Global Hegemony, IMF And Bangladesh


Republished from, Anu Muhammad*, Professor, Department of Economics, Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh and Editor, Meghbarta

Would you please tell me, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to
Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland

We are living in a world that has entered into a reproductive system of war, militarization, destruction and dehumanization. For different reasons the US has emerged as the centre of this global system. The survival of the US as a super power, expansion of its empire hegemony and the function of crisis ridden global capitalism now depend highly on its war machine and militarism on the one hand and speculative activities on the other. All sorts of criminal activities go with that.

David Korten who had been former senior advisor to USAID described only one part of the scenario when he said: ‘The world is now ruled by a global financial casino staffed by faceless bankers and hedge -fund speculators who operate with a hard mentality in the shadowy world of global finance. Each day, they move more than 2 trillion dollars around the world in search of quick profits and safe harems, sending exchange rates and stock market into will gyratium wholly.’

We are living in a world where US$ 9 billion is adequate to ensure safe water for everybody in the world but where millions die every year because of unclean water. The same world spends more than US$900 billion for war and armaments every year, i.e., hundred times the money required to create a safe world; share of the US in these destructive expenditure is more than 60 per cent.

Therefore, we have a world, we have a ‘knowledge base society’, we have ‘free democratic’ civilisation where regimes like the Bush administration can spend unlimited resources for destruction, genocide, occupation and create a real hell on earth.

To make the point clear, this is not the Bush administration per se but the global system we live in that creates and recreates faceless heartless robotic efficient inhumans in civil military administrations, parliaments, business, think tanks, banks, religious guilds and all centers of power. We are living in a world where global system everyday brings more destruction for its own survival and consequently invites destruction of the whole civilisation.

We are now living in a world where we find growing resources but increasing deprivation, expanding communication but intensifying conflicts, generating knowledge but monopolizing power, growing potential but deepening discrimination. Globally we have autocracy and militocracy in the name of democracy where peace means war, love means hate, freedom means occupation, security means genocide. The United States, the centre of global power, is crying for its own security and to ensure that, or as an excuse, creating insecurity all over the world as well as for its own people. Its cry for security actually a madness for profit and domination for few.

Blood for Oil and Gas

Millions of people have been raising slogans against war since 1991, and called for ‘no blood for oil’, still oil and natural resources have become the focal point of military action led by the US. Communal, racial hatred and urge for global hegemony go with that.

Kretzmann (2003) correctly observed that ‘there is a striking correlation between the presence of oil and the deployment of the US military globally’.

In Somalia, in 1991, nearly two-thirds of the country’s territory had been granted as oil concessions to Conoco, Amoco, Chevron and Phillips.

The Andean countries of Columbia, Venezuela and Ecuador together produce about 20 per cent of the oil imported by the United States. In 2002, the Bush administration allocated $98 million to deploy 60 to 100 Special Forces troops to train a “Critical Infrastructure Brigade” of Colombians for the explicit purpose of protecting an Occidental Petroleum pipeline. In March 2001, the United States pledged $4.4 million in military aid to oil-rich Azerbaijan in the name of “counter threats such as terrorism”. According to Azeri President, “guaranteeing the security of the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan and the Baku-Tblisi-Erzurum oil and gas pipelines is an integral part of our struggle against terrorism.”

In February 2001 US military support including ‘advisers’ specialised for counter terrorism to Georgis was, according to the Georgian defense ministry, “servicemen trained under the US Train and Equip program might help provide security for the [Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan] pipeline.”
In 1997, BP and Halliburton proposed the Trans-Balkan pipeline (TBP). In 1999, US forces in southeast Kosovo began construction of Camp Bondsteel, largest new military base since the Vietnam War. In December 2002, ExxonMobil and Chevron Texaco both expressed their eagerness to participate in the Trans-Balkan pipeline.

From Nigeria in the North to Angola in the South has become a ‘vital interest’ for the US. This area is important for oil reserve and other mineral resources. US is going to build a naval base in Sao Tome.

People around the world are denied their rights over their own resources. Development strategy pursued by the World Bank and the IMF always try to legitimize grabbing these resources by big multinationals. Still that continues to be hotbed of war and occupation. Millions of people were killed by the US- led forces in Iraq since 1991 in that connection. Killing and destruction led by US led forces continues, and continues life and death resistance from Iraqi people as well. In Bangladesh with increasing discovery of natural resources, we are entering into more danger of occupation, militarisation, deprivation and insecurity for the whole nation. We are getting taste of that since the 1980s.

Civil faces of imperial military occupiers

I mean the World Bank, IMF and peer global regional agencies by that. These agencies always portray themselves as development agencies, donors, politics- neutral and independent. Anybody if she or he examines their role, find how state department of the US, US treasury, Pentagon, CIA, big multinationals, and the World Bank and the IMF go hand in hand. There is no instance where any of these is happily working in country but any other is not. In many ways, investigations of the pattern of actions of these institutions reveal the visible fist behind the ‘invisible hand’. Different country experiences show the World Bank and the IMF actually work for creating or smoothening path for global corporate grabbing in a peaceful way by influencing, lobbying, creating support base thorugh consultancy, trip abroad and by ‘manufacturing consent’. If that does not work, military intervention takes place. US led military actions are for ‘development and democracy’! So, they follow ‘development’ institutions. It is, therefore, not surprising to see US defense managers getting appointment as World Bank presidents under different White House regimes.

These institutions therefore work as instruments to bargain or lobbying to create necessary arrangements with different countries to protect US led global corporate and imperial interest. Their enthusiasm for ‘development’ in some countries or its indifference to crisis of some other countries also has links with these objectives. Lending support to South Vietnam or South Korea’s pro-US regime, hostility to Allende government and sudden change of policy towards Chile after fall of elected government and military takeover there, or after reinstatement of President Aristide in Haiti, long hostile policy towards Cuba or policy towards Afghanistan and Iraq are a few instances of long list of rhetoric and crimes. Same goes with the IMF. Here is an example how the IMF works. The example concerns the 1996 election in which Mr. Yeltsin, the preferred candidate of the US led west, was in a shaky position. The Economist (July 13, 1996) reported on the case and role of IMF as follows: “The election is over and to almost universal relief Mr Yeltsin is still in office..Did the IMF, in effect cast a vote for him? In principle, the Fund is apolitical. It is supposed to be bound by strong internal rules and to be a strict enforcer of conditions attached to its loans. But some of its big shareholders, especially America and Germany, clearly cared more about Mr. Yeltsin’s survival than about a percentage point here and there in Russian’s national accounts. Did the Fund take the hint, and treat Russia with special leniency?..One reason to suspect that it did was the Fund’s readiness in the first place to grant a three year loan of just over $10 billion-after Mexico’s, the second-biggest ever to Russia in February….When Mr. Yeltsin dished out campaign promises to spend an unplanned $10 billion.”

Agenda for Grabbing and Peoples Response

There is no instance in the world where the hegemonic power of these institutions gives any good to the people and the land. Everywhere that created a good number of very big rich class, corrupt oligarchy, a submissive and shameless bureaucrats and consultants but increasingly vulnerable economy and environment and, above all, insecurity for the people.

These institutions have some common agenda those are crucial for global capital to have market, to have extraordinary return on investment and an open space to do whatever they like. These include: (a) dismantling public institutions and public enterprises that deprives people but give immense authority to big business, (b) removing all supports and protection for local industries and agriculture by liberalizing imports, (c) supporting export oriented activities to meet the needs of western market by supplying cheap product at the expense of economy and environment, (d) withdrawing state’s responsibility of providing health care and education for the people, (e) raising prices of fuel, gas, electric city, raising fees of education and healthcare to create good business opportunities of the global companies.

With implementation of these prescriptions, the countries under the hegemonic power of these institutions witness silent erosion of national capabilities and peoples increasing sufferings. However, that cannot always go uninterrupted; there are eruptions of peoples anger too. Damien Millet and Eric Toussaint summarizes some instances as presented below:

In 1986, in Zambia, the price of foodstuffs increased by 120 percent, causing hunger riots.

In 1989, in Venezuela, the SAP caused spectacular increases in the prices of basic products and petrol (and therefore of public transport). In three days of rioting (el Caracazo) there were officially 300 deaths (unofficial sources say over 4,000).

In 1991 in Peru, President Alberto Fujimori applied the orders of the IMF and the World Bank. The price of petrol increased 31 times and bread 12 times overnight, while the minimum salary fell by over 90 per cent in fifteen years.

In Jordan, twelve people died in riots in 1989 after the announcement of the rise in the price of fuel as suggested by the IMF. In August 1996, further riots broke out in Karakul when bread went up 2.5 times its price following government subsidy cuts from following on rice, milk and sugar.

In May 1998, subsidies on necessities were cut in Indonesia, causing big riots. In February 2000, following an agreement with 30 per cent and of electricity by 20 per cent, with sweeping cuts in the education and health budgets.

In Yemen, there were hunger riots in June 1998 after a 40 per cent rise in petroleum prices.

In August 1999, the Cote d’Ivoire saw riots against a rise in transport fares, following the 17.5 per cent increase in the cost of petroleum products. A young man was killed in Yopougon.

In Zimbabwe, there were hunger riots in October 2000 when a 30 per cent price-rise on necessities such as bread and sugar was announced.

In 2001 and 2002, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay also had rioting and occasional pillaging, often to the sound of saucepans being banged by disgusted housewives.

In addition, in Bangladesh there were many demonstrations against oil and gas contracts. In 2006 there were uprising in Phulbari where three people were killed and many more injured, the disastrous open pit mining project proposed by a British company supported by global agencies was halted by peoples protest.

In Latin America, these protests resulted fundamental changes in their polity, too. That initiated a new era of the people there, where global companies and these lobbying agencies were rejected and people centred development strategy was put in place.

Bangladesh: Fragility of Democracy

Bangladesh is located in the periphery of this global capitalism where we find junior partners of these inhuman global powers. It has witnessed how the global inhumans can create its own junior species in this land in different forms. Therefore, the fate, destiny and the direction of Bangladesh do not wholly depend on Bangladesh alone. Like many other weak countries, Bangladesh has also potential to be a land of real democracy where people can have a decent life with self-esteem and participation in power. That is only possible if people can have authority over their own lives and resources. Nevertheless, till today that is missing.

During the last three decades, Bangladesh has experienced different forms of governments: civil and military, parliamentary and presidential. Emergency was declared twice (1974 and 1987) before the latest one on January 11, 2007; Martial Law was promulgated twice (1975 and 1982). During the period, two Presidents were killed (1975, 1981). Since 1991, elected governments had been ruling the country. A form of non-party caretaker government has been introduced in 1991 to run ‘good elections’. But Bangladesh could never find or sustain a governance system that represent people of the land and exercise its own authoriy over its resources, planning and direction. In fact, the ruling classes of the country, unlike Iraq, surrendered their sovereignty without any resistance, and rather happily.

We have, therefore, fragility of democracy and vulnerability of development. These are obviously interlinked. Capital accumulation process takes a primitive form here. Unlike many other peripheral countries, Bangladesh had been enjoying ‘democratic’ rule, i.e., elected governments under parliamentary system since 1991. Nevertheless, the parliament was never allowed to lead the country; not to formulate, not even discuss on crucial policies those determine fate of the country.

All major economic policies have been formulated in line with the strategic framework by global agencies, i.e., the World Bank, IMF or ADB without any knowledge or consent of the people. The nation – state has been reduced to an implementing agency of policies formulated elsewhere with increasing coercive power. How can one expect development of institutions in this setting? What will the parliament elected by free and fair election will do if this power matrix remains untouched?

Deciding our Destiny

Today’s world gives an obvious message to change the tide of occupation, domination and destruction by imperial power represented by the IMF and the World Bank et al. Worldwide discontent is rising. After experiencing disastrous affect in many areas in economy and society and after reaching a collapse following prescriptions from IMF and the World Bank people of many countries became desperate to through the lackeys away and change the governance system to stand on its own feet. Some of them could succeed. Obviously, they started rejecting the prescriptions and started disassociating with these anti development agencies. Latin American countries like Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil are no longer indebted to these institutions; some of African countries can now access funds from the capital markets. Report goes, ‘ Together with Turkey and Indonesia, Argentina and Brazil are among the four largest borrowers from the Fund, together accounting for 70% of its outstanding loans. And another of these countries, Indonesia, declared in 2003 that it would seek no new finance from the IMF, but would run down its debt according to the original repayment schedule.’

In Bangladesh all trade and business bodies, in an unprecedented move, rejected IMF prescriptions terming as antidevelopment. This happened due to these agencies assertion for policies against local industries and contractionary monetary policy. These are all bad news for IMF et al. They survive on the crisis and submission of weak countries. If that goes, their exit becomes imminent.

At this point, these agencies become crazy to find a way out and keep chains around the neck of weaker countries. After PRSP, their latest invention is policy support instrument (PSI). Their version of the new instrument says: ‘ In recent years several low-income countries have made significant progress toward economic stability and no longer require IMF financial assistance. However, while they may not want—or need—Fund financial support, they might still seek ongoing IMF advice, monitoring and endorsement of their economic policies—what is called policy support and signaling…”Signaling” refers to the information that Fund activities can indirectly provide about countries’ performances and prospects. Such information can be used to inform the decisions of outsiders. Outsiders can include private creditors, including banks and bondholders, who are interested in information on the repayment prospects of loans; official donors and creditors, both bilateral and multilateral, who may be interested in reassurance about the countries they are supporting; and the public at large.’ By ignoring the rhetoric one can easily find this as a desperate attempt of the IMF to keep and extend its control over the countries where their ‘good guys’ in power. This ‘control without fund’ phase is critical for them. Very few have agreed, like Nigeria, a test case of huge resources and high poverty because of absolute domination of imperial power and corrupt despotic counterpart inside.

An IMF mission is now in Dhaka to sign that PSI put another chain cround the country’s neck. We condemn that and demand cancellation of the visit immediately. We have enough of IMF and the World Bank (or the ADB etc) in this country; we have enough of lumpen thugs and criminal billionaire ruling classes. The millions of women men children passing days after days hungry, drinking unsafe water, having no future, sitting in front of closed mills or shining malls, children roaming in pain for not being able to continue study, devastated men and women for their livelihood, waterlogged, women weeping for failing to give food to their children, women remembering their sons killed in huge demonstration to protect national resources from global dacoits, all these have points against these local-global clique.

Nevertheless, we smell attempts for fresh recolonozing our country, imposing new slavery instruments. The US, the worst-ever terrorist power in history, has its ugly eyes on Bay of Bengal and Bangladesh as a whole. Their regional strategy centred on India, the superpower in south Asia. China is emerging as a global power. Their conflicts and unity both have bad effects on us. All of these games of occupation and domination increase burden on our people, risk our lives, and destroy our potentials. But that is not the end of history.

Countries like Bangladesh are called ‘poor’ but they are not. They have resources, human and material, they have high potentials. However, in Bangladesh, we are repeatedly seeing our potentials stolen by big corporate lobbyists in the name of development juts like our forests, gas resources are stolen. The world is calling for a change. We must join them; we must say a loud NO to IMF, World Bank, ADB and their local lobbyists. If we can gain that strength, we will be able to create a new governance, culture and environment to have a life with dignity.

People’s collective consciousness and unconscious collectivity have infinite capacity to create a new era for their own present and future.

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