Cataclysm: The North-South. Conflict of 1987 by William Clark (Sidgwick and Jackson, £10.95).
THE SPECTRE of the debtridden nations of. the Third World reneging on their financial commitment to the western banks has been raised several times in recent months. Argentina, Bolivia and Brazil have all seemed to be on the point of refusing to meet their repayment schedules and thus throwing the world financial system into chaos.
So far the developing nations have always been persuaded to pull back from the edge of the precipice, but William Clark, a former vice-president of the World Bank and now President of the International Institute for Environment and Development
predicts that the day is fast approaching when such a debacle will be unavoidable. This is the central, chilling message of Cataclysm which is written in the form of an observer's account of events in 1987.
The scene is a meeting of world finance ministers under the auspices of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington. An appeal is made by the President of Mexico for a complete restructuring of international finance institutions so as to lessen the crippling burden of debt on the South.
The appeal, however. falls on deaf northern ears, despite the enthusiasm of the developing nations, and what ensues is a split between the South, representing three-quarters of the world's population, and the industrialised nations, orchestrated by an unholy alliance of the United States and an extremely unsympathetic Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Scott.
The split is followed by the expulsion of the southern nations from the IMF and the World Bank, and the North then turns the fund to the purpose of propping up the banking system.
Acts of terrorism mark the increasingly bitter spiral of events in the dispute. The question affects the whole world, and the side issues such as the future of the West Bank and of the apartheid system in South Africa are brought into the struggle. A nuclear explosion in Israel, brought about by the frightened powers of computerised technology from outside the country, brings the "Zionist" state to the negotiating table, whilst in South Africa, the white minority Government in Pretoria collapses under the strain.
The world split is finally resolved through the mediation of China, Japan and Australia, all three of whom find themselves with divided loyalties in the struggle.
The final compromise is more of an agreement by both sides to listen to each other and to work out an acceptable solution to each other's grievances. Mr Clark leaves this ending deliberately unclear, so as not to dim his central message.
Unless the western nations do something about the unequal and unfair distribution of world resources and halt the net flow of resources from South to North, the events which William Clark predicts could well be acted out on the world stage with disastrous consequences.