The Straits Times (Singapore)
NOV 25 1997
Drug growers don't make a bundle
by R. Senthilnathan in Vienna
CONTRARY to popular belief, countries where narcotic drugs are
grown and produced do not benefit greatly from the illegal trade
in the substance, a United Nations report has said.
On the contrary, the economic and social costs outweighed the
pittance they earned through drugs.
The United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) report
said that the most-lucrative sector was the distribution end,
which was based in the Western world.
More than 90 per cent of the estimated US$400 billion (S$640
billion) raked in through trade in cannabis, cocaine, heroin and
stimulant drugs came at this end.
In the case of cocaine and heroin, less than 10 per cent went to
Even then, most of the profits went to wholesalers and retailers
and less than 1 per cent of the total to farmers.
Producer countries also spent considerable sums of money to
treat abusers and to eradicate drug production.
Colombia, for instance, spent US$1.6 billion last year to fight
The report said that drug abuse cost the Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development more than US$120
The United States spent about US$76 billion on health and social
care as well as to beef up the criminal and justice systems to
tackle the problem.
While in some countries the drug sector created jobs, in general
drug abuse hampered productivity, the report said.
It said between 6 per cent and 15 per cent of the gross domestic
product (GDP) of Afghanistan, Bolivia and Colombia could have
stemmed from opium and cocaine production.
In Pakistan, it formed about 4 per cent of GDP.
One sector where the consequences of drug abuse were evident
was the health sector.
From the mid-80s to early 90s, drug deaths rose by a factor of six
in Germany and Spain, while Russia witnessed an increase of four
Similar increases had also been reported in Hongkong and Japan,
the report said.
About a fifth of the world's Aids/HIV population were drug users,
but in some countries the figures were much higher.
In Thailand, for instance, the figure was 80 per cent and in
Myanmar, 66 per cent. In the US, it was 30 per cent and in
China, 8 per cent.