50 Years Is Enough: The Case against the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund

By Kevin Danaher | Go to book overview

18
Stealing from the State

Natalie Avery

"The 1990s have started with a bang," said William Ryrie, executive vice president of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), an affiliate of the World Bank, as he addressed the Seventh Annual Conference on Privatization sponsored by the British think tank, the Adam Smith Institute. "Privatization will, I am sure, be a continuing theme of the remaining years of the century, and the potential benefits to the countries concerned will, I have 'no doubt, continue well into the new century."

Ryrie's enthusiasm for privatization of publicly owned enterprises is reflected in World Bank policy during the last decade. Ahmed Galal, a senior economist at the World Bank, says, "Privatization has featured in almost every structural adjustment program in the last 12 years or so." As of 1992, the World Bank and its affiliates had supported privatization in more than 180 Bank operations and had provided investment, support and advice to privatized firms in dozens of IFC operations. The World Bank has pushed privatization in countries ranging from Argentina to Zimbabwe.

The Bank's use of privatization as a condition for the receipt of structural adjustment loans has escalated in the last few years. The proportion of World Bank structural adjustment loans made conditional on specific privatization targets has risen from only 13 percent in 1986 to 59 percent in 1992.

The Bank's emphasis on pzivatization over the last decade has drawn sharp criticism from a wide array of government officials, academics, community activists and institutions, perhaps most notably the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). They charge that privatization has primarily benefited multinational corporations, which have gained access to previously closed industries in the Third World and Eastern Europe, and local elites in those countries, who have bought up privatized enterprises at discount rates. As the UNDP's 1993 World Development Report asserts, "In many countries the privatization process has been more of a 'garage sale' to favored individuals and groups

-95-

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