When will the world's financial powers learn?

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When will the world’s financial powers learn?

by Mari Marcel Thekaekara

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Last week I read reports that the World Bank and IMF say they may have been wrong in their treatment of Greece. Their aggressive control of an economy that was already in a very bad state is terrible. The experts at the top of world finance now feel that the difficult conditions they demanded of Greece were, maybe, ‘a bit extreme’. How kind.

The Greeks, and alternative economists on every continent, were telling them this, but they wouldn’t listen. Since they started after the Second World War, the 2 Bretton Woods organisations have treated badly many countries they have power over. But no-one stops them. It’s only the poor who suffer and their governments do not allow them to speak because they want more loans from the Bank.

I first saw opposition to the World Bank’s funding policies as a journalist in the early eighties, when I wrote about a story in the Bihar state, now called Jharkhand. Adivasis (indigenous people) were protecting their forests fighting against a huge project, funded by the World Bank, to cut down the very old ‘sal’ trees, adivasi holy trees and other ecosystems to grow commercial forests of teak trees. Environmentalists will be shocked, and even most Bank people will be very embarrassed now. But they were giving millions for commercial forests and paying no attention at all to the environment. They were giving money to the Bihar government to cut down historic, old forests.

Mexico and India suffered from IMF and Bank conditions when they too had to beg for money, desperate because of their terrible economy. I wrote a New Internationalist article about the conditions forced on them by the Bank and IMF in the early 1990s.

Basic food prices increased a lot, poor people starved, and there was a lot of competition offering cheaper ice-creams, burgers and pizza. The Indian economy is still growing quickly, but the poorest in the country experience this in a very different way. It is affecting the poorest in the country is an entirely different question. Most businesses are making a lot of money. But malnutrition and hunger in our worst states hasn’t improved very much.

The economy must increase a lot to keep pace with China, - everyone in business says this. But no-one wants to admit the cost. In states with many adivasi, people are forced to leave their land, they become very very poor, they are attacked and put in jail or moved to another area because the government must take the minerals under their homes for the economy to continue to increase. It is not important that complete communities are destroyed, the land they have lived on for thousands of years has been taken by the paramilitary, aggressively attacking these innocent people, putting them in prison and killing them. They were only fighting for the right to live. No-one thinks of morality, justice, right and wrong when poor people have to leave they only thing they have, because someone in Delhi or their state capital, says that progress is most important.

The same thing happens in Africa, South America and different parts of Asia. The Mabo judgement in Australia created history. It says that the rights of aboriginal people, which go back thousands of years, are the most important of all. Everyone who tries to exploit aboriginal or indigenous people are afraid of this.

But this Mabo judgement has given hope to activists around the world. They are fighting for rights when the future looks hopeless in the never ending battle against big businesses who take land for mining. The fight continues. Maybe one day, the spirits of the hundreds of millions of indigenous people (who died in the world’s largest genocide, that nobody noticed), will see justice for their children and grandchildren. And that they will finally rest in peace. I see a very long, hard fight in the future. But indigenous people have always had patience. They’ve had centuries of practice.

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/blog/2013/06/07/imf-world-bank-indigenous/