Beware the ‘reformers’ in sheep’s clothing

Beware the ‘reformers’ in sheep’s clothing

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 talk about ‘poverty eradication’, ‘good governance’ and ‘sustainable development’. This was part of a public relations offensive to mask the fact that the IMF and the World Bank have been pushing neo-liberal policies that hurt the poor and harm the environment. Such policies have benefited large transnational corporations and the private sector instead. For all the talk of poverty eradication, the actual voices of the poor were nowhere to be heard inside the convention centre, save for the activists who articulated their concerns.

Even the word “reforms” has been hijacked. Thus, you are a “reformer” if you are introducing business-friendly policies such as promoting privatisation, weakening regulations on labour and environmental standards, and removing subsidies for essential services such as health care and education. You are not deemed a “reformer” if your economic policies protect workers and the environment over corporate interests.

There was much talk of “good governance’, which according to the Bank’s president Paul Wolfowitz, was broader than anti-corruption. This was the same Wolfowitz who has been widely seen as an architect of aggressive US policies in Iraq and the Middle East.

In a sense, this is no coincidence. Corporate-led globalisation promotes a grab to control and secure scare natural resources and this is essentially what is going on around the world especially in the rush to secure strategic control of oil in the Middle East. It also leads to imperialistic wars (think the “war on terror”); the increase in arms spending by the superpowers, which benefits large US and Europeans arms manufacturing firms; and the push for privatisation – which in turn to leads to an attack on labour, wages and the collective bargaining process.

For all the talk of ‘good governance’, the IMF and World Bank have done business in the past with dictators and corrupt regimes, putting entire nations into debt. This sort of debt is known as ‘odious debt’ because the ordinary people in those borrower nations were not consulted about the loans: the deals are essentially between the international financial institutions and the local elites. And yet, it is the ordinary people who have to bear the brunt of repayment of loans.


  1. There are a suffering main street and thriving wall street in USA, $700 billions corporate handout is just the starting point, more will be demanded from various industries in the country soon, no American CEO will not like to have a piece of a free pie at the expense of taxpayers, just wait and see how corporate “Greed” cook up their miseries.


    Why not a bailout for the rest of us?

    What’s really required in this crisis is an entirely different kind of government intervention in the econom

    Quickly organized protests around the U.S. drew opponents of the bailout for Wall Street (Joe Newman)

    AS THE smoke cleared after Monday’s stunning House of Representatives vote against a $700 billion financial bailout for Wall Street, the politicians immediately got down to the business of blaming each other–and scheming about the next attempt to push through this rescue of the super-rich.

    But for working people trying to figure out what the hell has happened to the U.S. financial system–and why the leaders of the U.S. government, apparently regardless of political party, are prepared to spend more than $2,000 for every man, woman and child in this country to save Wall Street–the reaction was different.

    For one thing, there was sweet satisfaction to be taken in the fact that the bankers and stockbrokers didn’t get their way for once–especially since they’re out to steal $700 billion in taxpayers’ money to cover their bad investments, under a program devised by former Wall Street CEO and now Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson.

    With the business world ratcheting up political pressure and Paulson predicting certain doom if no action was taken, the Bush administration and the leadership of both parties in both the House and Senate were all sure that the bailout bill would go through. Yet the legislation was derailed because members of Congress are feeling the heat from a growing popular outrage over the staggering scale of a giveaway to the very same people who led the economy to the edge of the abyss.

    It was an all-too-rare turn of events for the U.S. political system–the opinions of ordinary Americans actually mattered in what happened.

    At the same time, though, there’s a sense of foreboding. If the government can’t agree on a bailout, will Wall Street really crash and burn–and cause an economic catastrophe on Main Street, too?

    After all, that’s the claim of “King Henry” Paulson and his nominal boss, George W. Bush. They’re basically extortionists, insisting that if Congress doesn’t agree to a king’s ransom for the banks, the economy gets it–in the form of a worldwide financial meltdown that would wipe out workers’ savings and eliminate millions of jobs overnight.

    The stock market plunge that followed the House vote Monday will have reinforced such fears. Few workers have the resources to play the stock market, of course, but their lives are affected by its ups and downs, especially the downs–for example, the loss of retirement savings in 401(k) accounts that many workers rely on, now that defined benefit pension plans are going the way of the dinosaur.

    So is it true? Are we all–the multi-millionaire bankers on Wall Street and the tens of millions of workers on every other street–in the same boat after all? Do we really need the Paulson bailout to avert a second Great Depression?

    The answer is no.

    The argument that a bailout of the banks is good of all us is an ideological smokescreen, to cover the specifics of the Paulson proposal, as sanctioned by the Democrats–which benefits the rich and powerful, at the expense of the rest of us.

    There are plenty of ways that government intervention could alleviate the financial crisis and provide urgently needed relief to working people. But that would involve programs, policies and priorities that the bankers despise–and that political leaders in Washington want nothing to do with.

    Paulson is right to say that Wall Street is facing its most severe crisis since the Great Depression–a catastrophe entirely of its own making–and that the U.S. government has to respond. But the form that response takes–a huge handout for the super-rich or a progressive plan to rein in the banks and help ordinary people–depends on whether workers organize to make their voices heard and felt in Washington.


    10TH oCT 2008

    Alan Maass looks at how the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression has revealed, once again, two worlds of the haves and have-nots, existing side by side in America.

    ALL MEN are created equal, says the Declaration of Independence. But when it comes to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, some Americans seem to be more equal than others.

    At the start of October, Congress and the Bush administration put the finishing touches on a $700 billion bailout to save Wall Street’s richest banks and financial firms from the disastrous consequences of their own gambling. That’s roughly $2,300 from every man, woman and child in the U.S. to rescue the same businesses that continue to foreclose on homes, that jack up interest rates on credit cards, that cut off student loans.

    And no one knows if $700 billion is enough to save the banks. The chaos they caused with their reckless speculation has set off a financial chain reaction that is shaking the world system–and now the rest of the economy as well, as layoffs and cutbacks begin to bite in one industry after another.

    But if no one knows whether the handout to the banks will work, we do know one thing: The vast majority of Americans won’t get a helping hand of any kind. Millions of ordinary people in the U.S. have “bad debts” on their books, and they could be kicked out of their homes because of it. But the federal government is doing next to nothing.

    For people like Addie Polk, the pressure became too much.

    Addie and her husband bought a home in Akron, Ohio, in 1970, and managed to pay it off by 1982, just before they hit retirement age. But in the last decade, Addie, now a widow and suffering health problems, ran into financial difficulties, so she re-mortgaged her home–most recently, visiting a Countrywide Home Loan office in 2004.

    What else to read

    For an introduction to socialism and the socialist tradition, read The Case for Socialism, by Socialist Worker editor Alan Maass. Paul D’Amato’s The Meaning of Marxism provides a lively and accessible account of the ideas of Karl Marx, using historical and contemporary examples.


    The best introduction to Marxism remains The Communist Manifesto, written 160 years ago by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. A new edition of the Manifesto, edited by Phil Gasper, provides full annotation, clear historical references and explanation, additional related text and a full glossary.


    Hal Draper’s The Two Souls of Socialism makes the case for the genuine socialist tradition that looks to the self-activity of the working class to change society.

    Sharon Smith’s Subterranean Fire: A History of Working Class Radicalism in the United States recounts the hidden history of workers’ resistance and the socialist tradition in the U.S.

    No problem, declared the helpful people at Countrywide. At the age of 86, Addie signed a 30-year mortgage for $45,620 and took out an $11,380 line of credit.

    She began missing payments. In 2007, the government-backed mortgage company Fannie Mae took over the loan and began foreclosure proceedings. The house was reportedly sold at auction earlier this year for $28,000, and sheriff’s deputies began delivering eviction notices.

    When the deputies arrived for another attempt on October 1, they heard gunshots. A neighbor used his ladder to get in a second-floor window, where he found Addie lying unconscious on the bed, shot twice in the chest. She was taken to the hospital, barely alive.

    Apparently, a 90-year-old woman’s suicide attempt–and a nationally publicized one at that–was enough for Fannie Mae. Executives found it in their hearts to decide that Addie’s loan would be forgiven.

    But of course, Addie Polk is one among so many. “There’s a lot of people like Miss Polk right now,” said Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville. “That’s the sad thing about it…This is just a major problem.”


    Michael Moore,the AMERICAN WRITER in his latest book ‘GUIDE TO US ELECTIONS 2008’ has PROPOSED that on the day when OBAMA takes over the us Administration, Bush, Cheaney and the Gang of Thieves should be chained up and straight away lead to jail; they should be invesitgated for missing of so much of peoples money and asked to explain; they should then be charged in the US COURTS.

    11th Oct 2008

  3. Hi, I’m a journalist student from Sweden. I’m writing a story about Paraquat and is interested about the lifted ban in Malaysia. You wrote an interesting article about it and I would like to ask you some questions about it. I would be very glad I could get your emailadress so I can write you some questions!



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