Economists’ conference in Havana

Global crisis: the main protagonist

4 March 2009 by Deisy Francis , Susana Lee

José Ramón Machado Ventura, Leonel Fernández y Esteban Lazo.

Th global economic crisis was the main protagonist on the first day of Globalización 2009, the 9th International Conference of Economists on Globalization and Development Problems, presided over by First Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura; Dominican President Leonel Fernández Reyna; Cuban Vice President Esteban Lazo Hernández; Nobel Laureates in economics Edmund Phelps and Robert Mundell; Roberto Verrier Castro, president of the conference organizing committee, and others.

In four lectures and a panel discussion examining from different angles the causes, impact and possible solutions to the crisis, and contributions by other participants that sparked debate, there was agreement on the gravity of the complex international economic and financial situation, which has intensified in recent months, while the diverse approaches confirmed from the start the validity of this coming together of ideas.

The shake-up on Wall Street has thrown the global establishment into turmoil. In ruling circles, panic and alarmist statements predominate. They all register the presence of an event that could spark a new era. The victims are not responsible for this crisis. It is necessary to find the required solutions to the many effects on the world’s population.

In a welcoming speech, Roberto Verrier noted that the conference would attempt to “insist on finding answers to basic questions of our time, many of which were raised a decade ago, as an initial challenge, by the promoter and founder of these meetings, Fidel Castro Ruz.”

He stated that the problem today “is not a recession or a depression, but a free fall of the economy, which has not yet touched bottom, and there is no clear sign of when it will do so; in the meantime, all indicators continue to worsen, especially unemployment, which has now exceeded the levels of the 1974-1975 crisis.

The first guest speaker was Edmund Phelps of the United States, winner of the 2006 Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences, who has attended three of these conferences. His presentation was titled “Altruism and Social Responsibility.”

Phelps insisted that he had not come to the conference to provide formulas, and suggested the idea that “shortcomings in personal responsibility played a role in the financial crisis that began in the United States and spread throughout the rest of the world.”

As part of a panel discussion on “From the Financial Crisis to the Global Economic Crisis: Impact and Lessons,” Claudio Katz from Argentina, in describing the current context, focused on the fact that recent months have been marked not only by tax fraud and the scandalous use of public funds, but also credit is being frozen and governments continue to make up for losses. However, he said, “There is not enough public money to remedy so much bankruptcy.”

One interesting idea at this juncture is the “scenario of social struggles approaching in the First World” due to the outrage, higher unemployment and increasing poverty generated by the crisis. Worldwide, there is a sense of fear, xenophobia and popular mobilizations that could reach capitalism’s major centers.

We cannot vindicate a system that generates these intense crises; the time has come to go back to the socialist project and to seek a society based on justice, democracy and equality,” he affirmed.

Another panelist, Jan Kregel, from the United States, said the response to the crisis must be representative, and include all countries and peoples of the world. Christian Ghymers, of Belgium, tried to give a “European viewpoint” of the crisis, which is “not limited to a traditional, situational recession,” and which is like “a tsunami that began in the United States and is invading all of us.”

In the debate following the panel presentations, Eric Toussaint, also from Belgium and president of the Committee for the Cancellation of the Third World Debt, expressed his disagreement with blaming the victims for the onset of the crisis.

For his part, Samir Amin, president of the Third World Forum, maintained that the idea is to try to restore the system and make it like it was before. However, the well-known Egyptian professor said, “We have moved into a new stage of capitalism, which is obsolete as a system.”

Amir began the second part of the session with his lecture, “Financial Crisis? Systemic Crisis?” He commented on the most recent crises of the capitalist system leading up to today: “Today we face the same challenge in a more dramatic and severe magnitude.”

Amir listed the effects on the energy sector, climate change, food and the attack by agribusiness on agriculture-based economies.

Another speaker was Pedro Páez, president of Ecuador’s Presidential Technical Commission for Configuring Components of the International Financial Architecture. Páez gave an extensive presentation on the origins of the crisis, the vulnerability of the capitalist system and the role of social movements in finding solutions, among other issues.

The last presentation on the first day of Globalización 2009 was given by Alí Rodríguez, Venezuelan minister of economy and finances, who commented on severe disruptions to the U.S. economy since the 1950s, when a sustained decline in production began, leading up to its current financial crisis, now a global economic crisis, and the social effects.

Translated by Granma International

Fuente : Granma International




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