Seeing the Third World as it really is


Third World Guide 91/92

Published by Instituto del Tercer Mundo

Uruguay, 1990. 612 pp. Paperback. $50.

Distributed by Bushbooks, 45 Vista Ave, Copacabana NSW 2251, ph (043) 82 1899.

Reviewed by Peter Boyle

In 1980, a group of independent journalists from the Third World put out the first issue of the Third World Guide. Then it was published only in Portuguese and was aimed at an African and Brazilian readership. The first English version appeared in 1985. Now in its fifth edition, it is a useful reference work for anyone interested in international developments.

TWG tries to present facts about the Third World and its relations with the rest of the world from the perspective of that greater part of the world's population that has to subsist on the far smaller segment of the world's resources.

This distinct perspective is illustrated in TWG's presentation of the following facts:

l "The countries of Latin America, Asia and Africa are financing a virtual 'Marshall Plan', with a massive transfer of resources to help the country with the world's largest debt: the United States."

l "Who ordered the huge massacre of civilians in 1989, just before Christmas? Was it Ceausescu in Rumania? No, it was George Bush in Panama (the tragic body count in Rumania has gone down from the initial reports of 70,000 to a confirmed figure of 200, while estimates of civilian victims of the American invasion of Panama have gone up to 4,000."

TWG's perspective puts a different light on President George Bush's current posturing over the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. I gleaned some interesting facts that relate to the background to the war in the Arab-Persian Gulf from TWG 91/92:

l Of the 10 countries in the Third World with the worst human rights record (measured by the number of disappearances recorded by the United Nations Human Rights Commission), eight are supported economically and militarily by the United States government.

l The 10 biggest corporations in the world in 1990 include the oil giants Exxon, Royal Dutch/Shell, Mobil and British Petroleum, and General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Hitachi — which make the cars that guzzle up much of the oil. Six of these corporations are based in the US, two in Japan and two

in Britain — all member states of the coalition against Iraq.

l Transnational corporations took $88 billion in profits from the Third World between 1979 and 1985. In the same period, the multinationals tripled their investments in the industrialised countries and reduced their investments in the Third World.

l Between 1980 and 1986, the terms of trade between the industrialised world and the Third World declined by 30%. Third World exports fetched lower prices, while imports from the industrialised countries rose in price.

l Between 1980 and 1987, the US government increased its spending on biological weapons research and development five-fold, from $63 million to $334 million.

There is a lot more in TWG 91/92. The emphasis is on presentation of factual information in easily accessible form. This is no glossy production, but the text and graphics convey the essential information, organised in 35 key issues (including health, education, resource depletion, arms trade, human rights, transnational corporations, media and pollution) and in a country-by-country section. n