The next citizen showdown against corporate globalization will be on April
16 and 17, when thousands of people come to Washington, D.C. to protest --
through legal demonstrations and/or civil disobedience -- the politics of
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. For details on
events, see www.a16.org. Here's a dozen reasons why you should join the
1. IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programs have increased poverty
around the world.
Structural adjustment -- the standard IMF/World Bank policy package which
calls for slashing government spending, privatization, and opening up
countries to exploitative foreign investment, among other measures -- has
deepened poverty around the world. In the two regions with the most
structural adjustment experience, per capita income has stagnated (Latin
America) or plummeted (Africa). Structural adjustment has also contributed
to rising income and wealth inequality in the developing world.
2. IMF/World Bank "debt relief" for poor and indebted countries is a sham.
Many poor countries must devote huge portions of their national budgets to
paying back foreign creditors -- often for loans that were made to or for
dictators, wasteful military spending or boondoggle projects. The money
used to pay back debt subtracts from essential expenditures on health,
education, infrastructure and other important needs.
The IMF/World Bank plan to relieve poor countries' debt burden will leave
most poor countries paying nearly as much as they currently do. And all of
the debt relief is conditioned on countries undergoing years of closely
monitored structural adjustment.
3. The IMF has helped foster a severe depression in Russia.
Russia in the 1990s has witnessed a peacetime economic contraction of
unprecedented scale -- with the number of Russians in poverty rising from
2 million to 60 million since the IMF came to post-Communist Russia. The
IMF's "shock therapy" -- sudden and intense structural adjustment --
helped bring about this disaster. "In retrospect, it's hard to see what
could have been done wrong that wasn't," says Mark Weisbrot of the Center
for Economic and Policy Research.
4. The IMF helped create and worsen the Asian financial crisis.
The IMF encouraged Asian countries to open their borders to "hot money" --
speculative finance invested in currency, stocks and short-term
securities. That was an invitation to trouble. The Asian financial crisis
resulted from the hot money brokers' herdlike decision to leave Asian
countries en masse.
Once the crisis hit, the IMF made things worse by requiring structural
adjustment as a condition for IMF loans. The result was a surge in
bankruptcies, layoffs and poverty. In Indonesia, poverty rates rose from
an official level of 11 percent to 40 to 60 percent, depending on the
estimate. At one point, Indonesia's food shortage became so severe that
then-President Habibie implored citizens to fast twice a week. Many had no
5. The IMF bails out big banks.
The IMF bailouts in Asia, like those in Russia and Mexico, directed money
to those countries largely for the purpose of paying off loans to foreign
banks. Thanks to the IMF, the banks escaped significant losses for
imprudent lending decisions. Citigroup, Chase Manhattan and J.P. Morgan
were among the beneficiaries of the "Korean" bailout.
6. IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programs devastate the
Structural adjustment demands an increase in exports and foreign exchange
earnings. As a result, explains Friends of the Earth, "Countries often
over-exploit their resources through unsustainable forestry, mining and
agricultural practices that generate pollution and environmental
7. IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programs contribute to the spread
Here's how Dr. Peter Lurie and collaborators explained the problem in the
journal AIDS: The displacement of the rural sector under structural
adjustment programs -- as imports undermine local farmers and the shift to
large-scale plantations for exports further displaces the rural population
-- contributes to migration and urbanization. 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. IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programs harm women.
Cuts in budget spending, mandated by structural adjustment programs, leave
women to pick up the pieces -- with government services eliminated, women
are forced to provide informal social supports for the sick and disabled.
The IMF/Bank emphasis on exports has pushed women farmers to switch from
growing food for family consumption to crops for exports -- and left them
poorer in the process. The high interest rates associated with structural
adjustment have made credit less accessible, undermining the viability of
small women-owned businesses.
9. IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programs and Bank project loans
have led to deforestation worldwide.
The export orientation demanded by structural adjustment policies has led
to more forest cutting. And World Bank forest sector loans to countries
around the world have done nothing to improve the situation.
"Although the [1991 Bank Forest] policy had dual objectives of
conservation of tropical moist forests and tree planting to meet the basic
needs of the poor, Bank influence on containing rates of deforestation of
tropical moist forests has been negligible in the 20 countries with the
most threatened tropical moist forests." Who said that? The World Bank's
own Operations Evaluation Department, in November 1999!
10. World Bank policies have displaced millions of people around the
World Bank loans for dams and major infrastructure projects routinely
require removal of massive numbers of people from their homes and
destruction of their communities. In addition to the emotional hardship of
leaving their land, the displaced people almost always find their quality
of life diminished after the move. The Bank itself agrees. A 1994 report
from the World Bank's Environmental Department found that, "Declines in
post relocation incomes are sometimes significant, in certain cases
reaching as much as 40 percent for people who were poor even before their
11. The World Bank's International Finance Corporation (IFC) provides
corporate welfare for environmentally destructive projects.
The IFC finances and provides advice for private sector ventures and
projects in developing countries in partnership with private investors.
Among its private sector partners: ExxonMobil, BP, Coca-Cola,
Kimberly-Clark and Marriott. There's no reason for a public development
institution, supposedly working to fight poverty, to lend its support to
these well-endowed multinationals. Making matters worse, many of the
private sector projects supported by the IFC, especially in the oil and
gas sector, are environmentally destructive.
12. April 16 is a chance to make history.
While massive protests against IMF and World Bank policies are commonplace
in the developing world -- from Jordan to Indonesia, Venezuela to Zambia
-- the IMF and World Bank are not accountable to populations in those
countries. In contrast, there has never been a demonstration of more than
a few hundred people to challenge IMF and Bank policy in the United States
-- the largest and most influential shareholder in the institutions.
That's going to change on April 16. The thousands of people who will
attend the April 16 protests will forever change the political context of
debates on IMF and the World Bank -- the best hope for billions in the
developing world who have been subjected to the IMF and Bank's brutal
policies with no recourse.
Special bonus reason to come to D.C.: With large puppets, colorful
pagaentry, militant protests, Emcee Michael Moore at the legal
demonstration on the Ellipse, and lots of great music, the protests will
be a fun-filled festival of resistance.
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, one of the
sponsors of the April 16 Mobilization for Global Justice. Mokhiber and
Weissman 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