This article – Vultures leave the developing world hungry (a response to ‘How top London law firms help vulture funds devour their prey‘) made me sit bolt upright when reading my Saturday Guardian this morning. My non-economist understanding seems to be that these ‘vulture’ funds buy debt of Heavily Indebted Poor countries (HIPC’s), countries like Zambia, Congo and Tanzania which are receiving debt relief. These companies or funds then sue the governments of those countries for more than what they paid for the debt. It seems crazy, morally repungent and many other phrases that this should be allowed to happen. Talk about stealing from the poor to make money! Is this the logical conclusion of a capitalist system that is all about profit – the poor always get oppressed? The growing global rich-poor divide seems to be damning evidence. Given Gordon Brown’s commitments to the fight against global poverty I for one will be dropping him a line about this horrific state of affairs of companies making money at the expense of those who have little enough choices and hope as it is.
It reminds me of several conversations about faith and economics and remembering a comment from someone from the States who said “well, i think god would be a capitalist”. I remember the shock and horror that arose – did he just say that? Especially after an articulate explanation from a theology professor on economics and the bible. We cannot and should not equate Christian faith with one economic system but it is undeniable that a capitalist system with its exploitation of the poor is certainly less aligned with the teaching of the bible than a Christian socialist model that wants a more even distribution of wealth. Of course there are lots of caveats there. Believing that the capitalist model of free markets etc is the best way to lift people out of poverty is different that simply believing in capitalism. It worries me that the church seems to have imbibed so much of capitalism and ignored so much of the Bible, of the God who is concerned about poverty, who asks his people to look out for the poor, to live generously, who designed an economic system that would have avoided long term poverty. The example of the early church who shared everything, who gave sacrificially (as God has asked – to give/lend until the person is no longer in need, not just give a bit to ease our conscience) is one to remember. Certainly what stood out to me in Peru this summer was the thankfulness and generosity of people who were less concerned with what they had and more with how others were. Maybe on some of this the church in Europe and the States has become too ‘of the world’ as opposed to ‘in it’., we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in the southern church.
soapbox – confusing himself with economics but the red light on his injustice-ometer is flashing brightly
**UPDATE** Tearfund’s Superbadger takes on the vultures here.