The IMF’s official job sounds simple and attractive. It is supposedly there to ensure poor countries don’t fall into debt, and if they do, to lift them out with loans and economic expertise. It is presented as the poor world’s best friend and guardian. But beyond the rhetoric, the IMF was designed to be dominated by a handful of rich countries – and, more specifically, by their bankers and financial speculators. The IMF works in their interests, every step of the way.
Let’s look at how this plays out on the ground. In the 1990s, the small country of Malawi in south-eastern Africa was facing severe economic problems after enduring one of the worst HIV-AIDS epidemics in the world and surviving a horrific dictatorship. They had to ask the IMF for help. If the IMF has acted in its official role, it would have given loans and guided the country to develop in the same way that Britain and the US and every other successful country had developed – by protecting its infant industries, subsidising its farmers, and investing in the education and health of its people.
That’s what an institution that was concerned with ordinary people – and accountable to them – would look like. But the IMF did something very different. They said they would only give assistance if Malawi agreed to the ‘structural adjustments’ the IMF demanded. They ordered Malawi to sell off almost everything the state owned to private companies and speculators, and to slash spending on the population. They demanded they stop subsidising fertilizer, even though it was the only thing that made it possible for farmers – most of the population – to grow anything in the country’s feeble and depleted soil. They told them to prioritise giving money to international bankers over giving money to the Malawian people.
So when in 2001 the IMF found out the Malawian government had built up large stockpiles of grain in case there was a crop failure, they ordered them to sell it off to private companies at once. They told Malawi to get their priorities straight by using the proceeds to pay off a loan from a large bank the IMF had told them to take out in the first place, at a 56 per cent annual rate of interest. The Malawian president protested and said this was dangerous. But he had little choice. The grain was sold. The banks were paid.
The next year, the crops failed. The Malawian government had almost nothing to hand out. The starving population was reduced to eating the bark off the trees, and any rats they could capture. The BBC described it as Malawi’s “worst ever famine.” There had been a much worse crop failure in 1991-2, but there was no famine because then the government had grain stocks to distribute. So at least a thousand innocent people starved to death.MORE
And then. And this is what makes me RAGE. Because the BBC and CNN and whoever the fuck else cover this shit DON'T TELL YOU that this is what's behind those famines and shit. OH NO. They take pictures of death and starvation that win prestigious awards and they write articles bemoaning how Africa just can't get itself together, that dark continent filled with incompetent (and tribal and dictatorial) Africans that it is... and they highlight all those charities and NGOs filled with white people who go down to Africa to help those poor people and volunteer their lives and aren't the Africans so grateful for their help...And so Africa is kept in a subordinate position, all the easier for the West to enrich itself on stolen goods. And when we're done we yell overpopulation. Because it is really those whom we have forced to live on less than $1 a day who are causing the overuse of the world's resources. Oh yes.
And of course, to actually point out that it is our countries' FOREIGN POLICY as enacted by the IMF and the World Trade Organization that helps in large part to cause this shit might just cut off the gravy train, wouldn't it? It might just convince the ordinary citizens of Western Europe and America that while we are doing that democracy thing, we might really want to pay some attention to foreign policy. Beyond the various wars that we are enacting. Or maybe I am giving them too much credit. And of course, you need to convince the denizens of the countries from which you are stealing everything from that its their fault entirely that they are suffering. You need to devalue their own perceptions of what the reality is, you need to colonize their minds and thus make them pliable to being stolen from, or at least to not realize that they are being stolen from. And if they get too uppity starve them, sicken them, murder them, empower fundamentalists by giving them guns and money and set them loose upon their political structures. Send in the CIA, the MI5, at the last resort, your armies... and glorify your murderers and infiltrators efforts in the movies so that you can find cannon fodder among your citizenry with which to enforce your murderous, rapacious will. And then of course, they have the NERVE, the AUDACITY, the complete and utter EFFRONTERY AND GALL, to call themselves..."civilized".