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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Can the fate of developing countries still be determined by World Bank and IMF?

16th April 2012

Jambo for the coming week, today of which will determine who will occupy one of the mightiest positions in global affairs, a veritable Genhis Khan of all things fiscal!.

I’m referring of course to the World Bank presidency, tenaciously held by the United States, ever since the banks inception after the Second World War.

This time however, there’s an African nominated contender, Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Olonjo-Iweala. A former World Bank managing director, she represents a credible and long overdue challenge, to this contentious institution.

Musing on this, I’m recalling that in 2005 in nominating his buddy Paul Wolfowitz as the next head of the Bank, George Bush said “Paul has experience of running the Pentagon, which is a large organisation, and the World Bank is a large organisation……..I think he’s the man for the job”.

Wonderful….the main criteria appeared to be size, but really since the main concern of Wolfowitz, (a promoter of the Iraq invasion) was protecting the interests of corporate America, which is what many think the bank is mostly about, then he surely was the right man.

It’s an irony, that the USA, the prime trumpeters of the over-used and therefore devalued words “democracy” and “transparency”, haven’t practiced it themselves when appointing the head of a powerful institution that virtually decides the fate of developing nations. Instead, as one critic said, “the method is an un democratic, un-transparent stitch up”.

Not for nothing is the word ‘medicine’, frequently used in connection with the I.M.F and the Word Bank, because as I’ve often written, these western ‘doctors’ have long had their third world patients in thrall, deciding on both the remedy and the dosage, whilst yet being responsible for much of the malady.

If you had to choose the most over hyped concept, out of the many constantly coined by these institutions, it would probably be ‘poverty reduction’.

But in 2001, when eleven African heads of state, met world bank and I.M.F. heads at an historic gathering in Dar es Salaam, Dr. Haji Semboja of the Economic Research Foundation said, “such organisations have no real interest in reducing poverty, as they need to pump out more loans from which they derive handsome interest, and those who criticise them, and the political elite they represent, are branded as rebels”. I’m not sure how much that has changed today, if at all.

At that time also, fellow columnist Jenerali Ulimwengu bemoaning the lack of committed politicians here who’ve failed to effect change wrote, “……..have they ever thought of the hordes of children who’ve never been inside a class room, or the grown men and women who will go to their graves without experiencing the thrill of writing their own names. But maybe they can’t be blamed, as who needs to decide on economic policies here, when it’s clearly decided for us by the World Bank and the I.M.F.”.

. …….I think the writer is still an un-reformed ‘rebel’.!


Well I often use a dividing line in the column, to let you readers know we’ve a change of topic, in case you were bored with the old one, and I want to retain your interest of course….but I think we’ll just carry on with the same subject, and my little diatribe against it. (diatribe means an attack or criticism, but sounds more polite!.)

……..anyway, joining the other slogans of the last decade, the monetary ‘mullahs’ came up with the term “good governance”, which slowly crept in till it became the most important mantra in the development speak lexicon. But, according to writer Demba Mousa Dembele, who’s chronicled the turbulent record of these financial institutions, the phrase disguised a devious agenda.

We know that many structural adjustment programmes failed, with disastrous consequences for millions around the world.

but he says to absolve themselves from blame, the World Bank and the I.M.F. instigated the concept of ‘good governance’. This phrase subtly conveys the idea that the failures occurred only because African States are basically corrupt, lack qualified personnel and good methodology, or in other worlds, the policies were basically sound, but the implementers were at fault.

Thus ‘good governance’ means nothing more than

The need to build and maintain market economies that will obediently continue to implement more ‘sound policies’ and remain subservient to international financial institutions.

Clever stuff, and if he was correct, have we all been fooled by it?....I don’t know, but have never again accepted the words ‘good governance’ in the same spirit.

………yet on the other hand, I’m thinking….what about all the third world ruling political elites, those gold watch wearing, Pajero driving, palaces and Swiss bank account owning ‘implementers’… willingly seduced by the mighty western financial Goliaths, and complicit for personal gain in projects they know are unworkable and bad for their countries, …..don’t they share the blame, and if so, who the hell are the good guys?......if any!.

But let’s end with Jenerali, who made the definitive comments on some of the results of the economic dictator ship imposed on countries like Tanzania when he wrote, “what good are low inflation rates if people have no money in their pockets…..but the other day, I visited a place with the lowest inflation rate ever…and forever….Kinondoni cemetery”!.

…..which reminds me, last week I went to buy a food product, and discovered it had increased in one jump from 4,400sh to 7,400sh……time to get my printer friend to produce some stickers proclaiming……..BEAT TOMORROWS INFLATION THE SUREST WAY…….BY DYING TODAY!. ….good eh?

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