World Notes: Europe, Afghanistan, S. Korea, Cuba

Europe: Left parties react to EU economic measures

In response to decisions taken at a European Union summit meeting February 11 in Brussels, 24 EU communist and workers parties issued a joint condemnation of “a new severe attack against the working class.” The critique highlights “imposition of sweeping changes in the social security systems” and “drastic cuts in salaries, pensions and social benefits.” In addition, the statement says, “The transnational companies and the banks made immense profits” through worker exploitation, state subsidies, and tax relief. “They now compete for the lion’s share of the new lending,” which serves “to reinforce the profitability of the European monopolies.” The “working class and peoples in each country” are called upon “to organize their counterattack.” The statement is here.

Afghanistan: Developing police entails high costs, uncertain results

Many Afghans reportedly distrust the police because of corruption, which a U.S. Army spokesperson recently blamed on lack of training for 30 percent of Afghan police. U.S. efforts to train them are handicapped by nearly 70 percent of recruits dropping out during training, according to AFP news service. That means that to expand Afghan police forces, more recruits will be required than the 100,000 of them currently anticipated. Unless NATO grants U.S. Army requests for staff augmentation, training operations personnel will remain at 2,500 military personnel and 27,00 civilian contractors. Some $20.8 billion has been budgeted for police training over the next two years. Police recruits are up monthly from 800 last September to 7,000 at present.

South Korea: Anti-women discrimination continues

The Korean Women’s Development Institute reported March 3 on gender equality.  In an analysis where 1 represents full gender equality and 0 signifies total inequality, the overall gender equality index for 2008 was 0.594. The comparable figure for 2005 was 0.584.  Itemized for specific areas of human activity, the report puts the index for health at 0.892, for culture and information at 0.872, for education and vocational training at 0.796, for economic activity at 0.771, for safety at 0.528, for family affairs at 0.514, for welfare at 0.323, and for decision making at 0.116. The report on Hankyoreh News indicates only 13.7 percent of National Assembly delegates are women, and of 2,064 highest level government employees only10 percent are women.

Cuba: Health care shakeup on the way

Moving to reset economic priorities, the government is preparing to change staffing and supply patterns in the health sector, which, with education, consumes 60 percent of the national budget. According to Granma newspaper on February 26, staffing shortages in some areas coexist with surpluses on others. Regional imbalances of medical supplies and drugs are also prevalent. Planners see the excess of health care personnel in most locations as a major economic problem predisposing to “ready-made evils like decreased work motivation, low productivity, and uncertain discipline.” Health care, education, and social services involve three million workers.  The agriculture and constriction sectors employing only slightly more than a million workers are experiencing labor shortages and.  Some 5 million Cubans are regarded as working.

Photo: Members of Greece’s GSEE trade union hold a mock funeral with a coffin standing for the Greek economy, in central Athens on March 10. (AP/Marita Pappa)



W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.