[ASC-media] Media release: AIDS threat to war on poverty

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Sat Aug 12 19:24:09 CEST 2006

International Association of Agricultural Economists 26th Conference
Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, Australia
August 12-18, 2006	   ph 07 5504 4019


EMBARGO 10.45AM, Sunday, August 13, 2006 					


Malaria and HIV/AIDS threaten to overwhelm the progress made in the fight against poverty, says the World Bank's Dr Hans Binswanger.

Dr Binswanger, who has spent a quarter of a century with the World Bank and is a Fellow of the Tswane University of Technology in South Africa, says that he is 'cautiously optimistic' about issues of food production, agriculture and the environment in developing countries.

But on the issue of HIV/AIDS, he is pessimistic.

Dr Binswanger is delivering the Elmshirst Lecture today at the International Association of Agricultural Economics conference on Australia's Gold Coast  on Monday 14 August, and speaking on HIV/AIDS and agriculture on Monday 14 August.

 "Rural people in low income countries have to be the key actors in designing, planning and implementing their own rural development," says Dr Binswanger. "In many of the world's poorer countries, the institutional environment - that is, the private sector, communities, local government - has improved considerably in the past quarter of a century.

"But the poorest performing countries still have by far the poorest environment for local government," he says. "This under-performance is not caused by lack of knowledge, but usually by deliberate policies and institutions which reduce agricultural profitability and dis-empower rural people, especially the poor and women."

Local development is a core component of rural development, says Dr Binswanger, and has to take account of the private sector, local government, communities and civil society, and sector institutions such as health, education and agriculture.

Dr Binswanger cites China as having undergone the most remarkable transformation in recent decades, where profitable farming has been made possible by a combination of market factors, decentralization, and individual initiative.

"Rural development is impossible without developed markets," says Dr Binswanger, "and this is only possible with a progressive public policy."

Dr Binswanger says that markets have also been the centres for the spread of social evils such as slavery and disease, and the trade routes and markets of the developing countries are the vectors for the spread of HIV/AIDS.

"HIV/AIDS is the single most important threat to human life in Sub-Saharan Africa," says Dr Binswanger. "Life expectancy has plummeted to levels not seen for three-quarters of a century.

"It is hard to see how rural and agricultural development can thrive unless the epidemic is stopped in its tracks," he says. 

"This can be done," he says. "It will take systematic prevention, and free and universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment. And the impacts on the huge numbers of orphans can be mitigated by better social programs."

Dr Binswanger says that the three priorities for Africa in particular are to combat HIV/AIDS, to further liberalise trade - especially agriculture - and to develop appropriate new technology.

"A generation ago, economists regarded parts of Asia and Latin America as 'basket cases', and there are now flourishing," he says. "Half of humanity has improved its lot. There is a model for African leaders to consider."

The International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) 26th Annual Conference on "The Contribution of Agricultural Economics to Critical Policy Issues" is at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, from August 12-18, 2006.

More information:
IAAE media centre, Gold Coast Convention Centre, +61 (0)7 5504 4019
Dr Hans Binswanger, Tswane University of Technology, +27 827 568 351
Media contact: Prof. Julian Cribb, 0418 639 245

Copies of Dr Binswanger's address: 0418 639 245

Conference program & details:

More information about the ASC-media mailing list