Pubdate: Wed, 26 Feb 2003
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Associated Press


VIENNA, Austria (AP) -- Far from making poor countries rich, illicit drug 
production keeps most people in developing countries trapped in poverty, 
says a United Nations report being released Wednesday.

The Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board -- an independent 
U.N. body that monitors the global drug situation -- called the idea that 
countries grow rich through the production of illegal drugs a dangerous myth.

"Generally, only 1 percent of the profits remains in the country of 
origin," Rainer Wolfgang Schmidt, a member of the INCB's board, told 
reporters. "Most money is made from the distribution of the drugs in 
developed countries."

Schmidt said that illicit drug production is a major factor in hindering 
long-term economic growth and destroying the fabric of society.

"It leads to an increase in violent crime, and the rule of law is 
compromised," he said. "Corruption distorts the climate for investment, and 
conspicuous consumption by a small elite leads to inflation."

Despite being labor-intensive, drug production failed in reality to provide 
widespread employment, according to the report. In Bolivia and Peru, only 3 
percent of the population was employed in the illegal drug sector when 
production was at its height in the late 1980s.

The report pointed to Afghanistan and the countries of Central Asia as 
typical examples of the negative effects of production.

"Afghanistan is a prime example," Schmidt said. "As poppy growing has 
increased, the economy has slowed down."

In the 1990s, drug production fueled civil strife and living standards 
fell, the report says. In Pakistan and Iran, where poppy production was 
significantly reduced, economic growth proved positive and more sustainable.

The change of regime in Afghanistan has done little to change the 
situation, Schmidt added, and attempts by international agencies to address 
the problem have been thwarted by increased fighting between local groups.

The report called on European governments to extend more aid to Afghanistan 
to fight the problem and for the Afghan government to introduce tighter 
controls on drug production.

"The drug problem has to be considered in the overall economic and 
development context of a country ... and not just as a social problem," it 

Calling economic development critical in tackling the problem, the report 
also called for greater international assistance for small-scale farmers to 
help them switch from illicit drug production to growing legal crops.

In the United States, illegal drug prices have been forced up by shortfalls 
in supply caused by increased security at airports and ports due to the 
fight against terrorism. The United States continued to be home to the 
highest number of drug users in the world, the INCB said; it did not offer 
a figure.

The report warned that the perceived easing of drug legislation in Western 
countries could send a misleading message to the rest of the world, often 
leading young people to believe that drug usage was now legitimate.

Elsewhere, the report says illicit marijuana cultivation is widespread in 
Africa, particularly in Morocco. Cocaine use is rising in almost all the 
countries of southern and western Africa, particularly Nigeria and South 
Africa, and these regions are being used as supply routes for cocaine 
deliveries from South America to Europe and North America.

In Central America and the Caribbean, seizures of heroin and Ecstasy have 
increased although drug trafficking in the region mostly involves marijuana 
and cocaine, the report says; around 10 percent of passengers on flights 
from Jamaica to Britain are reported by authorities to be smuggling drugs.

In Colombia, guerrilla and paramilitary groups retain control of drug 
trafficking and are exchanging illicit drugs for firearms, although the 
anti-drugs initiative Plan Colombia, supported by the United States, seized 
more than 1,500 illicit drug laboratories and destroyed 55 clandestine 
runways in 2001 alone, the report says.
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