As Malaysians concerned about the environment march from Kuantan to Parliament, the World Bank has warned that all nations will suffer the effects of climate change.
The revolt in the Arab world is not just about getting rid of authoritarian leaders and dictators. It is also about ending economic injustice and exploitation. The media would have us believe that the popular discontent is solely due to the dictatorships and repression in the Arab world. But there is more to it than that. A lot of the disenchantment is also the result of people’s hopes being crushed by an exploitative economic system that undermines essential public services, reduces nations to little more than sweat-shops, and concentrates wealth in the hands of a wealthy elite and their well-connected or crony corporations.
After what’s been happening in Egypt, I thought I would draft a memo to dictators and authoritarian leaders around the world to give them some free and unsolicited advice. Dear Mr Dictator/Authoritarian Leader Recent events in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and elsewhere must be giving you sleepless nights or making you feel terribly uneasy. May I offer a few tips so that you don’t see similar eruptions in your own countries: Do not suppress dissent Allow your people sufficient avenues and outlets to express their frustrations, anger, complaints and criticism. You don’t want their anger and frustration to be pent up. Think of these avenues as built-in safety valves. In this respect, free media and a functioning Parliament have a big role to play. Don’t forget to free up the state-run media as well. Get rid of all repressive laws, especially detention without trial, and bring back democracy quickly before it’s [Read more]
By now, we are gradually becoming familiar with the poverty, unemployment (especially among youth) and income inequality in Egypt that seems to be fuelling the protests. But what is less well known is that Egypt, like Tunisia, had only recently been viewed as an ‘economic miracle’ after it wholeheartedly pursued standard IMF/World Bank ideas. (Follow the ‘one million-strong’ gathering in Cairo ‘live’ over Aljazeera here.) It’s funny that Hillary Clinton now says that Egypt has to”‘reform”. Only in August 2010, the Wall Street Journal reported that Egypt had become Washington’s economic favourite. And last year, the World Bank, in its ‘Doing Business 2010′ report gushingly (and embarrassingly) applauded Colombia and Egypt as the “top global reformers in four of the past seven years”. I kid you not. How wrong can you get? Unless they meant reforms to profit a small minority of the business elite. Such IMF/World Bank ‘structural adjustment’ [Read more]
The IMF’s call for Malaysia to expedite a goods and services tax (GST) and slash subsidies is part of its larger – and now widely discredited – neo-liberal agenda. The IMF itself is struggling for relevance now as many developing countries especially in Latin America have shunned its advice after seeing the damage done to the national economies of that continent. The neo-liberal agenda, part of the “Washington Concensus”, is to cut taxes for the rich and the corporations, slash subsidies on social spending, and promote privatisation of essential services or “user-pay” models that benefit large corporations, including MNCs. The GST is a regressive tax that will hurt the poor, who are now outside the income tax bracket. If a tax on spending is introduced, the poor will bear a disproportionately higher tax burden (in terms of their spending compared to their income) than the rich.
The comments by the head of the European Commission delegation to Malaysia, Thierry Rommel, have triggered a storm a controversy with a lot of attention focused on the New Economic Policy. He said the rationale for expressing his concerns over the pro-bumiputera affirmative action policies was in relation to FTA negotiations between the EU and Asean. It is the first time that the negotiations for the EU-Asean FTA have been highlighted in the media. And they signal disagreements behind closed doors over how to resolve NEP-related issues so that the FTA can be signed. Non-Malays and opposition leaders who have welcomed Rommel’s remarks are missing the point. To be sure, the NEP has many serious flaws, but it has also been a major stumbling block in the negotiations for FTAs, not only with the EU but also with the United States. FTA negotiations with the United States, for instance, have [Read more]
So Wolfowitz goes without being held accountable for his criminal scheming against Iraq. After I wrote the piece below, an academic friend told me, “Although he did have to step down, it was hardly a fall — guy walks away with that statement about acting in good faith, plus a golden hand-shake of a year’s salary. The girlfriend gets to keep her pay increase and the pension of USD100k.” Well, he has a point. Still, Wolfowitz’s gone, with his reputation in tatters. And, as an Indonesian activist told me when I was writing this piece, now that Wolfowitz is stepping down, it is time for people around the world to realise that the World Bank’s role is over. ”We must learn from Hugo Chavez that there is no development and democracy with the World Bank,” he stressed. ”I hope it’s not just Wolfowitz stepping down from the World Bank, but [Read more]
While attending the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Singapore, I soon realised that a slick makeover job, a real PR job, was underway. In recent years, these two global financial institutions have received some bad press for the tremendous damage their policies have had on developing nations. The PR job required a range of sweeping cosmetic measures. But could such measures really save the Bank and the IMF from their serious image and credibility crisis? No way. This is the review I wrote for Inter Press Service after the Annual Meetings were over. ‘There’s no doubt in my mind that the Fund and Bank cannot be reconstructed,” said Glasgow-based political scientist and author John Hilley, who has written about neo-liberal militarism, the Fund and the Bank, in e-mailed comments to IPS. ‘‘Both need to be replaced by bodies [Read more]
When I attended the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Singapore, one thing I quickly realised was how even language – the common everyday words we are familiar with – could be hijacked by Big Business to mask ulterior motives. Sugar-coated, benevolent words are used to disguise the mercenary goals of major transnational corporations. Beware especially when they start talking about “reforms”. Always ask, “reforms” in whose favour: Big Business or the ordinary people? There’s a world of difference between the two. This is an excerpt from a piece I wrote for the Herald in Malaysia last September: The eeriness of it all reminded me of Orwell’s “1984” and Big Brother. What struck me most was the ‘doublespeak’ used throughout the annual meetings to hijack ordinary words to serve the hidden agenda of neo-liberal policies. Thus, there was much [Read more]
When people think of the World Bank, the image they often see in their minds is one of a global financial institution that provides loans to developing nations to raise their standard of living. That is basically the picture that the Bank’s PR people would like you to see. The reality is quite different. The World Bank actually profits from poorer countries in terms of net cashflow going into the Bank. When Inter Press Service asked me to cover the proceedings of the meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Singapore late last year, I jumped at the chance. It was a rare opportunity to enter the “lions’ den”, so to speak, and see first-hand how the movers and shakers of the global financial architecture operate. What struck me most was the air of Big Brother all around the impressive Suntec [Read more]