News and Update: Seminar dubs WB, IMF agents of corporate interests of developed countries

NewAge, October 20, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The programmes and projects of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are designed to benefit the corporate houses of the developed countries, speakers at a discussion in the city said on Friday.

The participants of the discussion on the anti-people policies of the two Bretton Woods institutions, organised by Voice, a non-governmental organisation, suggested more rigorous monitoring of activities of these lending agencies and hinted at the possibility of holding a people’s tribunal.

Piash Karim, a professor of economics at BRAC University, referred to a damning report of the Meltzer Commission on the World Bank which said that 70 per cent of the World Bank’s lending was made only in seven countries and that 80 per cent of its resources were spent on such countries that were able to repay their debts. ‘Even in the case of lending there is an obvious bias in this agency.’

He said it was not merely a matter of coincidence that individuals who previously in their careers had acted to further US policies worldwide, for instance Robert Macnamara and Paul Wolfowitz, were later chosen to head the bank. It is evident that the lending agency is used as a tool by the United States to serve its interests.

Piash suggested formation of a tribunal on the activities of these agencies and demanded accountability of their programmes.

Melissa Hussain, a professor of English at the North South University, dwelt upon how these agencies exert and retain their influence across the world through their money, knowledge, and power. She said these agencies furthered their neo-liberal propaganda by establishing themselves as knowledge bases on the one hand and exercising their power and monetary resources on the other and forced their clients to undertake policies that the agencies preferred.

She said an analysis would reveal how these agencies manipulated their data sets to establish their preferred economic policies as the best options. These only lead towards further privatisation and liberalisation without any regard for actual development or the rising inequity among the general people.

Anu Muhammad, a professor of economics at Jahangirnagar University, said their were indications in the latest annual publication of the World Bank, the World Development Report of 2008 focusing on agriculture, that the bank intended to completely commercialise this sector.

This, he suggested, would follow from the green revolution of the 60’s which eventually led to an increase in the use of chemical inputs and gradually destroyed the soil fertility and environment, all in the name of higher yield of food grains.

He said the World Bank’s crusade against corruption and advocacy for good governance were merely eyewashes as it did not believe in them but just chose to implement such programmes in places where they suited its interests.

‘Many a corrupt regime have been provided with generous assistance from these agencies, while many a regime genuinely committed towards eradicating corruption have been criticised by them.’

‘These agencies, through their exercise, ensure that the cost of living increases and that poor countries gradually become wholly dependent on their assistance and act as captive markets for corporations based in the developed countries,’ he said.

Anu also suggested forming a people’s tribunal, where people would give their testimonies regarding how they had been affected by the policy prescriptions of the lending agencies.

Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of Voice, presented the keynote paper and moderated the session.

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