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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Life on 30p a day
News Interactive coverage of the Earth Summit in audio and video
There is a Gucci store about five minutes walk from where the World Summit is being held. It's right next to the Montego Bay oyster bar.

It is the most affluent corner of Africa, let alone Johannesburg, and having a discussion about alleviating poverty there seems strange.

Still, the West would say 'this is how you do it,' and one country they've been saying that to recently is Mozambique - whose leaders have taken all the economic medicine they've been offered.

Jeremy Vine went to see the results.

Scour Africa for spectacular growth and you will end up here. Mozambique's government is more Maggie than Marx. Roam around the capital, Maputo, and there's the odd sign that communists run the place. But, in fact, there has been a mass conversion to Thatcherism since politicians discovered if they did the West's bidding, foreign money would pour in.

The street sign commemorating the day of nationalisation is about the only thing that has not been privatised. Growth is put at 12%. So, peace, democracy and a bouncing economy in Africa, that's a full house. But that's on paper, the reality here is that something doesn't add up. The statistics hide the real story.

You may not see it in Maputo, but we're heading north. The capital is cosily placed next to South Africa. But there is 1,500 miles of Mozambique above it, and economic uplift does not seem to travel well.

At Chongwe, the villagers have walked miles for water. Among them are Paulo and Justino, brothers who have lost their parents. The boys say their father died after a series of illnesses, a euphemism for AIDS. Their mother died in childbirth, she was also HIV positive. Paulo is nine, Justino is seven. Economic growth has not shortened the one-hour slog to and from the borehole. The government is winning plaudits from the World Bank for slashing spending, but they don't have much contact with the World Bank around here.

I have to go for water two or three times a day. It's a long way. It's tiring, but we have to go.

The two boys are looked after by their elder brother, Severino, who is 18. They farm an allotment. Sometimes their relatives can spare them a little money, sometimes they have surplus food, but not often.

I go to the field, and try to grow some food. We are living alone. When I look at the other boys it's hard. They can go to the school but I can't, they have mothers. I must look after my brothers as best I can. Because of the drought, the harvest will be very bad, so we will need help.

The figures lie here, too. In the language of economists, a person who lives on less than $1 a day is poor. But those who work on the ground say that obscures the reality in Mozambique, where most people scrape by on less than 40 cents a day.

(Unicef Project Officer, Mozambique)
This affects about 7% of people in this country. It means that the criteria defined by the World Bank don't reflect the real situation of most people.

By switching emphasis from pollution to poverty, at least the world leaders are showing that this matters. But how much are they really doing?

I drove to a sugar plantation, one of Mozambique's biggest employers. This place was almost wiped out by the floods in 2000. All of the sugar cane and this road were covered in water, six and a half metres deep. The damage done by the floods was not all paid for under insurance, so it has torn a hole in the company's finances.

2,500 people are employed here. Eight hours spent stripping sugar cane pays 99p. The workers would earn more if their sugar was selling in European and American markets, but Western producers get subsidies which enable them to cut their prices. Anyway, there are strict rules limiting the amount of sugar the West imports.

These men don't know about politics, but they know about poverty.

The problem is being so poor, even though we have jobs. What we need is foreign countries to buy our sugar, so we can earn enough to support our families.

There is food but it is expensive. The money I am earning is not sufficient to buy it. If I earn more, I would build a good house for my family. My parents died, and I am taking care of ten brothers and sisters.

I don't earn enough to buy breakfast, lunch and tea. All I do is cut, cut, cut. When I ask why my salary is so low, they just say that the market for sugar is not good. They say that no-one wants to buy our sugar.

The grandly titled World Summit may not be intended as a slap in anyone's face, but looking at it from the sugar cane of Mozambique, it's very difficult to feel comfortable with the disparities it highlights. The western world arrives on a charger to help the poor of Africa, when their own rules are cutting the producers here out of the marketplace.

With creaking slowness, the West has realised it must address the inconsistency. Even as the sugar cane was moving into the plant here, an apology was being touted in Johannesburg. Yesterday the World Bank admitted it should have condemned subsidies in rich countries, while it was telling poor nations to deregulate.

For the estate manager, the comparisons are amazing. While he can't afford to repair farm buildings washed away in the floods, in Europe, some individual sugar farmers are getting subsidies of $100,000 a year.

(General Manager, Maragra Sugar, Mozambique)
When I hear those numbers it's actually frightening. Do subsidise somebody to that extent says to me that something is wrong. You cannot fathom a subsidy, coming out of tax coffer somewhere, to that extent. I would rather believe you get into a situation where you become a low-cost efficient producer.

But they don't want to do that, because they know that you're the low-cost, efficient producer, you will put them out of business.

That's true. A fact of life, perhaps. Economic forces at work, when they work correctly, it's free entry and exit. Some do, some don't.

Farmers in the West will not let go of their incomes easily, so their leaders will have to persuade them that workers here are more deserving of the money. That is the really big challenge of the World Summit, and it will not be happening this week.

This transcript was produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

Newsnight's Jermey Vine
"most people scrape by on less than 40 cents a day"

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10 Jul 02 | Country profiles
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