Deal or no deal
Sir – Bernice Lee’s article on resource politics sets out very well the need for international politics to step up to the mark if we are to avoid a looming disaster. However, while focusing on the politics between countries, she did not refer to the way in which resource politics play out within countries.
The costs of rising food, fuel and water will fall disproportionately on the poor. The poorer you are, the greater the proportion of your income that is taken up by food, fuel and water – whether you live in Mogadishu or Manchester. For politicians to be able to agree a deal at the international level, in democratic countries at least, they have to persuade their citizens that the costs of a deal will be shared more equitably than the costs of no deal.
In the UK, the poor pay disproportionately more towards green energy subsidies than the rich. This pattern cannot be repeated if politicians are to be able to agree a deal to avert resource disaster. The national is central to the international and the social is central to the environmental. Deal or no deal – it will depend on sharing the costs of action more fairly than we have managed so far.
Sir – In his interview, Carl Bildt elevates Latvia to the status of European poster boy for austerity. While it is true that the Latvian economy is now growing fast, this is only part of the picture. By opting not to devalue the currency, the lat, and retain its peg with the euro, the Latvian government forced its people to undergo ‘internal devaluation’, involving cuts to wages and benefits and the loss of 30 per cent of public sector jobs.
The bankers may applaud this strategy, but the Latvians have emigrated in their tens of thousands and the country is being depopulated. It has the lowest fertility rate in the European Union as women delay having children and young people cannot afford to get married.
Latvia’s population is projected to decline from 2.2 million now to 1.6 million by 2060. Latvia has been able to absorb all this pain due to an unusual level of social cohesion and some special characteristics – it is situated in a prosperous part of Europe. But Latvia cannot be used as an example for other countries like Greece.
Time to move on
Sir – I read with interest Paul Mason’s article on the perils of European optimism. It is fascinating to see that even so-called ‘progressive’ British commentators can only look at the current financial crisis in Europe through the prism of the two world wars. Surely it is time to move on and look at issues from a different comparative base, especially in the publication of an international institution. I expected a more imaginative argument.