The New Investment Model in Development and Its Limits

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 - 13:45

Industrialized countries, national officials, transnational corporations, and multilateral banks have developed a new consensus model of development using mega-projects. This new investment model continues to undermine current social and environmental safeguards. It also requires outrageous, and constantly growing, sums of money for their completion, implements doubtful Public-Private Partnerships (PPP’s), and pushes for even more financialization of natural resources. Bottom line, public services are turned into assets, risk is socialized, gains are privatized on an unimaginable scale, levels of already‐severe inequality are deepened, and the marginalized indigenous people are displaced without prior consultation, consent, or proper compensation.

Grupo Plantar SA is a Brazilian iron industry and plantation company registered as a UNFCCC Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) project since 2007 for its supposedly low-climate mitigating impacts. Plantar Green Pig Iron Project, a PPP between Grupo Plantar SA, the Governments of Canada, Finland, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands, private companies from the UK, France, Japan, and the World Bank, is affecting the regions of Curvelo, Felixlandia, and Morada Nova in the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. It was one of the first projects to be supported by the World Bank Prototype Carbon Fund. Plantar and the World Bank promoted the project “as a model operation that would plant trees, enhance workers’ safety and foster environmental education projects for children.”

However, as documented in “Carbon Trading: a critical conversation on climate change, privatization and power,” the consequences of this program were disastrous. The company’s activities have illegally dispossessed many indigenous people of their land, undermining World Bank’s own safeguards and standards of free, prior, and informed consent. Moreover, Brazilian civil society has complained that Plantar has destroyed traditional jobs and livelihoods, depleted soils and the biodiversity of the native Savana Cerrado, dried up and polluted local water supplies, threatened the health of local people, and exploited labor under appalling conditions. Paradoxically, this proposed carbon-saving project encourages a damaging model of monoculture. It is also water-intensive and benefits neither the environment nor the lives of the economically marginalized.

Projects like Plantar are not outsiders; they are part of an investment model in development that suffers systemic flaws. In this regard, on early March 2015 even the World Bank itself admitted that it has failed to follow its own rules for protecting low-income communities swept aside by dams, roads and other big projects it bankrolls.

The World Bank acknowledged in a news release that the number of people that have been uprooted by these sorts of projects is unknown. Moreover, it accepted that currently not much is being done to keep track of projects that push communities off their land or cost people their livelihoods. As a result, The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists has found that projects backed by the World Bank have displaced millions of people over the last decade. Many of those are suffering the unspeakable nowadays.

 

About Author(s)

Alfonso Buzzo
Born and raised in Argentina, I have been working in development for the last ten years in a local slum with crack addicts and homeless people. After moving to Pittsburgh, I am currently an MID candidate at Pitt. Development and Latin American Social Justice are my main concerns, and I am willing to spend some time working in Washington after graduation at either the World or Inter-American Development Bank.