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 producer countries.

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 drugs.

The report said that drug abuse cost the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development more than US$120 billion.

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 times.

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.