Documentary Review: War By Other Means

War By Other Means

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War By Other Means is a 1992 documentary film by John Pilger and David Munro. In this documentary Jon Pilger points out that in the year of Live Aid in 1985 Africa gave twice as much to us as we gave to them. On Red Nose Day the 12m raised by the public came back in interest payments on loans. Developing countries pay more interest on loans then they ever receive in international aid.

Pilger sees the debt system as a form of war:

“In many ways it’s like a colonial war. The difference is that these days people and their resources are controlled not by Viceroys and occupying armies but by other, more sophisticated means of which the principal weapon is debt.”

Pilger traces the international debt system back to Bretton Woods in 1944 where the IMF and World Bank were formed.

The documentary looks at the effects of this system on the Philipines. 44 per cent of the Philipines national budget goes to paying interest on foreign debt. The effects are shown with graphic scenes of poverty. People are filmed picking through rubbish on ‘Smokey Mountain’ to find a few things to sell and buy food. Debt is rightly described as a contemporary form of slavery.

The effect of Structural Adjustment Plans is to make sure that debt repayment takes priority over everything else. No environmental or humanitarian concern is given greater weight than that goal.

Despite optimistic comments in this documentary from a World Bank interviewee little has changed. The Phillipines economy is still geared toward paying back interest payment on debt. Although it once boasted one of the region’s best-performing economies, the Philippines is saddled with a large national debt and tens of millions of people live in poverty. In 2004, public debt as a percentage of GDP was estimated to be 74.2%; in 2008, 56.9%.Gross external debt has risen to $66.27 billion and the daily income for 45% of the population of the Philippines remains less than $2.

Pilger makes a passionate case for debt cancellation. He argues that the World Bank and IMF should be abolished and replaced with a real development agency based on the national interest of the countries concerned. Watch and learn how developing nations are enslaved by debt and how we could help them.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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