Adonis Diaries

Odious Dept: IMF sustained by developing countries’ interests on loans

Posted on: February 19, 2013

Odious Dept: IMF sustained by developing countries interests on loans

When presidents and the oligarchies in developing States are extended liquidity at high interest loans from international creditors and are used for their own benefit instead of investing the money in public infrastructure, whose debt is it? The president’s or the people’s?

This question has led to increasingly charged discussions between indebted countries and economists at institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Especially in post-revolutionary countries like Egypt and Tunisia, people are asking: Why should we pay a debt that went straight to the pockets of a dictator, or worse, financed a security apparatus that oppressed us?

Actually, these kinds of loans are categorized as Foreign Aid disbursed to governments, instead to particular communities or institutions.

Raphael Thelen posted on NOw this Feb. 8, 2013

Philip Rizk and other activists are leading the Drop Egypt’s Debt Campaign to make the issue public.

“We want to open the accounting books of the Mubarak regime. Many of those credits aren’t legitimate, because the IMF worked with the old regime, even though they knew that the money would not benefit the people.”

Several members of Mubarak’s regime were sentenced for corruption last year. The clique of young businessmen surrounding his son Gamal famously embezzled funds and oversaw opaque deals that involved the privatization of public companies and natural resources.

These “market-friendly reform programs”, dubbed neoliberal policies, were part of the prescribed structural adjustments that came as conditions for the IMF loan.

The Odious Debt concept was first tested in Ecuador in 2008.

After an audit by an international commission, the country’s democratically-elected President Rafael Correa declared that 30% of the debt had been contracted illegally by the previous administration. The findings led to a debt reduction of $3 billion. “As a president I couldn’t allow us to keep paying a debt that was obviously immoral and illegitimate,” Correa said.

The World Bank, IMF and Western analysts predicted that the Ecuadorian economy would take a hit, saying that foreign investors would refrain from making deals with the country. Instead, Correa used the money that would have gone into debt service and invested it in public infrastructure projects and education.

In 2010, two years after the debt audit, the economy had grown by 3.6 percent, and in 2011 by 6.5 percent. Poverty rates dropped from 36.7 percent in 2008 to 28.6 percent in 2011. Annual income per capita rose from $3,540 in 2008 to $4,200 in 2011.

Two years later international investors are investing in Ecuador again.

Nick Dearden from the human rights group Jubilee Campaign sees Ecuador as a role model for other countries. “If you look at the countries that defaulted on their debts, they are doing much better now. They have thrown Western institutions out and now are using their own resources,” he said.

Tunisia, where the Arab Spring originated, is pursuing a similar course.

A bill that is being prepared to be presented to the parliament asks for a debt audit and cancellation of debts that had been illegitimately contracted under ousted dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. The Tunisian government’s external debt is currently $14.6 billion, or 33 percent of the country’s GDP. Foreign debt payments are $1.9 billion a year, or 15 percent of government revenue. Though it is not clear how much, a part of the foreign debt was taken by Ben Ali’s regime, and debt audit activists say they might be odious.

As in Egypt, Ben Ali and his cronies were known for their corruption.

A letter signed by 100 members of the European Parliament is calling “for an immediate suspension of EU debt repayment by Tunisia (with frozen interests) and an auditing of the debt.” Belgium’s parliament as well has called for a similar suspension of all bilateral debts. Ecuador has offered the Tunisian government its experience in auditing its debt.

So far, Tunisia’s post-revolutionary government is cooperating with the IMF and the World Bank and has continued Ben Ali’s market-friendly economic policies of low taxes for corporations, the privatization of public firms and resources, as well as the flexibility of the labor law.  The resulting widening gap between rich and poor has sparked protests across the country.

In the difficult economic conditions of post-revolutionary countries like Tunisia, the easiest way to gain liquidity or repay existing debts is to take on new debts. But this only pushes the problems into the future, while the influence of institutions like the IMF grows along with indebtedness.

The IMF depends on the interest payment on debt of developing countries.

“This way the form of democracy might be preserved, but the people lose their decision-making power over their economy. They won’t be able to influence the country’s economic policies in a way that reduces poverty,” says Dearden. “The way out of this is a debt audit and a cancellation of its illegitimate

Note: On IMF failed mission https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/the-international-monetary-fund-imf-failed-in-its-mission-2/

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