«ANSA Alternatives to Neo-liberalism in Southern Africa The search for Sustainable human development in Southern Africa Editors: Godfrey Kanyenze, ...»
5.3 Trade in services (GATS) The introduction of GATS into the multilateral trading system has brought a lot of controversy. It goes beyond just the fact that the agreement is gender neutral. GATS represent the outright selling of the people’s socioeconomic rights. The fact that once agreed and signed, the agreement is legally binding is not reversible. The penalties of non-compliance under GATS are financial and heavier than those of the other existing trade agreements under the WTO. Table 9 below summaries the specific commitments that have been made by Southern African countries under
Possible alternatives in AOA:
• Trade policies on agriculture should be gender sensitive, i.e. the role of women in agriculture should be considered in trade policy formulation process and not taken as given. There is need to correctly qualify and quantify the impact of AOA on men and on women, on small and on large-scale commercial farmers. Governments should be given the national sovereignty to support disadvantage groups in the agricultural sector;
• There must a development Box added to the overall AOA’s three boxes (the amber, blue and green boxes) i.e. there is need to consider issues such as food security, poverty, sustainable livelihoods, rural development;
• Export incentives/promotions should be awarded in a gender sensitive manner. Women should be given higher access to credit, finance, land rights, farming inputs and access to international market information;
• Export promotion of cash crops should be implemented in a gender sensitive way, i.e. there must the a concurrent promotion of the continued production of food crops;
• Developed countries must in practice promote market access for agricultural products from developing countries;
• There is need for the reform of CAP, to promote increased market access and reduce (eliminate) the current over subsidisation and support offered to farmers in the European Union, which creates unfair trade competition against farmers from developing countries;
• Special Differential Treatment should be retained until there is equity amongst the trading members of the multilateral trading system.
From table 11, it can be noted that the major countries within Southern Africa have made commitments in at least one area that is crucial to the livelihood of Southern African women. There are countries such as South Africa, Lesotho, Malawi and Zambia, which seem to have offered quite more than others. It is rather disturbing to note that given the current flaws of the WTO trade regime, sectors such as education, health, tourism have been offered under the WTO. These are fundamental sectors that support the roles and responsibilities of women within the Southern African region. Currently, the majority of women in Southern Africa cannot afford to access education, health and many other social services, yet it seems that there is a lot of speculation that liberalising trade within the sectors will improve access and the quality of these services. However, whose responsibility will it be to prevent the closure of small to medium enterprises that are within these sectors? It is critical that the sustainable affordability of these services be maintained, especially for the rural poor, women, children, the physically challenged and poor men, who are often simply classified as the disadvantaged.
Table 11. Summary of specific commitments.
All sectors for Southern African countries in the WTO
Other critics have pointed out that despite specific commitments made by governments under GATS, services that were not eluded to will, in fact, be covered under the trade agreement. What is even more disconcerting is the fact that government cannot legally withdraw or change their decisions once they have been made under the trade agreement. For example, Lesotho cannot later decide to remove its offer to the educational sector! One of the rising concerns under GATS is the push toward the privatisation of all services within the Southern Countries to promote the liberation of the service sector. Past experiences within Southern Africa have shown that privatisation has often resulted in disastrous socio-economic results. Women have been found to be the most negatively affected as they rely heavily of the public provision of many of these social services. In addition, the public sector has also been a reliable source of income and employment security for many women.
Hence the privatisation of these services that has lead to the retrenchment of many employees, means that many exiting avenues for women to access better employment will be closed.
Case Study. The privatisation of water in South Africa
South African scientists have documented what organisations have warned about for years: water privatisation in African countries means denying access to safe drinking water to the poor. In South Africa alone, there have been 10 million water cuts since commercialisation started in 1994. Edward Cottle of the Johannesburg-based Rural Development Services Network today presented a study about the consequences of water privatisation in South Africa at the Copenhagen EU SADC Civil Society Conference. The conclusion is bad news for Africa's millions of poors; with a cementation of the "full cost recovery" approach to water utilities all over Africa, poor households stand less chances of getting access to safe drinking water or may even lose the water access they had. The reasons for the lowered access to water after privatisation are twofold.
First, the "full cost recovery" model means cutting water to those not paying water bills. Property and eviction from resident homes can be part of the legal process to recover debt from customers. Mr Cottle says that "since 1994 over 10 million South Africans have had their water and 2 million South Africans have been evicted from their homes" for not paying their water bills.
Tariffs generally increase during the commercialisation phase prior to privatisation, only to increase more after privatisation. The black townships in Fort Beaufort had seen an increase in service charges by 600% between 1994 and 1996, the time of privatisation. Similar trends have been noted in most towns and cities where water utilities are being commercialised or privatised.
Other conference delegates added that this limitation of access to clean drinking water had already led to a return to the use of unsafe water sources all over Southern Africa. "A rising consumption of sources that contain discharge water are the consequences," studies had shown. The worst example of the health consequences of less access to clean drinking water in South Africa was given during the outbreak of cholera in the year 2000. Over 120,000 people were infected and 290 people died during the outbreak. Studies showed that, in the most affected areas, many people had returned to the use of unsafe water sources as they could not afford safe water. The Free Water Policy implemented by the South African government since July 2001 was not a solution to the growing problem, Mr Cottle said. The scheme's free allocation of 6000 litres of water per household per month "does not even meet basic sanitation requirements," given that the average poor household had eight members.
Water privatisation was following the same principles of 'full cost recovery' including price hikes and large-scale water disconnections - in all Southern African countries studied. According to information gathered during the study, South Africa has a total of five privatised programmes making it the biggest in the region. Angola has two planned private ventures, Malawi has one, Mauritius aaaaaaaaaaa Case Study. The privatisation of water in South Africa (continued) one, Mozambique two, Namibia one, Tanzania has three planned and Zambia has two privatised ventures. A private operator had however withdrawn from Zimbabwe owing to the inability to make profit there. Pressure was high from all the important players to continue the privatisation programmes all over Africa, despite the negative experiences already known. The 'full cost recovery' principle was originally introduced as a World Bank conditions for obtaining credit and it remains an absolute condition among the Bank, the IMF and principle was originally introduced as a World Bank condition for obtaining credit and it remains an absolute condition among the Bank, the IMF and recently also of aid agencies such as USAID, Britain's DFID, Germany's GTZ and the EU as a donor agency. Curiously, the privatisation of water utilities is an unusual phenomenon worldwide, especially in rich countries. Only an estimated 5% of the world's water resources are in private hands. Industrialised countries, where the largest private water operators have their headquarters, are increasingly pushing for privatisation in developing countries. The policy has however even been widely endorsed by African governments, the latest as part of the official NEPAD credo. According to Mr Cottle, the "emerging African bourgeoisie" had also shown a growing interest in the scramble for Africa's water.
Civil society however was mobilising resistance. Also in other African countries, resistance to water privatisation is growing. In Ghana, government has been forced to halt its privatisation schemes due to civil society protest, although there now is another try to go ahead. In Tanzania, civil society is mobilising, as the consequences of the commercialisation of the Dar es Salaam water utility are getting understood. Privatisation schemes are however under way all over Africa, from Mauritania to São Tomé and Mozambique. The policy of cost recovery must be scrapped, Mr Cottle says, addressing the South African and other governments. "The policy of cost recovery has already proven itself to be unworkable especially, in the African context." It was time to once again "prioritise public-sector delivery."
Source: Copenhagen conference, Mr Cottle and afrol archives
5.4 Possible alternatives to GATS If the welfare of the people would be at the basis of the multilateral trading system, GATS should not be part of the WTO agenda. Members of developing countries should aim to improve their own internal infrastructure to cater to the needs of the service sector. In addition, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to improve the equitable access to resources in the service sector by all members in the disadvantaged groups within the Southern African region.
pander Nonetheless, since commitments have already been made and governments will continue renegotiating specified commitments (in line with the political dynamics of the WTO), Southern African governments should (with specific reference to ‘Services and Gender’) aim at the
• The protection of social services such as health and education should be a priority under GATS. It is imperative that health and educational services be made available and accessible to the poor and to women. The private sector must operate in a regulated framework in which access and affordability are treated as key prerequisites, especially for primary health care, preventive health services and maternal heath services. Although GATS stipulates that government regulation is acceptable as long as it does not become a barrier to trade, this very condition will seriously restrict governments’ regulatory space.
• There must be continued support of internal systems that promote the growth of small-medium enterprises. The role of women’s work in the informal sector must be acknowledged and workers rights within these sectors must be protected.
5.5 Women and Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) African, Caribbean Pacific Countries are currently negotiating an EPAs agreement as the end of the interim agreement after the fourth Lome Convention comes to an end in 2008. EPAs are the follow-up to the Cotonou Agreement, which in turn is the successor to the Lome Conventions. The most prominent EPA is the removal of non-reciprocal trade. Very few impact assessment studies have been done to analyse the possible impact of EPAs on Southern Africa, let alone the impact of EPAs on women in Southern Africa. It is important to point out that EPAs have already led to the fragmentation of the SADC, with some member states negotiating under ESA, others within the BLNS-configuration (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland), some have remained within the SADC configuration, with South Africa having its own SA-EU Free Trade Agreement.
The fragmentation of the SADC region already poses many threats to progressive regional gender initiatives that had been set up by the region.
For example, what will happen to the SADC Gender Protocol that was intended to empower and protect women under the SADC Trade Protocol?
Will countries such as Zimbabwe, which have joined ESA, carry with them the values founded within the SADC gender protocol or will ESA have to develop its own gender initiative under the emerging new trade agreement with the EU?
Nonetheless, it is highly unlikely that any state within Southern Africa will withdraw from the EPA negotiations at this point, nor will any of the least developed countries choose to take the "Everything But Arms" offer. As such, it becomes important to analyse the impact of EPAs on women within the Southern African region.
A study that will perhaps reflect the general impact of EPAs on women in Southern Africa is the one conducted by APRODEV55 for Zimbabwe 56. The study concludes that there will be benefits and costs from EPAs. The perceived benefits from EPAs are the inflow of a wider variety of imports, which are relatively cheaper to the locally produced commodities. If this results in cheaper social services and food products, the burden on women to provide these services will be reduced. This is under the assumption that everything else remains constant. EPAs are also expected to lead to an increase in foreign direct investment through the incorporation of the Singapore issues that will "aid" in developing economic environments that attract EU investors. This is expected to then boost local production, increase employment opportunities and income levels and ultimately consumption levels within the various Southern African economies.