By Carol Glatz, Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The financial meltdown is a symptom of a deeply flawed economic system that should not be repaired but should be replaced by one that is based on justice and solidarity, said the president of Caritas Internationalis.
"A world built on the globalization of greed and fear rather than the globalization of solidarity was never sustainable or desirable," said Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, who heads the confederation of international Catholic aid agencies.
As the, "walls of the deregulated free market (lie) in rubble about us," the world must learn at least one lesson from, "this misadventure," he told ambassadors from a dozen European countries during a May 6th meeting at Caritas’ Vatican headquarters.
"The actions we take in 2009 cannot be aimed at resuscitating the old system, but must aim at a blueprint for a better world based on justice and respect for all," he said.
The cardinal said the global financial crisis is not a result of failed banks, "but is a symptom of deeper flaws within the economic system."
He said some of the problems with the current financial structures are linked to:
— A lack of transparency in real and virtual economies, which allows rich nations to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars away from overseas development and hide those sums in tax havens.
— An economic boom, "built on rampant consumerism and unsustainable debt levels to finance it," which then helped foster increased greed and individualism.
— A rapid turnover, "at unprecedented levels," in production, consumption and the disposal of goods and services, which has depleted natural resources and severely impacted the environment.
— The enormous power and lack of accountability that a small number of players, such as multinational banks and private businesses, play in the global economy.
While nations struggle to get a handle on the situation, "the crisis will have passed and we’ll be on to the next one," he said, unless leaders abandon the, "old system of blind greed," and establish a new economic structure based on justice, solidarity and respect for human dignity.
He said Caritas fears, "that the poorest people who have benefited least from decades of unequal economic growth will pay the greater price for this folly," of financial misdeeds.
"World leaders must not use the financial meltdown as an excuse to cut aid," to poorer countries, he said.
Seventy percent of funding for health services in many African countries comes from foreign donors and any cuts made in assistance will cost lives, he said.
Unfortunately, he added, global aid levels have been dropping steadily and the financial crisis risks causing further reductions.
"It has therefore been astonishing to see the huge sums of money being committed to economic bailouts," when just a portion of those amounts could have been dedicated to fulfilling promises rich nations made 40 years ago to devote 0.7 percent of their incomes to fund overseas development, he said.
For example, U.S. President Barack Obama’s $800 billion rescue package is almost equivalent to the total amount of aid that 23 of the world’s richest nations provided to developing nations over the past 10 years, said the cardinal.
"The poor must not be excluded from plans to rescue the global economy," he said, and world leaders must convince their citizens, "that supporting the poor is not a fair-weather choice but a moral responsibility."