[mgj-discuss] Fwd: Soren's Talking Points as text
mrickling at hotmail.com
Mon Apr 15 10:34:16 EDT 2002
>50 Years Is Enough: U.S. Network for Global Economic
>TALKING POINTS - IMF/WORLD BANK - APRIL 2002
>1. Why are you protesting again? What is it you want
> STATUS QUO UNCHANGED Were protesting - again -
>because the global economy is just as discriminatory
>and oppressive as it ever was, and popular mass action
>is necessary to change it.
> MASSIVE SUFFERING & DISCRIMINATION While many of us
>in the U.S. have been consumed by the events of
>September 11th, the war on terrorism, Enron, and the
>recent escalation of violence in the Middle East --
>all legitimate things to worry about -- millions of
>people in Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean,
>and yes, the Middle East, have been suffering:
>deprived of education, thrown out of work, lost their
>land, even died, because of the structure of the
> STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT The IMF and World Bank have
>not stopped imposing their draconian economic programs
>which require countries to
>- end subsidies for basic goods
>- de-regulate trade and commerce rules to attract
>- lay off workers
>- cut health and education spending
>- privatize public services.
>We will not stop protesting so long as the IMF and
>World Bank continue to use their power to deny people
>their basic rights and pave the way for corporations
>and wealthy investors.
>We will not stop protesting until the power we build
>compels the U.S. government and these institutions
>(where the U.S. is the most influential voice), to
>make fundamental changes in the structure of the
>global economy to restore peoples economic
> MOVEMENT GROWING The movement for global justice is
>not receding; in fact its biggest demonstration ever
>(between a quarter and a half million people) took
>place in Barcelona, Spain last month. If things
>seemed to slow down here for a little while, remember
>that were part of a growing global movement.
> DEMANDS Our demands of the IMF and World Bank:
>1) Open all World Bank and IMF meetings to the media
>and the public.
>2) Cancel all impoverished country debt to the World
>Bank and IMF, using the institutions' own resources.
>3) End all World Bank and IMF policies that hinder
>people's access to food, clean water, shelter, health
>care, education, and right to organize. (Such
>"structural adjustment" policies include user fees,
>privatization, and economic austerity programs.)
>4) Stop all World Bank support for socially and
>environmentally destructive projects such as oil, gas,
>and mining activities, and all support for projects
>such as dams that include forced relocation of people.
>2. What have the IMF and World Bank been up to since
>September 11th? Are they still the right institutions
>to protest? WB President Wolfensohn keeps saying that
>the world must fight poverty to fight terrorism:
>doesnt that elevate your goals?
> TERRORISM The claim that poverty breeds terrorism
>is an empty one. Impoverished people have neither the
>time nor the opportunity to think up terrorist plots.
>Such claims contribute more to the criminalization of
>poverty than to elevating the problem of poverty in
> TERRORISM What breeds terrorism is not poverty but
>injustice. Years, decades, centuries of systematic
>political and economic discrimination have set the
>stage for the disempowereds resentment against those
>who retain control of the system and its benefits.
>Where people have more access to education, resources,
>and, most importantly, time to analyze and strategize,
>some will likely turn that resentment into violence.
> COLD WAR RULES With the priority given the war on
>terrorism since September 11th, decision-making at
>the IMF and World Bank has begun to revert to the
>logic used during the cold war: money goes not to
>those who most need it or have the best plans, but to
>those whose political allegiance is required by the
>U.S. The most obvious beneficiary has been Pakistan,
>which was the object of economic sanctions before
>September 11th. Once it pledged allegiance to the war
>on terrorism, sanctions were ended and it became the
>beneficiary of unprecedented levels of debt relief,
>going far beyond the normal rules of the IMF and World
>Bank. Similarly, new programs and debt relief were
>extended to other countries in the region,
>particularly Tajikistan. Turkey, the Wests closest
>ally in the Islamic world, has been in the throes of a
>long economic crisis similar to Argentinas, but
>continues to be bailed out even though its adherence
>to IMF demands does not surpass Argentina, which was
>denied funds and allowed to default.
> FALL MEETINGS The IMF/WB meetings scheduled for
>September-October 2001 were postponed, and the
>corresponding protests cancelled. An abbreviated
>meeting was held in Ottawa in mid-November. More than
>4000 protesters staged spirited, peaceful
>demonstrations and large teach-ins held in Ottawa with
>just three weeks notice. These were the first big
>global justice demonstrations after September 11th.
> GRANTS In July 2001, President Bush issued a
>surprise announcement that the U.S. would push for the
>World Bank to deliver more of its assistance to
>impoverished countries through grants rather than
>loans. This is an idea many have long advocated, as
>it would at least mean no new debt. But suspicions
>have been raised because the Administration has been
>pushing this issue very hard, even holding up
>important WB agreements. The most likely explanation:
>the U.S. govt wants to see the grants used to
>subsidize the privatization of the most basic
>services in the most impoverished countries --
>education, health care, water provision.
>Multinational corporations or large NGOs would take
>over the service, charge customers, and for those who
>proved they couldnt afford, take payment from the
>grants instead. We oppose the subversion of a good
>idea -- grants instead of loans -- in order to
>facilitate the forced capitulation of governments
>providing basic services, making the rights of
>impoverished people to health, education, and water
>dependent on foreign corporations and organizations,
>and subject to the quest for profits.
> The two big economic stories since September 11th
>-- Argentina and Enron -- both have links to the IMF
>and World Bank:
> By following the advice of the IMF for the last 15
>years, Argentina has ended up with huge debts, the
>biggest governmental default in history, skyrocketing
>unemployment, massive corruption, a government pulled
>in so many directions that it can barely satisfy
>enough of the public to maintain its legitimacy, and
>grave social upheval.
> The IMF says now that it did not force policies on
>Argentina, but in fact the program followed was one
>devised by the IMF and Finance Minister Domingo
> The IMF/Cavallo plans radical free-market
>liberalization was designed to make Argentina the most
>globalized economy imaginable, and the IMFs
>involvement was part of why investors flocked to
>Argentina. The IMF later -- during the initial burst
>of investor enthusiasm -- pointed to Argentina as a
>model in urging radical liberalization on other
> The catastrophe suffered by the Argentinean people
>mirrors what has happened to people across Africa,
>parts of Asia, and the Caribbean. And with the IMF
>defensive and unrepentant about its role in Argentina,
>the chances that it will stop pressuring other
>countries to go in the same direction are very small.
> Enron is a nearly perfect illustration of the
>flawed logic of corporate globalization, the process
>put into practice by the IMF and the World Bank.
>Those institutions, along with the WTO and wealthy
>governments have been pushing de-regulation of
>industries for over 20 years now, with the idea that
>the private sector is more efficient than the
>public, and that the incentive of profits --
>regardless of how distorted they might seem -- is what
>keeps economies running and societies prospering.
> Instead of applying its creativity to provision of
>services or products, Enron concentrated on expanding
>and exploiting the profit to be made in using
>political influence and the willingness of officials
>to assist corporations. Why provide quality when you
>can get a Senator or a multilateral agency to force a
>government to open loopholes and hand over money?
> . Since 1992, the World Bank approved $761 million
>for 13 Enron projects over 10 years and played a key
>role by issuing loans for privatization of the energy
>and power sectors in developing countries.
> The influence Enron bought and accumulated allowed
>it to rely on U.S. embassy officials to blackmail
>governments into accepting Enron contracts and paying
>exorbitant rates, on high-ranking U.S. government
>officials (many former Enron employees or recipients
>of Enron donations) to change regulations to favor
>Enrons interests and even install regulators
>hand-picked by Enron, and on the World Bank to offer
>it loans and co-investments for environmentally
>questionable projects, as well as political risk
> Enron is the only World Bank client to ever win a
>claim on its political risk insurance; the $15 million
>cost was passed on by the Bank to the government of
> When the house of cards that was the worlds
>biggest energy company collapsed in a matter of weeks,
>it should have been clear that the economic system
>that has made so many in the U.S. very wealthy is
>built on ruthless exploitation, backroom deals,
>financial rules that have been re-written as favors to
>corporations, and political influence stemming from
>cash, in clear opposition to any principles.
>3. In March, President Bush announced that he was
>committing $10 billion more to foreign assistance in
>the drive to end poverty. Isnt that good news?
> It may be encouraging to see that this
>Administration feels some responsibility to pay
>attention to poverty in the Global South.
>Unfortunately, the President was always careful to say
>that the increased aid would be going to countries
>with sound economic policies -- which is a common
>euphemism for the structural adjustment policies of
>the IMF and World Bank. So long as thats the
>framework, the U.S. will just be pouring new wine into
>old wineskins. These policies have been driving down
>living standards and causing increased poverty levels
>for over 20 years. They force people to pay fees for
>basic health care and primary education which were
>once free; they encourage unsustainable mining and
>drilling for oil, which devastate the environment; and
>they force countries to sell off their national assets
>to pay off debts. More money tied to current policies
>is likely to do more harm than good, as it puts more
>weight behind destructive methods and takes countries
>further and further away from sustainable development
> President Bush and the U.S. government have,
>however, done much to point to a direction for better
>development policy. Perhaps inadvertently. With the
>U.S. seemingly headed for recession and a crisis of
>confidence after September 11th, the Bush
>Administration has decided that budget deficits,
>usually the bane of Republicans, can again be
>tolerated, and that the U.S. can spend massive amounts
>of new money on defense -- money that was never
>available for domestic programs or foreign aid. This
>directly contradicts what countries in crisis are told
>when they go to the IMF -- they must balance their
>budgets at all costs, including elimination of basic
>social programs, employment, and food subsidies. The
>IMF insists on countries prioritizing paying off debts
>ahead of most any other need, and refuses to consider
>simply cancelling debts it claims for itself from
>countries that cannot feed their people. And the IMF
>sits on approximately $30 billion in gold reserves.
> In the same way, the Federal Reserve responded to
>the economic slow-down by lowering interest rates to
>stimulate the economy. The IMF demands that countries
>it lends to in times of crisis raise interest rates,
>ostensibly to fight inflation. As a result,
>businesses which cannot get credit close down, workers
>are laid off, and farmers are forced to sell their
> The controversial tariffs that President Bush
>slapped on imported steel recently also point to a
>fundamental contradiction in U.S. policy and an
>imperative lesson for development. Bush responded to
>political pressure -- which is what is supposed to
>happen in a democracy -- and offered protection to
>U.S. workers and pensioners with the tariffs. Whether
>the decision was wise for the long term or not, it is
>both the obligation and the right of governments to
>respond to citizens calls for protection. The
>contradiction lies in the fact that the U.S.
>government and the IMF and World Bank, acting at its
>direction, forbid less powerful countries from
>maintaining tariffs to protect their industries. They
>must instead allow foreign competition to overwhelm
>their markets, driving people out of work, companies
>out of business, and entire countries into unskilled
>labor at the mercy of foreign corporations. We must
>restore economic sovereignty to countries if we are to
>realize a balanced and fair world economy.
>4. A lot of people seem to be coming in to town for a
>mobilization on Plan Colombia, and we understand
>youre cooperating with them. What do the IMF and
>World Bank have to do with the war on drugs, Plan
>Colombia, and the civil war in Colombia?
> We do not suggest that all of Colombias troubles
>result from the actions of the IMF and World Bank.
>However, the country has hit hard economic times in
>recent years that cannot be explained solely by the
>civil war. With the mid-1999 acceptance of an IMF
>structural adjustment loan (and its conditions),
>Colombia entered a new era of economic crisis. That
>was preceded by the governments succumbing to World
>Bank advice throughout the 90s on how to adjust to
>globalization -- something it was already doing better
>than most South American countries. The damaging
>consequences of that advice opened the door for the
>IMF to impose its 1999 program.
> A new report by the Medellin-based Escuela Nacional
>Sindical (ENS) for the Global Policy Network
>(www.gpn.org) confirms that the IMF program has
>failed, instead causing a rapid acceleration of
>poverty. Some facts:
>- Unemployment in Colombia almost doubled from 10.5%
>in 1990 to 19.7% in 2000.
>- Policies promoted by both the IMF and World Bank --
>including privatizing many industries and public
>services, eliminating subsidies of all kinds, raising
>interest rates, and cutting public services, quickly
>resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.
> - Under the 1999 plan, Colombia had to privatize many
>industries and public services, eliminate subsidies,
>increase tariffs for public services, raise interest
>rates, downsize the public sector, and open up the
>nations economy to world competition.
> - Despite being assured that jobs in export-oriented
>companies would make up for the wiping out of local
>production, Colombia now imports far more than it
>exports and unemployment has soared.
> - Colombia has ceased to be food self-sufficient,
>having to import what it once exported. Colombia now
>imports more than 6 million tons of food annually
>while two million acres of arable land lie idle.
>- Per-capita income in Colombia has plunged from
>$2,716 in 1997 to a current level of $1,890. Between
>1997 and 2000, the percentage of Colombians living in
>poverty rose from 50.3% to 60.0%.
>50 Years Is Enough: U.S. Network for Global Economic
>3628 12th St., N.E. Washington, DC 20017 USA
>50years at 50years.org
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