Hypocrisy Is Too Kind a Word: If Globalisation Is Such a Great Thing, Why Do So Many People in Developing Countries Not Realise That They Are Happy and Benefiting from It? (Not in Black or White)

By Orakwue, Stella | New African, October 2002 | Go to article overview

Hypocrisy Is Too Kind a Word: If Globalisation Is Such a Great Thing, Why Do So Many People in Developing Countries Not Realise That They Are Happy and Benefiting from It? (Not in Black or White)


Orakwue, Stella, New African


How to make enemies and alienate important people? Write a book tearing globalisation apart when you, yes you, used to be the chief economist of the World Bank. And, before that, you were the chairman of President Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors.

With his Nobel Prize for Economics (yep, he's been there and done that: 2001) tucked safely under his arm, Professor Joseph Stiglitz (see p50) has decided to boldly go where no former senior employee of a Bretton Woods institution has gone: into print with exactly what takes place in the minds of policy wonks at the IMP and the World Bank.

And, boy, are his ex-colleagues in Washington 'pissed' with him? They can remain as angry as they like, but anyone interested in the politics of modern economic development must read this devastatingly brilliant--and Brave--book.

The fundamental question that Stiglitz tackles head-on in "Globalisation And Ifs Discontents" (Penguin Allen Lane, 2002) is this: If globalisation is such a great thing, why do so many people in developing countries not realise that they are happy and benefiting from it? Cue: lightning and scary music. Enter: the IMF. On the night before Stiglitz started his new job at the World Bank in early 1997, he wasn't worrying about what would end up being his biggest nightmare:

"I knew the tasks were difficult, but I never dreamed that one of the major obstacles the developing countries faced was man-made, totally unnecessary, and lay right across the street--at my 'sister' institution, the IMF."

In damning indictment after damning indictment, using case study alter case study--African countries, Russia and Eastern Europe, East Asia, Latin America--Stiglitz lambasts the IMF for being obsessed with ideology, a dysfunctional, imperialistic institution that preaches democracy and good governance but forces policies on countries which loosen democracy, undermine national sovereignty, create global instability, result in social and political chaos and strife, lead to rising unemployment, and increase the number of poor people in the world.

Policies that self-serve the IMP's masters, the Group of Seven (G7) advanced industrial countries (USA, Japan, Germany, Canada, Italy, France, Britain), and their vested financial, commercial and political interests. Interests like those of the US Treasury, huge financial corporations on Wall Street and the City of London, big business, and domestic producers and manufacturers. What is the ideological obsession? Market fundamentalism. Market fundamentalists run the IMF, Stiglitz states. People with fixed--"they knew best"--mind-sets from narrow, privileged backgrounds. People with total belief in "the Washington Consensus". A doctrine that has at its centre; "liberalisation--the removal of government interference in financial markets, capital markets, and of barriers to trade."

The Washington Con(sensus)'s other two pillars are privatisation come what may and austere monetary policies. IMP people believe these are the only "right" policies available to the world. And they are the enforcers. Their mission is to deliver "free", unprotected markets. But, the discontented ask, who benefits from all this?

Western products enter and swamp the developing world easily; the developing world's output doesn't have a chance in hell of getting past the barriers--tariffs, quotas, subsidies--protecting the overdeveloped G7 countries. (That's what I call them: the grossly overdeveloped.) IMF staff are true followers of the dogma: free-markets-good, any-government-intervention-bad. (Repeat after me.) Dogma that the fundamentalists foist on poor countries suffering crises, knowing that these same economic prescriptions would not be allowed anywhere near their own super rich, insurance protected back-yards in the United States and Europe. Hypocrisy is too kind a word. Dogma spread by an international institution put in charge of running the global economy and ensuring openness and transparency, but one that hates debating its proposals and their effects, and is anything but transparent and open. …

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