is highly unlikely. So stories such as those coming from the Nam Ngum 2 project during which guns were used to push protesting villagers off their land so that the Thai military can build a dam are becoming increasingly common. My only fear is that the women are going to miss out as most of the Oz consultants that I have met are all blokes.. and the type of blokes that come here and take a mia noi.. hardly enlightened.

Instead Laos are resorting to burning logging trucks (with drivers inside) as a way of protesting their rage at loss of habitat. Australia though, is hardly a shining light of democratic values and equity or independent appeal systems. we might have forgot how to do it.

melody Vientiane.
Posted by melody, Saturday, 13 October 2007 5:36:17 PM
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What to do about aboriginal societies is a big question?
In an advancing economy and climate change these societies may wither and become extinct. We in Australia have the same problem perhaps not brought about by the same actions but the same problem exists.
China it is claimed values its ethnic minorities but builds dams that devastate communities of chinese.
Is there a country in the world who have an advancing economy and a contented minority living in a tradition that being hundreds of years old?
The socialist in me knows that my father and grandfather fought for the privilege I enjoy, the pension. I recognise it and hope others recognise the privileges they have had passed to them, however great or small.
I read of people being "fairly treated", compensated for their loss of lifestyle, are they happy to lose the old ways? I don't think so, sad isn't it. What to do?
It in a way has happened to me, I'm seventy five next month, I found a new lifestyle. I live on the pension and have no savings and little family support, religion, am I happy? you bet I am, never had it so good. I have peace of mind and confidence, I can do this forever, but maybe I can't? Some interfering bureaucrat may come one day and say move on. I will have to adapt, heaven forbid.
My little education is my support along with my life experience, which has taught me to believe being flexible is the only way to fly.
Please if I sound smug, I am.
Posted by fluff4, Thursday, 25 October 2007 11:52:21 AM
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Sorry I’m late, I hope you get notice of this post. It's a shame your article didn't generate more discussion. I have been studying history and politics for many years, particularly international relations, but I have only taken a serious look at local and global poverty in the last couple of years. I agree with much of what you have said, but I have a couple of questions.

You state, "in Sekong Province in Laos people derive enormous benefit from the forest, even though average annual incomes are little more than $150 per year." Poverty is defined as an income of $2 a day, ( 2.7 billion people,) and absolute poverty is $1 a day, (1.1 billion people.) But apparently, there are some living on less than 50c a day, who were doing just fine before we tried to help them with vast infrastructure projects, - “People used to be very happy.”

Therefore, shouldn’t NGO's such as Oxfam differentiate between people living on $1 a day next to a forest or among vast grasslands, and those living on $1 a day in the middle of a desert or in the vast slums of a third world city, and factor in these details regarding statistics on poverty? Or do slogans designed to encourage awareness of global poverty omit important details for the sake of a more powerful message?

Regarding infrastructure, surely it is a key to helping third world countries develop better living standards? One gets the impression from reading your article, and the two preceding posts, that you are romanticizing the way of life, and even the idea of, indigenous and ethnic minorities. Once an ethnic minority, always an ethnic minority… One gets the impression that when you state “communities know what’s best for them,” your busting to tell us what you think communities want. Is it a library, a women’s shelter, and help to grow more soy crops?

Talk of a more accessible complaints mechanism seems a bit wishy washy. Maybe you could model it on VCAT….

Please excuse my rudeness, but it’s a very frustrating topic.

Posted by dozer, Saturday, 3 November 2007 2:41:22 PM
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