'Economic Hit Man' Faults Multinationals

By Olson, Thomas | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 15, 2010 | Go to article overview
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'Economic Hit Man' Faults Multinationals

Olson, Thomas, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Noted author and economist John Perkins says some multinational corporations and lending agencies nearly ruined economies in the Third World, exploited their resources and enslaved their indigenous peoples while enriching the powerful and corrupt.

He ought to know: Perkins was the point man.

"I was the one who went to foreign government officials to convince them to accept the big projects that would enrich them and their cronies, along with the U.S. corporations involved," he said Thursday. "In the end, the countries were left with huge debts they couldn't repay."

Saddled with billions in debt, countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia could ill afford education, health and social programs for their citizens, he said.

Perkins brought his stories to Pittsburgh yesterday, speaking to a breakfast meeting of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh at The Rivers Club, Downtown, and lecturing at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland.

Perhaps best-known of his half dozen books is "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man," as he refers to his former role. The book, written in 2004, spent nearly 18 months on The New York Times best- seller list and was translated into 30 languages.

During the 1970s, Perkins was chief economist with Chas. T. Main Inc., a former international consulting firm in Boston that advised global lending agencies, such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. These agencies provided the loans to countries for mega-projects -- such as oil exploration and production, and hydroelectric dams -- that were built by such American juggernauts as Halliburton, General Electric and Bechtel.

For example, Perkins persuaded Colombia to take out huge loans from the World Bank in the early 1970s to build a massive hydroelectric project. Trouble is the resulting flooded areas displaced thousands of peasants from their farms.

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