Magazine

Lawless in Belgium


"Crime and politics" (European Business, Mar. 18) could also have taken Belgium as an example of what is wrong with the Continent. Ten years ago, Belgium was known as Europe's most boring country. Words like carjacking and homejacking were completely unknown, and locals thought passengers attacking bus drivers or pupils beating up teachers were concepts out of violent U.S. television series.

Now, all that has changed. Carjackings last year went up by 70%. Gangs ram expensive stores with SUVs. And Belgium has gained a reputation as the world's favorite transit center for stolen cars, illegal arms, diamonds that finance wars in Africa, forged passports, pedophile networks, illegal drugs, illegal immigrants, and terrorists of all stripes.

The country's leadership is mired in the discourse of excessive tolerance that dates from the late 1960s. Any tough action designed to deal with violence and crime--based on U.S. examples that work--will be discarded as "fascism" by a political and media elite bred on negative stereotypes about the U.S. With that shortsighted attitude prevailing, crime in Belgium will only get worse before it gets better.

Stephan Grauwels

Tamshui, Taiwan Free trade is not an economic abstraction, but a policy that has made millions in America and elsewhere better off ("Bush's steely pragmatism," (American News, Mar. 18). Occasionally it has contributed to economic disasters when not implemented correctly (see Latin America). The purpose of U.S. President George W. Bush's action was not to bring other nations round to the negotiating table (where most of them sit anyway, in the World Trade Organization) or to force them to cut capacity (which in any event they are unlikely to do in response to U.S. pressure), but to protect a hopelessly inefficient domestic steel industry that is an embarrassment to the American economy.

Rather than mustering the courage to face the unions, it was easier and politically more convenient, to annoy international allies essential in the war on terrorism.

Stefan Dobrev

London You ask "Does the U.S. give enough?" (Finance, Mar. 18) when it comes to eradicating poverty. First, terrorists do not necessarily come from poor backgrounds. Osama bin Laden and many other terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center came from rich families. Poverty cannot be eliminated by pumping more money into poor countries. Since 1951, India has been spending increasing amounts (currently $2 billion a year) on schemes aimed at poverty elimination. The money has mostly gone into the pockets of agents, contractors, and political activists. Illiteracy, large families, and poverty feed upon one another in a vicious cycle. The various subsidies given to the poorest are increasing their population, not education. Rich countries must insist that their aid to the poor countries be used for education and family planning. The aid must be linked to the measured achievements of targets.

T.H. Chowdary

Information Technology &

Communications Adviser

Government of Andhra Pradesh

Hyderabad, India "India's China challenge" (Asian Business, Mar. 11) shows that Indian labor is one-third as cheap as in China. But India lags behind China in infrastructure facilities, which are either lacking in India or are available at very high cost, making the final cost of production in India 40% higher than in China.

However, you forgot to mention that India is thriving as the largest democracy in the world. China's people don't have the level of freedom that their counterparts in democratic countries enjoy. China's government can afford to move quickly, while a democratic government in India cannot. Secondly, we should not forget that China has a decade of advantage in terms of initiating the reform process.

Abhay Kumar Sinha

Singapore


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