IMF and Blood Money
|October 11, 2002||Posted by Staff under Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Guest Essay Considers IMF Hypocrisy
IMF and Blood Money
by Valerie Sherman
Hundreds of protesters were arrested by some 3,000 police officers in Washington, D.C. last week in relation to a meeting of the International Monetary Fund. Some protesters chained themselves together in streets and sidewalks, which led police to detain the individuals.
Sadly, most people reading this column do not know what the IMF is. I didn’t until maybe a year ago.
The IMF is a global organization that has attempted to manage the Third World debt. In actuality, many believe the IMF, run disproportionately by the wealthy countries, is benefiting richer nations at the cost of the poorer ones.
For example, the foreign aid given to developing countries is often used to pay debt, not to actually benefit the nation at all. For example, in 2001 Zambia paid $158 million to rich nations, three times more on debt service than on health, according to Jubilee 2000′s website. (Jubilee 2000 is an organization devoted to canceling the impossible to repay debt of developing nations.)
Perhaps it’s put best by Demba Dembele of the Forum for African Alternatives of Senegal: “We are living under a central command economy that has made our nation the poorest nation in Africa, and that economy is being controlled at 1818 H Street in Washington D.C.”
Illinois State University politics and government professor Julie Webber advocates taking more political action, as this issue is not merely an economic one.
For instance, if South American countries banded together instead of quibbling with each other over the debt as they have been doing, they could simultaneously default on the debt, as advocated by author Kenneth Stiles. If nations did this, the IMF and World Bank would be unable to wage war against the entire continent, Webber said, adding defaulting together would give the developing countries a bargaining position in world politics.
This move would also help nations develop national self-determination, Webber said, which would help them save face in the action of defaulting on debt.
“The cost of providing basic health care and nutrition for all would be less than is spent in Europe and the U.S. on pet food,” according to a statistic compiled by Dr. Robinson Rojas of the Euromonitor in 1997.
In addition, figures from the United Nations website estimate the number of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS around the world to be hundreds of thousands per country per year in the most affected countries.
In other statistics from the U.N., in 2001 only 5 percent of births were attended by skilled health care professionals in Equatorial Guinea, and only 13 percent in Bangladesh.
In a 1998 article, Joseph Hanlon explains the historical instances where debt has been ignored. Britain defaulted on its WWI debt to the United States and has never paid, according to Hanlon, and neither have other European countries, which owe America $18.5 billion.
“If rich Britain believes that it need not repay such a huge amount, what right does it have to demand that poor countries pay?” Hanlon wrote.
“In 1951, Germany was asked to use 10 percent of exports to repay debts, but it argued this was unsustainable. Its former enemies agreed, and Germany payments were limited to 3.5 percent.” Many poor countries, however, are being asked to pay debts with 20 to 25 percent of their exports.
If the former Nazi Germany was only asked to pay 3.5 percent, how can we justify forcing countries to pay 25 percent when they cannot afford adequate health care, sanitation and even food for their people?
Too many people are indifferent or ignorant about Third World debt and non-Western issues in general. The incident in Washington greatly publicized an issue that needs the attention of the American public.
A girl in a class of mine tried to get a story published in The Pantagraph about a store in Bloomington that aids developing nations in gaining income (“Crossroads”), and the Pantagraph editor told her it wasn’t newsworthy.
He was wrong.
Valerie Sherman is a columnist and editor at the Daily Vidette. This article appears with her permission.
We prefer freedom to the command-and-control IMF. Anti-freedom, market-manipulating IMF policies show that it is out of touch and lurching out of control. Do you have an opinion on this issue? Tell us!