FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

World Bank’s Jim Yong Kim Comes to South Africa

by PATRICK BOND

Durban, South Africa.

“One of the things you learn as an anthropologist, you don’t come in and change the culture,” Dartmouth College President Jim Yong Kim told wealthy alumni when contemplating the institution’s notorious hazing practices, prior to Barack Obama’s request last February that he move to the World Bank.

Kim’s Harvard doctorate and medical degree, his founding of the heroic NGO Partners in Health, and his directorship of the World Health Organisation’s AIDS division make him the best-educated, most humane Bank president yet. A decade ago, he co-edited the book Dying for Growth, pointing out that ‘Washington Consensus’ policies and projects had a sharply adverse impact on health.

No better examples here can be found than two ‘minerals-energy complex’ investments approved by his predecessors Paul Wolfowitz in 2006 and Robert Zoellick in 2010. Kim should pay a visit because both are within an hour’s drive of the Joburg-Pretoria megalopolis, whose ten million people live in the relatively barren area simply because of the gold’s discovery in 1886.

Though nearly all gone now, gold built the continent’s largest industrial complex, spewing vast pollution and undergirding apartheid. The old mines wrecked the water system with Acid Mine Drainage, not to mention lives of hundreds of thousands of former workers now filing silicosis lawsuits against the mining houses, or similar numbers of HIV+ migrant workers and their wives back home in the old Bantustans or neighbouring countries.

Mining is again wrecking worker health and creating socio-ecological chaos west of Joburg, at Marikana platinum mine, where the Bank’s International Finance Corporation invested $15 million in Lonmin to enhance ‘community development’. Wolfowitz authorized a further $135 million in equity and debt, but the price of platinum crashed by two thirds in 2008, which made a further stake doubtful.

Far greater banking profits were generated in the Bank’s biggest-ever project credit: the $3.75 billion Zoellick lent in April 2010, mainly for the construction of the third largest coal-fired power plant on earth, at Medupi.

The social and environmental balance sheet immediately went into the red, not only because the loan was granted just 20 months prior to Durban hosting the United Nations COP17 climate summit, when last December Zoellick unsuccessfully requested that the Bank be given control of the potentially vast Green Climate Fund, with promised annual spending by 2020 of $100 billion.

Worse, the borrowing agent for Medupi was Eskom, which controversially bought billions of dollars worth of turbine boilers from Hitachi, in whose local subsidiary the African National Congress (ANC) held a quarter ‘Black Economic Empowerment’ share. In an obvious conflict of interest, Eskom’s chair, Valli Moosa, also sat on the ANC Finance Committee, drawing a rebuke of ‘improper conduct’ from the Public Protector.

A substantial civil society coalition opposed Medupi, and the Bank’s own Inspection Panel slated the loan. Yet when announcing Kim’s visit last week, the Bank claimed that it “helps bring badly needed electricity to homes”.

In reality, the 130 percent Eskom price increase from 2008-12 to pay for Medupi was borne not by the largest electricity consumer, BHP Billiton (which still gets the world’s cheapest power thanks to a 40-year apartheid-era deal­), but by ordinary poor people. Power disconnections are now a leading cause of the surge in community protests, already at amongst the highest levels on earth.

The Bank’s accompanying renewable energy credit to Medupi was a ‘fig leaf’, confessed Tufts University Professor William Moomaw, a consultant to the Medupi loan.

And although according to the same Bank announcement, “The World Bank Group’s program in South Africa is still in early stages,” the relationship began in 1951, with huge loans to Eskom to supply white households while blacks got no electricity until the 1980s, thanks to prevailing apartheid restrictions.

Kim is an optimist, pronouncing “Africa is truly taking off,” on the eve of his departure this week. But his own institution’s 2011 book, The Changing Wealth of Nations, measured capital not just in financial terms but also with respect to the minerals beneath the soil, to capture the genuine ‘wealth of nations’ in Africa.

In the process, the continent’s ‘adjusted net savings’ was calculated at negative 7 percent per year mainly due to non-renewable resource extraction: “Africa is consuming more than its current net income. It can only do this by liquidating its [natural] capital, which will leave its citizens poorer and with less capacity to generate income in the years to come.”

Herein Kim’s critical problem: extractive industries promoted by the Bank are creating Resource Curses in Marikana, Medupi and everywhere. The day after the massacre, the Washington-based Center for International Environmental Law called on Kim to revisit his stake in Lonmin and reconsider the extractives sector.

If after this week’s trip, Kim decides to leave the toxic culture of SA’s minerals-energy complex unchanged, it will be yet another case of ‘dying for growth’: profits for multinational capital at the expense of people and planet.

Patrick Bond teaches development studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, where he directs the Centre for Civil Society (http://ccs.ukzn.ac.za)

Patrick Bond has a joint appointment in political economy at the Wits University School of Governance in Johannesburg, alongside directing the University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society in Durban. His latest book is BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique (co-edited with Ana Garcia), published by Pluto (London), Haymarket (Chicago), Jacana (Joburg) and Aakar (Delhi).

May 04, 2016
Kshama Sawant
It’s Not About Bernie: Why We Can’t Let Our Revolution Die in Philadelphia
Conn Hallinan
Baiting the Bear: Russia and NATO
Joshua Frank
Hanford’s Leaky Nuke Tanks and Sick Workers, A Never-Ending Saga
Paul Craig Roberts
TIPP: Advancing American Imperialism
Ted Rall
Hillary to Bernie Supporters: Don’t Vote for Me!
Eric Draitser
Hillary Clinton and Wall Street’s Neoliberal War on Latin America
Leslie Scott
The Story of Jill Stein: Putting People, Peace and the Planet Before Profits
Ann Garrison
Building the Greens Into a Mass Party: Interview with Bruce Dixon
Tom Clifford
Crying Rape: Trump’s Slurs Against China
Lawrence Davidson
Getting Rid of Bad Examples: Andrew Jackson & Woodrow Wilson
Ellen Brown
Bank of North Dakota Soars Despite Oil Bust: A Blueprint for California?
Nelson Valdes
Is Fidel Castro Outside or Part of Mainstream Thinking? A Selection of Quotes
Jesse Jackson
Don’t Send Flint Down the Drain: Fix It!
Nathan Riley
Help Bernie Keep His Halo
Rivera Sun
Remembering Nonviolent History: Freedom Rides
Clancy Sigal
Rachel and the Isolationists: How Maddow Blew It
Laura Finley
Changing the Conversation About “The Woman Card”
CJ Hopkins
Coming this Summer … Revenge of the Bride of Sophie’s Choice
May 03, 2016
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Foreign Policy Resumé: What the Record Shows
Michèle Brand – Arun Gupta
What is the “Nuit Debout”?
Chuck Churchill
The Failures of Capitalism, Donald Trump and Right Wing Terror
Dave Marsh
Bernie and the Greens
John Wight
Zionism Should be on Trial, Not Ken Livingstone
Rev. John Dear
A Dweller in Peace: the Life and Times of Daniel Berrigan
Patrick Cockburn
Saudi Arabia’s Great Leap Forward: What Would Mao Think?
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Electoral Votes Matter: Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders vs Donald Trump
Chris Gilbert
Venezuela Today: This Must Be Progress
Pepe Escobar
The Calm Before the Coming Global Storm
Ruth Fowler
Intersecting with the Identity Police (Or Why I Stopped Writing Op-Eds)
Victor Lasa
The Battle Rages on in Spain: the Country Prepares for Repeat Elections in June
Jack Rasmus
Is the US Economy Heading for Recession?
Dean Baker
Time for an Accountable Federal Reserve
Ted Rall
Working for US Gov Means Never Saying Sorry
Dave Welsh
Hunger Strikers at Mission Police Station: “Stop the execution of our people”
John Eskow
The Death of Prince and the Death of Lonnie Mack
May 02, 2016
Michael Hudson – Gordon Long
Wall Street Has Taken Over the Economy and is Draining It
Paul Street
The Bernie Fade Begins
Ron Jacobs
On the Frontlines of Peace: the Life of Daniel Berrigan
Louis Yako
Dubai Transit
Bill Quigley
Teacher, Union Leader, Labor Lawyer: Profile of Chris Williams Social Justice Advocate
Patrick Cockburn
Into the Green Zone: Iraq’s Disintegrating Political System
Lawrence Ware
Trump is the Presidential Candidate the Republicans Deserve
Ron Forthofer
Just Say No to Corporate Rule
Ralph Nader
The Long-Distance Rebound of Bernie Sanders
Ken Butigan
Remembering Daniel Berrigan, with Gratitude
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail