GLOS 3415 Global Institutions of power
Zhang, Kuang Tuesday October 25
Jamaica？“ The Colosseum ” run by the World Bank
Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. ——Goerge Orwell
World Bank. IMF. Free trade. What have they done to the poor toiling masses in the third world countries? How were the Bank‟s projects going? Are the real circumstances of the development in those countries consistent with the reports that are published by the World Bank? It's difficult to understand what the real problem is, however, I will try.
The film Life and Debt told us something. Dancing, swimming, tasting the sweet bananas and indulging in beer drinking games at hotels, what a colorful life! However, most of them were tourists from the United States or other developed counties. Shabby house, small dingy streets, low wage, high unemployment, social turmoil; which were the theme of life about natives, they were still „colorful‟, yes, but in an opposite way.
The policies came alony with the loans from the Bank and IMF brought great impact on workers, farmers, industries, and even the society in general. Local farmers were able to live a decent life through the selling of their products. However, such calm life was broken when the Bank
imposed removal of tariffs in international trade. The native products cannot compete with the cheap imported ones that were produced by the American hacienda who also enjoy the subsidies by their government. Also, we can see in the film, a dairy farmer had to pour his milk down the ground; and sweatshops where people work more than ten hours a day, receiving an average of $60 a month. As a farmer said in the film, "How can the machete compete with the machine?" Meanwhile, the loans from the Bank rose from millions to billions; the government even cannot pay back the interests of the loans by spending more than half of their outlays. So it‟s impossible
for the government to provide basic health and medical care, public education as well as the stable social order. Consequently, the country cannot enhance its national industry or even cannot fill the people‟s belly.
The similar story happened in other third word countries. For instance Haiti (p281~284, Chapter 7, Imperial Nature). Political & military intimidation; Liberalization, privatization, currency devaluation, elimination of tariffs on imports, and then the collusion between local elites and the figures from the United States; such a series of actions has led the whole country to be a puppet of the Allies, we may call it „colony‟ in a new way, which brought the whole country to its last
People there have lost trust in everything and put all the energy into just trying to survive. Moreover, the project of dam in India and Laos also caused great damage to the environments as well as the native. (Chapter 4, Imperial Nature) Thousands of natives had to move out, left their
autarky life to a new place where the original production environment was lacking. They have
become displaced. Besides, the distributing of the water from the river turned into imbalance, some places were suffering floods while other places were underwent drought. In addition, the ecosystem of those river basins has been disturbed; vegetations and aquatic animals have been destroyed.
Policies that were claimed by the World Bank were aimed to encourage the healthy development of the third world countries‟ economy. But what has been the actual result? After the structural
adjustments forced by the Bank/IMF, the cuts in public expenditure, the removal of tariffs on imports, the privatizations and devaluations, Jamaica as well as other third world counties are still plagued by financial crisis. Development plans have been abandoned as the vision of independence recedes (p92~93, Chapter 2, Imperial Nature). What kind of goal, “fight poverty”,
was it?! Why? Why is the World Bank still standing with colossal failures as well as large scale of the rebel movements and constant criticisms from all sides? A brief answer, the reason may be interests eternal political or economic.
Supply and Demand, then the birth of the World Bank. Go back to the period of the establishing of the Bank. After World War ?, Europe had become nearly dilapidated and needed to be
reconstructed urgently; However, lacking of money and materials made them stuck. Meanwhile, the USA had accumulated abundant capital and excess productive forces during the war. So they chimed in easily and established the institution of World Bank Group under the Bretton Woods system. It's reasonable that the Bank‟s prophase purpose was to help Europe and related colonies
to reconstruct their economy and social systems. When asked, did this apply to India and the rest of Empire? Keynes replied, that must wait until the reconstruction of Europe was much further advanced (p55, Chapter 2, Imperial Nature). For example, former Soviet Union and China have
made contributions to the victory of the World War ?, yet they received little assistances,
which was mainly because the social ideological and market rules. The Bank's policies reflect the interests of the first world, not the interests of colonized peoples, who were not even independent at the time.
The World Bank developed from lacking sufficient funds to massive capital. In the beginning, five big counties (United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France) controlled most of the bank‟s
capital as well as controlling voting power. Moreover, although its controlling voting power has declined, the United States still accounted for the biggest voting power which was about 17.7% (in 2003), which means it has a veto, even until now. At first the amount of money was inadequate; as the Bank could not recover loans of Europe which made the Bank cash-squeeze. The Bank's influence was arguably overshadowed by the massive Marshell plan. So the power of the Bank owned limited impact in the world. However, things changed after MacNamara took charge of the Bank. With the collapse of the Bretton Woods system, the Bank had more opportunity to raise money from Wall Street, as the financial predators and the major company needed a new way to pursuit their interests. Wall Street now became the biggest shareholder, they would decide which programs will be invested and which will not. Sometime they may unite government or the military force, some time they may coerce the leader in small counties.
If there nothing to plunder, the company can relocate somewhere else; the unique aim for them is just pursuit profits. Justice or not who cares.
The progress of producting „knowledge‟. I learned that one of the Bank‟s greatest
accomplishment has been to make its worldview, its development framework, and its data sets the ones that people around the world choose above others (Preface, Imperial Nature). After
accumulated abundant capital the main task was to lend them out. and make profits. So the World Bank assembled thousands of elites which inclouds economists, anthropologists, sociologists and environmental experts, etc. Also established various research organizations and held different kinds of seminars academic report meetings, which educated thousand CEOs, the ministers of finance, bankers and other elites. They have spread the knowledge of the Bank all over the world. In some countries it became common cense or even beliefs. Moreover, the Bank would transfer its topic or project when it faced the situation „reform or die‟, from “Debt and
Adjustment” to “Green Neoliberal ”; from “Dans” to “Environmental Protection”, the Bank is a
good actor sometimes.
Going back to Jamaica, the “Roman Colosseum”. Life and Debt, is the modern version of
abolitionism. The modern slave-master is an economic system. It precludes freedom, self-determination, and economic health to the third world's people which are the majority poor. The possible solutions must be not simple as kill Muammer Gaddafi, a tiger. It may be debt relief and giving a voice to the less developed nations in the determination of policies.