The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank are again holding their annual meetings in Washington, D.C.
With financial crises wracking Argentina and Brazil, and deepening poverty further engulfing most of Africa — even as all these nations bow to still more dictates from the IMF and World Bank — the institutions are increasingly discredited.
This provides a real opportunity to constrain their ability to do harm — making it more important than ever to join protests in Washington, D.C. on September 28.
The demonstrations will kick off at noon with a rally at Sylvan Theater (in the shadow of the Washington Monument) that will feature Ralph Nader, Michele Shocked and a host of dynamic speakers and performers. A march will take protesters by the U.S. Treasury Department –the U.S. government agency that directs U. S. participation in the IMF and Bank, and that enormously influences their policy making. Following a short closing rally, many demonstrators will participate in a nonviolent direct action to “quarantine” the IMF and Bank’s hazardous policies and “inoculate” the delegates to the meetings with the truth about the harms they are perpetrating.
(For information on the protests, see http://www.globalizethis.org ; for information on an End Corporate Rule teach-in continuing through Friday evening, see http://www.50years.org/sept2002/teachin.html .)
Here are 10 reasons to join the protests:
1. The IMF is clamping down on democracy in Brazil. Its loan packages are intended to lock in market fundamentalist policies, no matter which party Brazilians elect in upcoming elections.
2. User fees denying people the right to healthcare. The World Bank continues to support charges — known as user fees — for basic healthcare. In country after country, even small charges have been shown to deny people access to care, even as the miniscule charges raise little money to finance the healthcare system.
3. Maniacal support for privatization. As one of its current projects on the cutting-edge of privatization, the Bank is pushing for the transfer of public water services into the hands of the multinational water companies. The result: higher prices that interfere with widespread access, no improvement in service, and a profit-making bonanza for the multinationals.
4. Fueling climate change and environmental destruction. Fossil fuel corporations benefited from over $24 billion in World Bank financing between 1992 and August 2002, according to a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). The Banks’ fossil fuel portfolio, IPS estimates, will generate roughly twice as much carbon dioxide (a potent greenhouse gas) as industry produced worldwide in the year 2000.
5. Bankrolling forest destruction. Following a disastrous history of supporting forest destruction around the world, the World Bank in 1993 adopted a policy prohibiting further direct financing of commercial logging activities in primary tropical moist forests. The Bank has not effectively enforced this policy. The Bank’s solution? A revised draft Forest Policy which removes the ban and provides no new protections for forests or forest peoples.
6. Sham debt relief. With many countries in Africa paying more in debt service than they spend on healthcare, the IMF and World Bank continue with their failed debt relief program. Not only does it require “beneficiary” countries to implement harmful policies as a condition of receiving debt relief, it doesn’t offer much relief. Of the first two dozen countries eligible to get relief, internal IMF/Bank analyses show that at least half will end with what are considered “unsustainable” debt burdens — and the institutions believe poor countries can send huge amounts of money out of the country in debt payments and still be “sustainable.”
7. Spurring the spread of HIV. Many IMF/Bank policies disrupt social structures and facilitate the spread of HIV/AIDS. For example: With the removal of tariffs on food products and promotion of food exports, imports undermine local farmers and the shift to large-scale plantations for exports further displaces the rural population. Many men leave rural villages for work in big cities or in mines, contract HIV/AIDS from casual sex partners or sex workers, and then spread the disease to spouses in their home village. The displacement of children and young women into the cities has led to a sharp increase in commercial sex work and heightened rates of HIV/AIDS.
8. Torturing Argentina. After helping plunge Argentina into economic chaos, the IMF has sadistically demanded a ceaseless set of additional moves to deregulation and austerity.
9. Collaborating with Enron. In the last decade, the World Bank made a dozen loans totaling more than $750 million for projects involving Enron. In the Dominican Republic, World Bank-supported privatization let Enron swoop in, buy parts of the electric utility and jack up rates. When consumers and the government couldn’t pay the high prices, Enron turned off the power. Enron and other buyers of the privatized utility are now alleged to have paid too little, thanks to a valuation performed by an Arthur Andersen subsidiary.
10. Protest works. In the aftermath of the last major U.S. demonstrations against the IMF and Bank, Congress in 2000 passed a law requiring the U.S. to oppose IMF or Bank loans including user fees for primary education or healthcare. That helped force a reversal in the Bank’s policy on school fees, with results that are slowly being felt on the ground. After Tanzania lifted primary education user fees, 1.5 million additional children — mostly girls — were able to go to school.
See you in Washington!
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, http://www.multinationalmonitor.org and works with the Mobilization for Global Justice, sponsoring the September 28 protests. They are co-authors of Corporate Predators: The Hunt for MegaProfits and the Attack on Democracy (Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1999; http://www.corporatepredators.org).