The International Monetary Fund: Friend or Foe?

Growth does not happen instantaneously and, oftentimes, catalyzing economic growth is a decades-long venture. No one expects positive results immediately, but people do expect a fair approach to promoting wealth. In times of crisis, most countries answer to the same worldwide organizations dedicated to ameliorating economic recession. Primarily, the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Founded shortly after World War II, the IMF’s mandate was to promote international trade and economic cooperation by aiding countries in times of crisis, vis-a-vis loans and budgetary advice. It is predominantly counseled by six nations according to a weighted voting system. Germany, France, Japan, Britain, China and the United States control over 50 percent of the organization’s voting power. This is an important consideration when one considers that small, poverty-stricken countries, like those in Africa or Latin America, have absolutely no say in the IMF’s policies in comparison to a few powerful member states.

While the IMF may masquerade as an institution seeking to mitigate poverty, its economic decisions stem from countries that prioritize their own power and wealth. Noam Chomsky, a prominent political analyst and professor emeritus at MIT, described the works of the IMF and its top-member nations as “Designed for capital, not people.”

Most loan agreements from the International Monetary Fund come with harsh conditions that encourage the eventual triumph of capital while simultaneously removing social safety nets. Stipulations on loan agreements require severe cutbacks on wages and welfare in order to receive critically needed funds. Invariably, these loan conditions target the programs used by the working class majority.

News outlet Global Exchange (GE) documents the history of IMF protocol, reporting that “The IMF and World Bank frequently advise countries to attract foreign investors by weakening their labor laws – eliminating collective bargaining laws and suppressing wages.” Rather than encouraging domestic development, the IMF enforces economic policies that favor en mass, cheap exports operated through low wage labors costs and weakly regulated industries.

The results of Latin America’s arrangement with the IMF is indicative of the results of a “capital over community” approach. Argentina, once considered the model of financial prowess by the IMF, has steadily declined following the organization’s intervention during the late 90’s. According to University of Washington professor Victor Menaldo, “Public investment is the lowest it has ever been, less than 2 percent of GDP. Taxes on capital gains are less than 5 percent as of 2000. Lastly, along with Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are experiencing the highest amount of foreign debt in their histories.”

For many developing nations and countries under recession, poverty can be right around the corner. The way international organizations and enterprises collaborate in dealing with such potential poverty will determine whether a nation prospers or stagnates. Eliminating poverty is dependent on adjusting the failures of mainstream economics. This means stepping away from the IMF, preventing reductions in labor laws and not withholding loan agreements on conditions—such as eliminating bargaining rights or striking pensions—that have shown to only hurt economies in both the short and long term.

— Michael Giacoumopoulos

Sources: Global Exchange, The Tech, The Washington Post
Photo: NSZ