Sharm El-Sheikh (Egypt): The world needs a financial system that is fairer to developing states which have suffered most in a crisis caused by rich countries, leaders from a group of developing states said on Wednesday.
The presidents of Cuba, Egypt and others were addressing a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), which groups 118 countries meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
“The developing countries were the most affected by the financial crisis,” Cuban President Raul Castro told the summit.
“And as usual, the wealthy countries were the source of the current crisis, which was affected by the ... illogic of the international economic order that depends on blind market principles and consumption, and wealth of the few,” he said in an Arabic translation of his speech. He further called for creating an “equitable economic system”.
The financial crisis has hurt Cuba by slowing production and pushing some factories to close in the import-dependent Caribbean island. Other developing nations, such as Egypt, have also seen growth rates slide.
“We face the largest part of its repercussions and pressures and suffering,” said Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose country has taken over the chair of NAM from Cuba.
“We call for a new international political, economic and trade order a more just and balanced order that prevents discrimination and double standards, achieves the interests of all, takes into account concerns of developing countries and establishes democratic dealings between rich and poor states.”
Egypt’s economy depends on items such as tourism, shipping through the Suez Canal and remittances from abroad, all hurt by the global downturn that has sent growth rates tumbling from more than 7% before the crisis to around 4% now.
Omar Hassan al-Bashir, president of Sudan which is among the world’s poorest countries, told the gathering that the developing world was being hurt by the crisis with rising jobless rates, growing hunger and deepening poverty.
“The issues confronting humanity are so grave that there is no time, no time for rigid idealogies while the poor suffer,” the president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said, adding NAM could respond better if it “speaks as one”.
Others said rich states were not helping the poor enough.
“The nations of the G-8 have committed $20 billion to address the issue of food security. This is not an adequate sum, much more needs to be done,” Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez said.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, also addressing the 15th summit of NAM which was formally set up in 1961 at the height of the Cold War, said some developing states were suffering most and said he was worried about signs of economic protectionism.
“We must counter this trend. Truly free and fair trade is crucial to stimulating recovery and spurring growth,” he said.
The NAM grouping was originally established by countries which did not want to be aligned either with the Soviet Union or the United States. It has struggled to stay relevant since the 1989 fall of the Berlin wall marked the end of the Cold War.
Much of the focus of the gathering may turn to bilateral talks on the sidelines, including a meeting of the prime ministers of India and Pakistan that could set the stage for resuming a formal dialogue between the two Asian rivals.