Representatives of the poorest and richest nations have entered the last days of another major conference on redistributing the world's wealth. With little besides fuel bills for their limousines to show how for it.
As they have in the four previous sessions of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) delegates here have quareled over whether rich or poor were more to blame for raising tariff barriers and prices, and crippling trade. Little has been said against determined price raisers like the oil-producing nations, for many of them, such as Iraq and Venezuela, have worked hard to ally themselves politically with the develping poor.
Eight negotiating committees working on international agreements to promote trade and increase aid to the underdevelped world have reported no specific programs as the June 1 closing date mears, but Philippine Foreign Minister Carlos Romulo warned against premature pessimism. Previous conference sessions have managed to past last-minute compromise resolutions-which, however, have had little impact on the economic troubles of the developing world.
Almost all the 119 developing nations hre who label themselves the Group of 77, have castigated the West and Japan for erecting barriers against cheap manufactured goods from the infant industries of the developing countries.
European delegates have replid that the poorer nations were keeping out Western manufactured goods to protect those same infant industries.
The developing nations' position, according to one European representative, is that "if you do not accept our goods, it is not because our goods are not of high quality, but because you are protectionist."
More basically, the Third World position is that the major industrial states and the multinational corporations they have spawned control the terms of trade to the detriment of the less developed. These nations often depend heavily on raw material exports which, they contend, rise in price sluggishly-or-fall-while the manufactured goods they import increase in price rapidly.
Delegate E. T. Mwamunga of Kenya called for radical changes in trade patterns so the world's trade patterns so the world's wealth will not be allowed to "continue to flow to just a limited and privileged few."
In a speeh that many of the developing nation delegates called disappointing U.S. delegate and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young replied, "Change . . . must be well considered. It must not be made so hastily that it destroys what serves our common interest."
Contradictions of wealth and poverty are nowhere better represented than in this sprawling capital of the Philippines. The delegates from 143 countries ride in new Mercedes Benz limousiness imported especially for the occasion.
They are protected by about 400 plainclothesmen from the presidential security officer of the conference, said each officer has been briefed on which nightclubs and massages parlors should be recommended to the delegates.
The huge convention center where the conference meets cost $110 million in 1975. The dozen luxury hotels housing delegates cost about $350 million. But the Philippine economy remains stagnant-hard hit by declining prices for major exports like sugar, rising iol import bills and some trade barriers in the West.
A sugar plantation worker earned somewhat less than a dollar a day in 1974, when sugar was 65 cents a pound. The same worker earns slightly more than a dollar a day this year, with sugar down to 8 cents a pound.
Raul Prebisch, 78, an Argentine economist whose work inspired the the idea of this confernce, told a press conference here that callous elites in the developing countries were ruining the chances of thir people to raise living standards through more international trade. They had turned their countries into "privileged consumption societies," he said.
"Not only private capital, but the state also wastes on consumptive investment-investment which doesn't increase production," he added.
Oil-producing nations here have deflected criticism of their own price rises by promising another conference on the subject later this year. The developing nations have focused criticism on Japan and the West for their high tariffs and low aid, and the Soviet Bloc, for its almost total lack of aid and the unwillingness of Eastern European nations to pay hard cash, rather than credits, forropean nations to pay hard cash, rather than credits, for goods from developing nations.