Subsidies politics: World Bank, IMF used them to impoverish Zambia before

The Post Newspapers Zambia
By Gabriel Banda on Friday 12 March 2010, 09:50:00 CAT (10295 Reads)
THIS week, as part of an Africa tour of Kenya and South Africa, an International Monetary Fund, (IMF), team has visited Zambia. They are being led by IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Khan.This is another time for Africa’s governments and people to take stock of the role and influence of IMF and World Bank, its twin organisation, on society and wellbeing, past and current.

It is another time to consider the future relationship with IMF and World Bank, if such relationship should be there, and in what form.

With each IMF managing director, some people often say that, having learnt about the effects of their programmes and activities, there may be improvement. But this has largely not happened. The chief priest may change but the rituals, tactics, and activities remain aligned on their earlier targets.

Zambia was an early example of effects of IMF and World Bank economic policies and programmes. World Bank had earlier done a few helpful projects in sectors like education and shelter. And in the 1980s, “Structural Adjustment” policies dealt with opening up Zambia’s economy through privatisation, liberalisation, and commercialisation of finance and other activities.

Key IMF conditions included removal of government subsidies and support on some basics and facilities. Farm marketing, for inputs and prices, was liberalised.

IMF and World Bank insisted on these conditions before lending or aiding Zambia and others. Later, some creditor governments also insisted that Zambia follows the IMF programme before getting assistance in loans, grants, and material support.

Instead of improving as told by Dr IMF and Sister World Bank, Zambia’s people experienced hardship. Some died as a result of impact of those conditions. Zambia’s capacity to do things in various fields declined. The quality of life of Zambia’s individuals declined.

Life expectancy declined. Gains made, since independence, in education and health were negatively affected. Society was shaken. The glue of social cohesion was shaken and broken. Corruption began to increase and turn into a wide culture.

By May 1987, because of the negative effect of the economic measures, Zambia’s President Kenneth Kaunda announced a break from the IMF conditions.

But IMF, World Bank, and allied creditor governments imposed sanctions. Without support from other governments similarly indebted, Zambia later went back to the IMF programme, one still harsh.

By force, many governments have followed IMF prescriptions. Many have had their people wounded and quality of life decline.

In Zambia, mixed with other factors, the measures intensified in the 1990s led to great suffering and decline in Zambia’s capacity to handle things in various sectors. It contributed to de-industrialisation and de-Africanisation of enterprises.

Where before there had been local production, Zambia became a market for goods and services produced outside, especially by South Africa’s businesses.

Besides effects on basic needs, key concerns on IMF and World Bank’s operations include their undemocratic governance structures and practices. Although supposed to be multinational, the heads come from particular controlling blocs. In practice, the twins operate as closed secret societies.

And, through imposing policies, IMF and World Bank work against the choices and wishes of governments and peoples.

De facto, they are, without election and consent, self-imposed economic managers and controllers of governments. With the World Trade Organisation, WTO, they sometimes act as a triad.

They have taken over authority of governments, enslaved them, and made them puppets. Governments come to attention, freeze, and salute the IMF and World Bank. Some fear that economic conditions and sanctions can be manipulated to overthrow governments that do not comply.

IMF and World Bank work through bullying and thuggery. A mistake is that they are officially part of the United Nations, the work of whose other agencies, like UNICEF, they disturb through harsh impact on people’s lives. In purpose and practice, IMF and World Bank are currently counter-United Nations and counter-Common Good. They are affecting bonding of humanity and life.

They are workers of iniquity. They have worked against peace and harmony. IMF members and staff have done to fellow human beings, who are their brothers and sisters on this earth, what they and others elsewhere would not bear or accept.

Negative impact has been planted through IMF staff and advisors’ incompetence and, it is suspected, sometimes covered agenda and scheming. They use various tactics, including some local persons they have cultivated and nourished.

IMF and World Bank have been like Shakespeare’s Shylock, trying to take flesh, blood, and life of an indebted person. IMF and World Bank should be paying for their damage.

Given the experience, Zambia and others should not take any new loans from IMF and World Bank. There are alternatives. Instead, governments are being made to get more loans for payback.

The loans sometimes cover activities correcting negative effects IMF and World Bank have done. Governments are paying back loans to pay for the damage against them.

Instead, I believe, IMF and World Bank should be making direct and indirect reparations for the negative effects of their imposed programmes.

From the chief priest to other staff making decisions that have affected negatively, IMF and World Bank members must bear personal responsibility for the deaths and suffering caused, and not hide under some institutional shield.

IMF is a force which has done much for the advancement of evil and want. It has contributed to imbalances. It has contributed to strains in social cohesion, that fabric essential for survival and health of humans and life.

Members of governments, civil society, and all of us, must challenge actions of the IMF negative machine. Some NGOs, because they receive World Bank funds, no longer criticise the negative actions. But there is some courage deep within us.

In recent times, amongst those who have recently called for some space has been Sister Chileshe Kapwepwe, Zambia’s deputy minister of finance, and in whom we are well pleased.

And my big man Bill Clinton, in whom we are pleased, recently, after he had left the USA presidency, criticised the impact of IMF economic programmes on food. The criticism would have had greater effect had it been said during the time Bill Clinton was president.

But, now there is Barack Obama around. Barack Obama, who has already contributed much good for the world, has the potential of not only dealing with the negative activities of big businesses that are profiting at the expense of the health of America’s people, but to strike for the world’s people against the IMF yoke. I believe he can.

People in Zambia and other places would have had better quality of life had it not been for IMF and World Bank programmes. We can undo the IMF and World Bank negative machine.

Share this post