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

By Kevin Danaher | Go to book overview

21
The World Bank and Tribal Peoples

Survival International

The World Bank embarks on about 250 new projects every year. Having identified which aspects of a country's economy are in need of "development," the Bank looks for projects that will fulfill preselected economic criteria.

Many of the projects that evolve from Bank planning (such as agriculture projects, rural development, water projects, mining and roadbuilding) are in ecologically vulnerable areas. Since it is Bank policy to "develop" previously isolated regions and untapped resources, the Bank's projects have a major impact on tribal peoples whose lands these are.


Big Projects — Big Mistakes

The manner in which these projects are designed and selected means that they are structurally incapable of being properly adjusted to tribal peoples' needs and demands. Selection is on macro-economic grounds, hence tribal peoples' interests, when considered at all, are from the start subordinated to the wider plan. Concern for local peoples and for environments likely to be affected by projects is typically deferred to the latest phases of the "project cycle."

Also, because it costs as much in staff support services to administer a small project as a large one, the Bank automatically favors large projects. Regional staff are under heavy pressure anyway from the Bank to move large amounts of capital, further encouraging the trend toward more and more ambitious schemes. When the Bank's projects go wrong, they go wrong on a disastrous scale, causing massive social and environmental ruin.


Brazil: A Lesson Unlearned

In December 1981, the World Bank signed an agreement with the government of Brazil to provide a loan of $320 million (later increased to nearly $500 million) as partial funding for the Polonoroeste Program in west-central Brazil. This was to be a large-scale "integrated regional development" program, involving the all-weather paving of

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