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June 30, 2005 - The Vancouver Sun (CN BC)

World's Illegal Drug Trade Set At $321b A Year

Value Exceeds GDP Of 90% Of Countries, UN Says

By Steven Edwards, CanWest News Service

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

UNITED NATIONS -- The UN has for the first time estimated the worth of the global illegal drug trade, saying in a report Wednesday it exceeds the annual production of goods and services in almost 90 per cent of the world's countries. (Full report here.)

At $321 billion US, only large, rich countries have a greater gross domestic product than the total street takings for illegal drugs around the globe, and the figure is almost half of Canada's GDP.

The illegal drug trade also continues to grow, and is increasingly linked to the financing of terrorism and the spread of AIDS, UN officials warn. But production has been rolled back in some areas, notably following crackdowns in Thailand, Laos and Myanmar, which has traditionally been called the "Golden Triangle" of opium poppy cultivation.

The report says the three countries could be largely "opium free" by 2007, though there are additional concerns that reduced cultivation is at the expense of an increase in human rights abuses and more widespread poverty as farmers are prevented from growing the only cash crop they have ever known.

The annual report comes from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, which says the negative impacts of the drug trade touch every society in the world.

"This is not a small enemy . . . it is a monster," said Antonio Maria Costa, head of the Vienna-based agency. "With such an enormous amount of capital at its disposal, it is bound to be an extremely tenacious one."

The report says the world's illegal drug trade is contributing to the spread of AIDS not only through people sharing needles, but also because drug users -- whether they've injected them or not -- are often more likely to have unprotected sex.

One way the drug trade is financing international terrorism is through the tolls traffickers must pay terrorist organizations in producing countries, officials say.

Big Business:

If the drug trade was a country, its gross domestic product would be $321 billion. The GDPs of some real countries (all figures $US):

  • Burundi $1 billion
  • Sudan $10.8 billion
  • Egypt $82.9 billion
  • Colombia $99.8 billion
  • Hong Kong $173.9 billion
  • Norway $184.5 billion
  • Taiwan $294.1 billion
  • Sweden $304.9 billion
  • Belgium $324.4 billion
  • Canada $763.9 billion
  • U.S.A. $9.5 trillion

Source: Index of Economic Freedom

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