The World Bank and IMF in Africa and in Haiti

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Nov 21, 1996, 3:00:00 AM11/21/96

On, someone noted an article carried on the WINDS news
agency analyzing the economic roots of the crisis in Rwanda. The article,
in part, says,

"One by one, during the 1950's and 60's, the African colonies of the
European powers obtained their "independence" from their colonial
oppressors, usually through U.N. resolutions supplemented by armed
revolt...The new rulers of these African nations were eager to raise the
capital needed to keep them in power, and were more than willing to accept
the generous offer of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund
(IMF) to bail them out of their troubles. The huge loans made to these
inept politicians were squandered on band-aid measures for the population
and extravagant living for themselves. Soon all of Africa was saddled with
a huge amount of debt and in need of more loans to maintain the status
quo. The World Bank and IMF were sympathetic to their troubles and offered
more assistance as long as there were "certain reforms". Some of these
reforms included the opening up of natural resources to transnational
corporations to mine and export. Royalties from these exports would help
service the debts of the African nations.

Africans... are ruled more firmly by foreign money in the new order than
they ever were by the colonists of the old order. This is how the World
Bankers would have it. Every time an African nation descends into tribal
conflict and anarchy and threatens to obliterate those borders, Belgian,
French or American troops rush in and prop up whatever form of government
exists. It benefits the transnational corporations and world bankers to
keep Africa in turmoil, at the precipice of disaster, without obliterating
those political entities that serve their interests."

It strikes me that if we subsitute "Haiti" for "Africa", "cheap labor" for
"natural resources", and "privatization" for "certain reforms", we get a
good picture of what is going on in Haiti.

Although my specialty is not economics, it was clear to me that two of the
precipitating factors of the coup d'etat which drove legitimately elected
president Jean Bertrand Aristide from power were his insistance on raising
the minimum wage, and his insistance on lowering the cost of education.
When Preval came to power in the December 1995 elections, the
international business community began clamoring for the "privatization"
of state owned enterprises - if they couldn't control the enterprises
through a corrupt puppet government, why then, they would just buy them
outright! If memory serves, the World Bank and/or the International
Monetary Fund made some economic so-called assistance contingent on a vote
in favor of privatization by the Haitian legislature.

In May 1996 an anti-privatization demonstration was held in
Port-au-Prince. The newly created Haitian National Police appeared in
great numbers, carrying riot shields, batons, and guns, and wearing
helmets. Although they did not commit any acts of violence, the mere
sight of them frightened away many demonstrators, who were all too
familiar with the old Haitian Army's habit of opening fire on public
gatherings which did not please them. Then, when the turnout dwindled to
about 800 people, critics of the demonstration said that the
anti-privatization camp had "no support". But many legislators were
warned by their constituencies that if they voted for privatization,
"don't bother to come home to your district!"

The International Monetary Fund is abbreviated FMI in French, and in Haiti
is considered to stand for "Fond Misere Internationale", the International
Misery Fund.

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