Fed Watch!

Canada Taking Steps against Third World Debt

The Honourable Minister of Finance, Paul Martin, has announced that Canada is cancelling the debt owed to it by Tanzania. One of the poorest countries in the world, Tanzania owed Canada approximately 83 million dollars. This debt cancellation means that Tanzania can now use the interest that would have been paid to us to do things suchas develop a better education system and hopefully be able to find some way to pull themselves from poverty.

Now what we need to do is work on some way to make sure that they don’t simply go for more loans and put themselves right back in the same position. Like a bankruptcy, debt cancellation should have consequences. Among those consequences could be a requirement that any aid money supplied thereafter must be shown to going towards projects that benefit the people of the country, or be directly administered by the countries providing the aid.

As a side note, it’s interesting to realize that the stars of NBC’s popular sitcom “Friends” together earned almost 83 million dollars last year, with their total wages expected to go beyond 100 million this year. I wonder if there’s any way I could convince the network to just run eight minutes of advertisements every week, which I’d happily watch for them if it meant 100 million dollars could go toward getting poor countries out of poverty. They’d even save money on production costs.

Klein backs Bush in Ambush

Across the ocean in Russia, Premier Ralph Klein of Alberta ambushed Prime Minister Chretien with a letter from several of the Provincial Premiers saying how they had concerns about the Kyoto treaty that would need to be addressed before its signing. Klein is reported to be in favour of adopting a proposal such as recently suggested by U.S. President, George W. Bush. That he is in favour is really no wonder, as what Mr. Bush has suggested provides no real reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions at all.

The key term in Mr. Bush’s plan is “intensity”. His plan proposes to cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity by 18% by the year 2010. Greenhouse Gas Emissions Intensity is actually a proportional rate that is determined by comparing the level of greenhouse gas output to the GDP. The United States’ GDP is expected to rise by approximately 3.6% per year. A reduction of 18% over the next 8 years is a reduction in intensity of approximately 2.3% per year. So it looks like the U.S. can safely increase actual emissions by 1.3% per year and still fall within their stated goal.

An analogy has been made that if we think of our climate like a car that we’re all passengers in, catastrophic change lies ahead in the form of a sheer cliff – and we’re arguing about just how much we should pull the foot off the gas. It’s about time we started thinking about putting on the brakes, no matter how uncomfortable the abrupt slow-down will be.

BC Turns Back on Students

British Columbia, having previously funded a 5% cut in tuition fees for post-secondary students, has now decided to give Universities autonomy over their tuition fees. The Minister for Advanced Education, Shirley Bond, says “Institutions are in the best position to determine what level of fees is fair, reasonable and affordable, working together with the students they serve.” Of course, when is the last time that you heard of a university board listening to what students say about tuition increases? However, this strategy works for the British Columbia government as it separates university funding from university tuition. They can claim that a cut in funding does not have to result in tuition increases, and if it does, then it is the fault of the university.

This also gives a university the freedom to destroy affordable access in the name of becoming a first-class institution. Being as human as the rest of us, those that sit on the board of a university would like to be able to tell their friends and acquaintances that they made their organization one of the best in the world. An admirable goal surely, but one that doesn’t bode well for those students from low-income families. Unfortunately, not everybody can afford what it costs to maintain a top university – without governmental regulation, there’s no reason to assume that these lower income students will get any sympathy from boards wanting to be one of the best.