IMF and World Bank: Dodging Scrutiny?

Anticipating major protests, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank announced August 10 that they will be scaling back their fall meetings in Washington to only two days, Sept. 29 and 30. The Institute for Policy Studies asked the following policy critics to weigh in on the decision.

NJOKI NJOROGE NJEHU is director of 50 Years Is Enough Network, a coalition of over 200 U.S. grassroots groups dedicated to transforming the World Bank and the IMF.

Njehu said: "The duration of the IMF/World Bank meetings does not matter to the hundreds of millions of people impoverished by the institutions' austerity policies, like user fees for primary health and education or abrupt increases in the price of water in the name of market 'reforms.' Whether they meet for six days or two, the institutions' agenda remains the same: more layoffs, less government spending on social programs, less credit for small farmers and businesses, more privatization, and higher corporate profits. And however long they meet, they have shown no willingness to open the meetings up to the news media or public view. We will continue challenging the self-serving economic assumptions and secretive habits of these institutions until popular pressure forces fundamental change."

KEVIN DANAHER is the co-director of Global Exchange, an international human rights organization and editor of "Democratizing the Global Economy: The Battle Against the World Bank and the IMF."

Danaher said: "The Bank says that we [demonstrators] are cutting off dialogue with these protests, but the reason we started protesting in the first place was to confront their closed decision-making process. Instead of making the process transparent, being more open and democratizing the global economy, the IMF and World Bank had the opposite reaction: to call in thousands of police, which are paid for by our tax dollars.... Last week, several anti-corporate-globalization groups challenged the World Bank to a debate. If our arguments are so weak, then they should jump at the chance to debate us.... There have been protests against the structural adjustment policies of the World Bank and IMF in dozens of developing countries before they began happening in the industrial countries. There are protests in Argentina as we speak."

RADHIKA BALAKRISHNAN is associate professor of economics at Marymount Manhattan College and author of the forthcoming "The Hidden Assembly Line: Gender Dynamics of Subcontracted Work in a Global Economy."

She said: "The IMF and World Bank's structural adjustment policies, where they coerce governments of developing countries into cutting back on essential services, increase the burden on women. When education and healthcare get cut, it is women who -- for no compensation -- have to fill the void and provide those services. The function of the World Bank and IMF has been to liberalize trade policies, and the ultimate benefactors of that are U.S. multinational corporations that gain access to markets." Balakrishnan recently visited Ghana, which has been touted by the IMF as a success. But she said: "The IMF compelled the Ghanaian government to gut the public transportation system, increasing the dependence on private cars and the cost to people of getting to work, thus decreasing their real wages. The IMF got the government to focus the economy on cocoa as an export, so when the world prices for cocoa fell, it devastated the economy."

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