FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

IMF and World Bank Are Out of Control

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are institutions out of control.

For evidence, consider the institutions’ feeble and fatally flawed debt relief program. Under their Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative, the world’s poorest countries can receive reduction of approximately one third of their current payments to overseas creditors — if they endure six years of closely monitored, extremely intrusive “structural adjustment.”

Structural adjustment is the policy package that includes such measures as indiscriminate privatization, labor market deregulation, government spending cuts, trade and financial liberalization, economic deregulation, an emphasis on exports and charges (“user fees”) for people to attend clinics for basic healthcare.

HIPC is the institutions’ most important fig-leaf, a program designed to obscure the view of the harm they are doing to poor countries. The World Bank and IMF regularly tout HIPC as a sign of their responsiveness to the poor.

But now the HIPC initiative is beginning to collapse, even on its own terms. In April, during their spring meetings, the IMF and Bank announced that several of the countries that have qualified for debt relief by suffering through the first three years of mandated structural adjustment are about to lose their debt relief eligibility. The charge: they have failed to implement structural adjustment conditions with sufficient vigor.

Apparently, the Bank and Fund cannot control themselves. They want to exact more blood from the world’s poorest countries, even when they must know it will sabotage their public relations campaign.

There is, however, now an opportunity to rein in the Bank and Fund.

This year, the World Bank is seeking new monies for its International Development Association (IDA), the arm of the Bank that lends to the poorest countries.

Getting the U.S. contribution to IDA will require a vote by the U.S. Congress.

A broad coalition of U.S. environmental, development, religious, labor and global justice organizations has formed to demand that if the United States decides to contribute to IDA — a near certainty — that it also work for policies that will reduce the IMF and Bank’s power. (Essential Action is part of this coalition.)

The coalition is drawing on a successful initiative of the year 2000, when the Congress enacted a law requiring the U.S. representatives to the World Bank and IMF to vote against projects or loans that included user fees for primary education or healthcare.

The Treasury Department, which manages U.S. policy at the Bank and Fund, invented a duplicitous reading of the legislative language to avoid carrying out Congressional intent, especially on healthcare user fees.

But the passage of the law helped force a reconsideration of education user fees. Now the World Bank, which for 15 years has encouraged school fees, is actively working to help countries remove such charges. In Tanzania, the recent elimination of school fees enabled 1.5 million children, who otherwise would have been locked out, to go to school.

The coalition is now urging the United States to oppose loans or projects that include a range of harmful provisions, including restrictions on labor rights, increased water charges for the poor, environmentally hazardous practices such as aggressive pesticide use, privatization without safeguards for workers and protections against corruption, and privatization of tobacco enterprises. (For details on the proposals, click here.)

The coalition is also proposing the IDA appropriation be accompanied by new U.S. support for debt cancellation for the poorest countries. social and environmental assessments of structural adjustment — conducted before such policies are put into place — and requirements that the World Bank measure the effectiveness of its project loans.

Some set of these proposals will appear in an IDA authorization bill, which will be considered by the House financial services committee and the Senate foreign relations committee over the summer, as well as in the foreign operations appropriations bill, which is sure to pass by the end of the Congressional term.

It is sad and pathetic that these reforms, limiting the ability of the World Bank and IMF to do harm, must come from the U.S. Congress. Sad, because institutions that claim to be devoted to eradicating poverty should not need such external discipline. Pathetic, because it is not people in affected countries who have the ability to influence the institutions’ policies, but uniquely the citizens of the United States.

With that power and influence comes obligation. The Treasury Department will oppose the coalition’s proposals, if for no other reason than it does not like Congress trying to direct policy toward the Bank and IMF. It will take an expression of citizen concern to overcome the Treasury Department’s obstruction.

Russell Mokhiber is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Corporate Crime Reporter. Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational Monitor, and co-director of Essential Action. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999.

(c) Russell Mokhiber and Robert Weissman

Weekend Edition
August 14, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Lights! Camera! Kill! Hollywood, the Pentagon and Imperial Ambitions.
Joseph Grosso
Bloody Chicken: Inside the American Poultry Industry During the Time of COVID
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: It Had to be You
H. Bruce Franklin
August 12-22, 1945: Washington Starts the Korean and Vietnam Wars
Pete Dolack
Business as Usual Equals Many Extra Deaths from Global Warming
Paul Street
Whispers in the Asylum (Seven Days in August)
Richard Falk – Daniel Falcone
Predatory Capitalism and the Nuclear Threat in the Age of Trump
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
‘Magical Thinking’ has Always Guided the US Role in Afghanistan
Ramzy Baroud
The Politics of War: What is Israel’s Endgame in Lebanon and Syria?
Ron Jacobs
It’s a Sick Country
Eve Ottenberg
Trump’s Plan: Gut Social Security, Bankrupt the States
Richard C. Gross
Trump’s Fake News
Jonathan Cook
How the Guardian Betrayed Not Only Corbyn But the Last Vestiges of British Democracy
Joseph Natoli
What Trump and the Republican Party Teach Us
Robert Fisk
Can Lebanon be Saved?
Brian Cloughley
Will Biden be Less Belligerent Than Trump?
Kenn Orphan
We Do Not Live in the World of Before
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Compromise & the Status Quo
Andrew Bacevich
Biden Wins, Then What?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
The Criminology of Global Warming
Michael Welton
Toppled Monuments and the Struggle For Symbolic Space
Prabir Purkayastha
Why 5G is the First Stage of a Tech War Between the U.S. and China
Daniel Beaumont
The Reign of Error
Adrian Treves – John Laundré
Science Does Not Support the Claims About Grizzly Hunting, Lethal Removal
David Rosen
A Moment of Social Crisis: Recalling the 1970s
Maximilian Werner
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf: Textual Manipulations in Anti-wolf Rhetoric
Pritha Chandra
Online Education and the Struggle over Disposable Time
Robert Koehler
Learning from the Hibakushas
Seth Sandronsky
Teaching in a Pandemic: an Interview With Mercedes K. Schneider
Dean Baker
Financing Drug Development: What the Pandemic Has Taught Us
Greta Anderson
Blaming Mexican Wolves for Livestock Kills
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Meaning of the Battle of Salamis
Mel Gurtov
The World Bank’s Poverty Illusion
Paul Gilk
The Great Question
Rev. Susan K. Williams Smith
Trump Doesn’t Want Law and Order
Martin Cherniack
Neo-conservatism: The Seductive Lure of Lying About History
Nicky Reid
Pick a Cold War, Any Cold War!
George Wuerthner
Zombie Legislation: the Latest Misguided Wildfire Bill
Lee Camp
The Execution of Elephants and Americans
Christopher Brauchli
I Read the News Today, Oh Boy…
Tony McKenna
The Truth About Prince Philip
Louis Proyect
MarxMail 2.0
Sidney Miralao
Get Military Recruiters Out of Our High Schools
Jon Hochschartner
Okra of Time
David Yearsley
Bringing Landscapes to Life: the Music of Johann Christian Bach
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail