The International Monetary Fund's Very Ideology Runs Counter to Developing Nations' Needs: It Is in Fact a Nasty Little Cult, Though Dyslexics Might Find That Word Offensive
Thomas, Mark, New Statesman (1996)
I recently discovered that my Make Poverty History wristband is an ideal size for keeping the greaseproof paper on jars of home-made jam. Guests to our house can now choose from an array of politically conscious preserves. We have jams opposed to bullying, anti-racist jams, choose-life jams and a quirky anarchist conserve to Make Property History. All I need now is the Qaeda jihadist wristband Make Yourself History and new Labour's Make Politics History, and I will have the set.
So put aside the wristbands, put aside the "at least Live 8 is raising consciousness" arguments, as it has been scientifically proven that Coldplay leads to unconsciousness. The issue should be: are the institutions that created the African debt crisis able and willing to reform? One of the main offenders has a history that says it is not: step forward the International Monetary Fund. The IMF, considered by dyslexics to be a by word for cheap and durable carpets, is in fact a rather nasty little cult, though dyslexics may find that word offensive.
Like the World Bank, the IMF was set up at the end of the Second World War and was an attempt to eradicate the economic conditions that had led to fascism in Europe. To this end, it was to provide funds for countries in economic crisis to spend their way out of trouble. It is now the polar opposite. The IMF is institutionally incapable of aiding Africa because its very ideology runs counter to the continent's needs.
Worshipping at the shrine of Milton Friedman and Margaret Thatcher, the IMF barely keeps its cultist employees from running round the street banging cymbals and chanting "market forces" to the tune of "Hare Krishna". Its monetarist logic runs thus: governments cut their public spending, which reduces inflation, and the free market takes over to work its wonders. However, it is public spending that Africa so desperately needs: more money on nurses, doctors and teachers. How else is it going to get children into education and combat HIV/Aids?
For more than 20 years, IMF loans have come with a Structural Adjustment Programme to cut inflation. Any state that does not comply simply does not get the money. The effects of the SAP dogma of privatisation are devastating. In the 1990s, Zimbabwe cut public spending and introduced school fees for children. The result was that children as young as 12 began turning to prostitution in Harare to pay for their education. To my knowledge, not one Zimbabwean ever thought, "My daughter has turned to prostitution, contracted HIV . …