IMF, World Bank, must be stopped

Greg Schwartz's view

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank hold their spring meetings in Washington, D.C. this weekend. As in 2000 — when protesters converged in D.C. for the same meetings in a follow-up to the 1999 “Battle of Seattle” World Trade Organization meeting — global justice advocates are again heading to D.C. to stick a monkey wrench into the gears of the undemocratic capitalist machinery.

Many still don’t understand what the IMF and World Bank do or why so many are compelled to protest against them. Here’s why you should care — these undemocratic institutions have enormous power over the global economy and their decisions ultimately affect everyone.

Created after World War II to help Europe regain its financial feet, the IMF and World Bank are the planet’s biggest public money lenders. They are also the world’s biggest loan sharks. They talk nice about poverty reduction and international economic development, but this is a facade.

When the Bank and the Fund lend money to debtor countries, the loans come with strings attached in the form of “structural adjustment programs.” Like the “free trade” agreements advocated by the WTO, these SAPs require countries to open their economies to private investment, allowing exploitation of workers and natural resources at rock-bottom prices.

If you’re wondering why Ohio’s job market sucks, here it is — jobs are getting outsourced to other countries because of these policies. The only people who really profit are international investors. This is corporate globalization.

“The billions of dollars controlled by the IMF and World Bank have helped to create greater allegiance of national elites to the elites of other countries than they have to their own national majorities,” writes Kevin Danaher of non-profit Global Exchange. This is why the global gap between rich and poor grows ever wider.

Mexico was touted as a model of how these processes would benefit humanity. Yet IMF policies and the North American Free Trade Agreement have submerged Mexico into poverty and inequality. NAFTA forced Mexico to amend its constitution, which had previously protected communal properties from being broken up and sold off to foreign investors.

This is what led the Zapatista rebels of Chiapas to cry “enough is enough” and launch their historic insurrection in 1994 — they depended on those lands to grow crops.

Uncle Sam’s greed is the guiding force behind the IMF and World Bank. It’s a big part of why there is so much anti-American sentiment in the world. If these processes are allowed to continue, a global depression will soon be upon us. The middle class will become extinct, and there will be only haves and have-nots. There will be far more of the latter, and not just in the third world — here in America too.

Environmental degradation will continue at unprecedented rates. The IMF and World Bank care not, for the elitists will remain on top. The way to stop this downward spiral is to democratize the global economy. People who care about the world in which the next generation will grow up should put their voices behind the protest movement to stop the IMF, World Bank and WTO.

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Greg M. Schwartz is a graduate student in journalism and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].