Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Please Support CounterPunch’s Annual Fund Drive
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We only ask you once a year, but when we ask we mean it. So, please, help as much as you can. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. All contributions are tax-deductible.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

World Bank’s Jim Yong Kim Comes to South Africa

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)

More articles by:

Patrick Bond (pbond@mail.ngo.za) is professor of political economy at the University of the Witwatersrand School of Governance in Johannesburg. He is co-editor (with Ana Garcia) of BRICS: An Anti-Capitalist Critique, published by Pluto (London), Haymarket (Chicago), Jacana (Joburg) and Aakar (Delhi).

October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
Conn Hallinan
Syria’s Chessboard
Patrick Cockburn
The Saudi Atrocities in Yemen are a Worse Story Than the Disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi
Sheldon Richman
Trump’s Middle East Delusions Persist
Justin T. McPhee
Uberrima Fides? Witness K, East Timor and the Economy of Espionage
Tom Gill
Spain’s Left Turn?
Jeff Cohen
Few Democrats Offer Alternatives to War-Weary Voters
Dean Baker
Corporate Debt Scares
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Affair and and the Anti-Iran Axis
Russell Mokhiber
Sarah Chayes Calls on West Virginians to Write In No More Manchins
Clark T. Scott
Acclimated Behaviorisms
Kary Love
Evolution of Religion
Colin Todhunter
From GM Potatoes to Glyphosate: Regulatory Delinquency and Toxic Agriculture
Binoy Kampmark
Evacuating Nauru: Médecins Sans Frontières and Australia’s Refugee Dilemma
Marvin Kitman
The Kitman Plan for Peace in the Middle East: Two Proposals
Weekend Edition
October 12, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Becky Grant
My History with Alexander Cockburn and The Financial Future of CounterPunch
Paul Street
For Popular Sovereignty, Beyond Absurdity
Nick Pemberton
The Colonial Pantsuit: What We Didn’t Want to Know About Africa
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Summer of No Return
Jeff Halper
Choices Made: From Zionist Settler Colonialism to Decolonization
Gary Leupp
The Khashoggi Incident: Trump’s Special Relationship With the Saudi Monarchy
Andrew Levine
Democrats: Boost, Knock, Enthuse
Barbara Kantz
The Deportation Crisis: Report From Long Island
Doug Johnson
Nate Silver and 538’s Measurable 3.5% Democratic Bias and the 2018 House Race
Gwen Carr
This Stops Today: Seeking Justice for My Son Eric Garner
Robert Hunziker
Peak Carbon Emissions By 2020, or Else!
Arshad Khan
Is There Hope on a World Warming at 1.5 Degrees Celsius?
David Rosen
Packing the Supreme Court in the 21stCentury
Brian Cloughley
Trump’s Threats of Death and Destruction
Joel A. Harrison
The Case for a Non-Profit Single-Payer Healthcare System
Ramzy Baroud
That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah
Zhivko Illeieff
Addiction and Microtargeting: How “Social” Networks Expose us to Manipulation
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
What is Truth?
Michael Doliner
Were the Constitution and the Bill of Rights a Mistake?
Victor Grossman
Cassandra Calls
Ralph E. Shaffer
Could Kavanaugh’s Confirmation Hearing Ended Differently?
Vanessa Cid
Our Everyday Family Separations
Walaa Al Ghussein
The Risks of Being a Journalist in Gaza
Ron Jacobs
Betrayal and Treachery—The Extremism of Moderates
James Munson
Identity Politics and the Ruling Class
P. Sainath
The Floods of Kerala: the Bank That Went Under…Almost
Ariel Dorfman
How We Roasted Donald Duck, Disney’s Agent of Imperialism
Joe Emersberger
Ecuadorian President Lenin Moreno’s Assault on Human Rights and Judicial Independence
Ed Meek
White Victimhood: Brett Kavanaugh and the New GOP Brand
Andrew McLean, MD
A Call for “Open Space”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail