Student Bursaries Frozen

The good news is though people who want to study betrayal won’t need to attend university to learn about it, all you need to know is manifested in New Labour’s every move-

Bursaries for England’s poorest students will no longer have to cover the gap between grants and fees. The Office for Fair Access (Offa) has decided the minimum bursary universities must offer if they charge fees should be 10% of the fee level. Currently it has to make up the difference between the £3,290 annual fee and the maximum grant of £2,906. For next year grants are frozen but fees go up. The bursary will be £55 short of the £384 difference. Offa’s move follows revised guidance from the Higher Education Minister, David Lammy.

NUS vice-president Aaron Porter said: “Today’s announcement is nothing short of shameful. “In 2004, we were told that universities would only be allowed to charge top up fees if they guaranteed that poorer students would not be out of pocket. The government has now gone back on its word.”

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “I cannot understand why a government that is looking so hard at social mobility has taken the decision to charge the poorest students more money to attend university.”

Posted in Establishment, Politics, Poverty. Tags: , , . Comments Off on Student Bursaries Frozen

Fiddlers

Prem Sikka via Richard Murphy

The UK has about 50,000 family doctors, but nearly 280,000 professionally qualified accountants (pdf), often earning exorbitant salaries. That is almost the highest number per capita in the world and more than the rest of the European Union put together.

Here Comes The Pain

Citizens’ advice managers in Wales are warning the “true human cost” of the recession has yet to materialise after debt inquiries rose by almost 20%. The charities 32 offices in Wales dealt with 111,339 debt inquiries in the 12 months to April 2009, a rise of 19%. CAB Cymru director Fran Targett said previous recessions showed a lag before the number of debt advice calls peaked. More recent figures suggested a “spike” in problems with mortgages, loans, fuel debt and bailiffs, she said. The service, which operates from 200 locations in Wales, overall inquiries rose by 11% on the previous year to 298,119 in the 12 months to April 2009.

More than thirds of these we related to debt, with benefits and tax credit problems rising 11% to 97,803 and employment-related problems increasing by 17% to 22,262. Problems with mortgage and secured loans increased by 57% as did problems with private bailiffs. Fuel debt problems also increased by 31%. Within the benefits portfolio, problems with Job Seekers Allowance increased by 61%. Within the employment portfolio there was a 124% increase with redundancy-related problems.

Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon

From IPS

As Iraq’s refugee crisis continues to worsen, the government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is failing to help the estimated five million Iraqis who have been displaced by conflict, says a new report by the International Crisis Group (ICG).

“Failed Responsibility: Iraqi Refugees in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon” acknowledges that while things have gotten better for many Iraqis with the relative success of the U.S. troops “surge” strategy, Iraqi refugees in neighbouring countries are still living in harsh conditions.

Refugees face a desperate economic situation and rigid policies while the Iraqi authorities and the international community — especially the occupying U.S. government — does too little to support them, it says.

“Flush with oil money, it has been conspicuously ungenerous towards its citizens stranded abroad,” says the report of the Iraqi authorities.

The Iraqi government makes life difficult by encouraging tough visa policies by host countries and giving refugees limited access to Iraqi documents.

The refugees, says the report, view the moves as the Interior Ministry in Baghdad trying to control the flow of people and restrict what it sometimes sees as Ba’athists and other collaborators who left because of the new order.

“No doubt there are senior former regime figures among the refugees, but this does not excuse callous neglect of overwhelming non-political people who loyally served Iraq rather than a particular regime,” says the report, noting that Iraq has lost much of its professional class.

Many of the white-collar refugees reportedly had their diplomas and other documents seized as they fled violence in Iraq, making it difficult to find skilled professional jobs in the limited instances where host countries would have allowed it.

With refugees unable to work, the report points to their dwindling resources as leading to “a growing pauperisation of Iraqis” that could, in turn, lead to radicalisation.

“Increased destitution and unemployment among Iraqi refugees are worrying factors,” says the report, “and some observers warn against the possibility of young male refugees joining al Qaeda type militant groups.”

The exact number of refugees is unknown — roughly five million — but the scale is certain: Iraq is the second biggest crisis, preceded only by Afghanistan.

ICG acknowledges the large burden on by Syria, Lebanon, and other neighbours, who have taken on about half of the total displaced, but it says unfriendly treatment leaves Iraqis there with few services and opportunities.

The U.S. and others in the international community, including wealthy Arab states, also contribute to the crisis by neither resettling their share of refugees nor giving enough financial support to host countries and aid organisations, ICG says.

“Donor countries and Iraq bear the greater responsibility to assist both refugees and host countries,” said the report. “Western nations have been happy to let host countries cope with the refugee challenge, less than generous in their financial support, and outright resistant to the notion of resettlement in their midst.”

With host countries strained and so little international and Iraqi aid, most refugees “rely chiefly on personal savings and remittances from relatives in Iraq and elsewhere.”

The report notes that crime in refugee camps and other areas is already on the rise in areas where there is little access to education for Iraqi children, and they and women are often exploited. The conditions have become so deplorable that some refugees return to war-ravaged Iraq because the situation in host countries is so bad.

But the numbers of those returning — though they are publicised — are limited. Oftentimes, refugees cannot return home because their formerly mixed neighbourhoods experienced sectarian cleansing and members of rival sects, often settled by militias, occupy their homes.

While sectarian lines still starkly exist in refugee communities, there has been little “spill over effect” of the sort of strife seen in Iraq.

“Of course they talk about Sunni-Shiite problems; of course they rant in front of you. But that is all they do,” an Iraqi Sunni in Jordan who says he encounters all stripes of Iraqis told ICG. “It’s their way of making sense of their lives and of their past.”

With Iraq still such a violent and chaotic place, ICG recommends that the Iraqi government put a mechanism in place to both help refugees abroad and — while discouraging large-scale returns until security improves — to assist those returning to Iraq.

Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon also need to dramatically step up their efforts to organise the refugees.

In Jordan, says the report, “Even Iraqis fleeing violence were not granted refugee status; instead, they were referred to as ‘guests’ and at times treated far worse than that.”

By limiting even yearly-renewable residency permits — initially more widely available to at least the affluent Iraqis — to those who already met a particular high threshold of investment in Jordan, the host has created a “closed-door policy.”

In Syria, local officials claimed to ICG that Prime Minister al-Maliki had encouraged the visa restrictions placed on Iraqi refugees beginning in September 2007.

The restrictions on movements — effectively ending the open-door policy — coupled with poor relations with the West and particularly the U.S., have worsened conditions in Syria.

ICG calls for the U.S. to end its politically motivated low aid levels and isolate the humanitarian crisis from other political considerations with Syria. The report noted that none of the involved parties are dealing with the refugee crisis that exists, and should another one break out, it would be disastrous.

Only The Latin Left Tried To Change The System Of Starvation

Venezuela, along with Argentina, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Bolivia, criticised the final declaration of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Summit in Rome on Thursday, arguing that the document failed to identify the true causes of rising food prices, such as agricultural subsidies and unequal trade policies imposed by developed countries.

The declaration at the summit, which saw some 6.5 billion dollars pledged to boost agricultural production in developing countries, vowed to cut “by half the number of undernourished people by no later than 2015.”

However, the Latin American nations objected to the lack of concrete measures within the document and its failure to mention the need to cut subsidies and tariffs in developed nations.

“The main reason for the rise in food prices isn’t growing demand from the Indian and Chinese markets, or the rise in petroleum prices,” she countered, “The main reason is that food has been turned into yet another object of market speculation.”

The key factors weakening local economics in developing countries are free trade treaties and the flooding of markets by US produce Urbaneja [Venezuelan ambassador to the FAO, Gladys Urbaneja Duran] said.

Another key debate at the summit was the question of bio-fuels. Bio-fuels are promoted by the US as an alternative to fossil fuels; however, others argued that bio-fuel production, as well as being environmentally damaging, diverts vast amounts of land and resources from food production and will exacerbate the food crisis.

The declaration simply stated that bio-fuels present both “challenges and opportunities” and called for further research.

Whoa! Half by by 2015, don’t rush too much and anyway it’s a pledge and we know what they are worth, Make Poverty History? Via BoRev.Net the LA Times depicted these troublemakers (with the help of an anonymous African delegate, oh those nasty reds want to starve poor African kiddies)-

Led by Argentina, Cuba and Venezuela, a veritable revolt by much of Latin America dragged negotiations hours past the original deadline and frayed the nerves of numerous participants.

One delegate from Africa chided her colleagues for creating the “appearance of grandstanding . . . as people are dying.”

But the Latin American delegates said the declaration was merely paying lip service to the urgent starvation crisis. These delegates noted that the final document did not condemn subsidies maintained by wealthy nations nor did it challenge the price-aggravating control exercised by big agricultural companies.

Argentina and Venezuela argued that the market-based policies being promoted at the conference risked exacerbating poverty and hunger in Latin America. Argentina was especially forceful in objecting to language in the final document that criticizes export restrictions similar to those it has imposed.

Another point of irreconcilable dispute was biofuels. The U.S. delegation, led by Agriculture Secretary Edward T. Schafer, welcomed the declaration’s support for further study — timid language compared with the restrictions that some countries had sought.

FAO Secretary-General Jacques Diouf said the gap between supporters and opponents of biofuels was too wide to bridge. The declaration reflected “the minimum common denominator,” he said.

So erm basically a few band aids on a gaping wound and the US stalls the biofuel reckoning, yep we’ll drive our SUV’s while you po’ folks starve to death. Could they at least have efficiency standards of shitty old Europe or is that communism or something? Still, I’m sure the sex workers of Rome all had a bumper week, so there’s some good news.

Choose Death

Invasion & Occupation of Iraq resulting in over 1 million dead and 5 million refugees:- $12 billion a month.
Food aid to feeds millions who are starving:- $770m one off payment.

Bravo Jon Kelly at the BBC

A nice piece about how people on low wages are betrayed by the Labour government’s recent tax changes-

Hoarding loose change. Always having to buy the cheapest groceries. Dreading the arrival of utility bills through the door. Britain’s low earners say their lives are already difficult enough. But changes to the tax system could mean that making ends meet becomes even harder for many.

Under the new system, standard income tax has been cut from 22% to 20% and tax credits raised – but the lowest 10p band has been scrapped entirely…

“As it is I always try to buy the cheapest own-brand groceries but it’s never enough. I’d love a fresh wardrobe but I can’t remember the last time I bought new clothes. I don’t think it should be people on low incomes who have to pay more. It should be those with higher incomes – like MPs.”