Commentaries and Analyses Index

World Bank Is The Great Satan!

HARARE, Apr. 5 - I liked Dr Sihkanyiso Ndlovu's article in The Sunday Mail on patriotism. As patriots, the love of Zimbabwe comes above our personal disagreements. We need therefore to discuss honestly among ourselves how the new policy of a return to the World Bank will benefit our country.

We know from past history that there is not a single African country that has ever come out of the clutches of the World Bank once it has allowed itself to be trapped in the debt cycle.

The World Bank managers may smile, or dine our Zimbabwean officials and entrap them with nice words like returning to the 'civilised world' but we know that in the long run, we are like flies being invited into a spider's web.

Here is what a Quaker thinktank in Washington has issued about the African debt burden this week:

The Congolese government owes more than US 10 billion dollars to the World Bank. This money was loaned to President Mobutu Sese Seko, knowing fully well that he was a thief and an embezzler. Congo remains one of the poorest countries in the world today. Promises were made for debt relief but nothing has been forthcoming. The Congolese are being asked to pay debts in which they had no say and which were not used for their benefit. The World Bank is the enforcer of these Satanic deals.

The Quakers say that Uganda received debt relief but as soon as this was accomplished the prices of coffee and tea fell and today it is in the same position it was five years ago. Malawi is also mentioned. Malawi has just received U$27 million from the World Bank for land resettlement. But the conditionality placed on Malawi in a previous cycle has seen its textile industry go down the drain.

These policies are deliberate.

The idea is to destroy Third World industry so that the Third World becomes a supplier of raw materials like lumber, unprocessed tea and coffee, raw minerals like uncut diamonds and gold. We know that one pound of tea from Uganda costs U$5 while the same pound when processed costs 10 times more. The benefit of added value (packaging and processing) goes to the First World.

In fact there are so many cases where the Ugandan farmers have been getting less than the costs of inputs into their products.

The emerging cashew processing plants in Mozambique were killed off by the World Bank conditionality. While commodity prices have gone down over the last 50 years, prices of automobiles and machinery from the West have doubled or trippled over the same period. Basil Davidson calculated that a peanut farmer in West Africa was paid more in the last century per bag of peanuts than he is paid today.

We must realise that the World Bank is our enemy.

Patrick Bond and Masimba Manyanya who worked in the Zimbabwe Ministry of Finance have written a detailed account of the sins of that bank as it relates to Zimbabwe.

The Bank loans were confined to areas where they hoped to influence policy, such as railways, agriculture, energy and small business. There are two policy prerogatives there. First the bank wants all these entities sold to individuals on the world market. We will end up with a country where our railways, our electricity, our plantations and our banks are owned by foreigners.

They cannot do that here in the US. Conrail is supported and subsidised by the United States government, and so are rural telephone and energy companies. The automobile company Chrysler was heavily subsidised by the US government between 1976-1980 until it was able to compete on the world market. Our industries cannot compete on the world market without some support for a very long time. Our government has followed a blind policy in relation to rural businessmen where huge South African companies have been allowed to make inroads into the grocery and clothing businesses. The small rural stores were a training ground for future Zimbabwean business men.

Bond and Manyanya have written these words about the history of the World Bank Zimbabwe.

The Bank refused any rescheduling in 1987, raised interest rates by 25 percent for urban and small businesses, ended all official support for agricultural co-operatives and imposed tougher payments for peasant farmers, thus marginalising them.

Let us contrast with their actions in the United States. President George Bush imposed tariffs on European steel for two years in order to allow American steel to make technical improvements which will make them more competitive.

Agricultural grants for sheep rearing in California are non repayable. Maize and wheat farming are heavily subsidised, thus driving out Mexican farmers who cannot compete. Everybody here knows that until Florida oranges are bought, no new quotas are allowed from abroad. The US government subsidised American universities and think tanks. The World Bank forbids all such subsidies in the Third World.

Bond and Manayanya expose the wickedness of the bank in great detail. The Bank requires that we starve our children so that we pay them, even for loans taken out on our behalf by imperialists and oppressors in the past. Bond says that for Zimbabwe, 'repayment was often excruciating'. In 1998 U$980 million was paid to foreign creditors. The total debt was U$4,92 billion.

With extortionist interest rates being paid on that debt, the total debt was reduced to U$4,72 billion. At that rate, we were paying 38 percent of our total gross receipts from exports with no hope of ever paying off the debt, even if we were faithful for another 50 years. In 2001 we owed the foreign creditors U$1,25 billion in arrears. The debt is simply unpayable.

The new conditions are that Zimbabwe must abolish payments to the veterans. The rule of law must be restored. That means that the white farms must be paid compensation at agreed prices, or their farmers must be restored with compensation for pain and suffering as well as for equipment and houses broken into. In addition, the white farmers must be allowed to leave the country with their proceeds, if they wish to.

Even if we wanted to, we cannot afford it.

And this government has a short memory. One condition is the observance of the Zimbabwe Democracy Act that forbids any US aid to Zimbabwe until Congress certifies that free and fair elections have been held. And then the government has forgotten something else. Wrong doers (which includes most of the ruling class) must be brought to book, either for punishment or sentencing or for forgiveness if they co-operate. I cannot see any way of going round these terms for now.

Now we address the issue of why African leaders are taken in by these organizations. The great black American, Dr. WEB Dubois said that Africans suffer from a double consciousness. They yearn to be admitted into the white man's favour, or at least be accepted as an equal.

The trouble is the white man's club writes all the rules and those rules were intended to keep us out to begin with. The second reason is that anybody wishing to make a name for himself in the world would be well served if he had the good fortune to be in good books with the president of the World Bank and those kind of officials.

Dr. Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia loved to say that the Prime Minister of Great Britain was 'his friend'. Such a thing as a friend, in the way we regard our friends, does not exist in the West. One is a friend only while their interests converge. When they no longer converge, they 'distance' themselves in no time at all.

The Shah of Iran was shocked when US President Jimmy Carter wrote a memo to say that it was in the interests of the US to abandon the Shah and come to terms with his enemies.

Well, in my world, we do not abandon our friends. Our leaders, are, despite their protestations, Eurocentric. Nothing is good until it has been certified by Europeans and Americans. Our way out is to begin at the beginning.

If we use our resources well, we have enough resources to enable us to create a reasonably wealthy country without the treacherous World Bank.

by Ken Mufuka
Zimbabwe Standard

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