First South American thoughts

I somehow ended up taking a work related week long trip to Peru – made the decision thursday, and here I am! This is exciting for me, as I have never been to South America, and I am beyond thrilled to discover this continent (or at least a tiny part of it). Working for CGSGI, I have been researching and writing about poverty in Peru and Colombia (where we work), but this trip will be an opportunity to get a much more holistic and real understanding of the dynamics at play. In Peru, the stats are staggering: over 40% of the population lives in poverty, and that in spite of strong and sustained economic growth – 9% last year, the highest rate among South American countries. In one of the regions we work in, Cajamarca, mining is the economic engine. Nonetheless, nearly half the children under 5 in that region suffer from chronic malnutrition…. Meanwhile, the central government collected nearly $2 billion in tax revenues from mining companies, but this has failed to translate into improved quality of life for impoverished Peruvians.

Anyway — I cannot wait to visit the sites of our project work, and to experience it for myself. It’s 2:20 am, and I am wired! 
In terms of first impressions, the Lima airport at midnight was chock full of American missionaries… There were probably 200 missionaries, mostly middle aged/older people. I have no doubt that they come and do work in good faith here, probably contributing to poverty alleviation in some way or another. Regardless, I have a fundamental issue with aid that is tied to religious proselytizing. Particularly in this part of the world, where Christianity wreaked such havoc. While I was waiting in line at immigration, I kept wondering how the Peruvians perceived this. Perhaps they are despondent, and this is just part of the landscape. Maybe they think Americans are mighty, mighty strange. Who knows. In the mix, we also had an enormous tour group of older Japanese people, most of them wearing those fancy face masks… 
To finish off, a collection of infuriating stories from this past week: 
Firestone and workers’ rights violations in Liberia (and their $30 million Superbowl ad…)
– This isn’t so much infuriating as disappointing – ECOWAS gives $100K to Liberia to fight the invasion of caterpillars which is decimating the country’s agricultural sector. $100K? Seriously? Not that ECOWAS should be giving more, but perhaps more substantial help should be making its way….
– And, of course, another story of refugee abuse. I long for the day when people fleeing tragedy will be treated with dignity and respect.  

Davos not as chic anymore

Via The Daily Beast:

GENEVA — The titans of Wall Street no longer sit atop the magic mountain.

Not long ago, at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Davos, Switzerland, Richard S. Fuld Jr. of Lehman Brothers held forth on the state of the global economy before mesmerized journalists and cowering subordinates while other Wall Street stars mingled after-hours with the likes of Claudia Schiffer, the German supermodel.

As business, government and nonprofit leaders trek up the peak originally made famous by Thomas Mann’s novel, but now better known for the gabfest that begins Tuesday, star power is no longer in[…]

The crisis, to be sure, is hurting some more than others. While Davos will draw about 2,500 participants — roughly the same as last year — it looks as if there will be many fewer members of the tasseled-loafer set strutting down the resort’s snowy streets.

(I love the term “tasseled-loafer set” – perfect!)

At the same time, though, “the superclass parties on“:

In short, Fubini’s reporting suggests that despite the global financial catastrophe and the PR nightmare of the visit of Detroit’s “Big Three” CEOs to Washington via private aircraft, corporate jet traffic to the big party in the Alps is up 25 percent in just two years even as the number of attendees remains flat. As Federico wrote in his note, “It’s a relief as I thought there was a financial crisis and global recession out there. I was wrong.”

Mmm.