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This is a small detail, but we can’t help noticing that neither the World Bank nor the IDB had any particular difficulties dealing with Aleman or Samper when they were in positions to sign and accept loans. On the contrary, they were treated so royally they could hardly squeeze in the breakfast briefings, working lunches, cocktail receptions, and awards dinners planned for them by the likes of the BCIU. Well, thank God that’s over. The MDBs have really tidied up. If you don’t believe me, you can look at the World Bank’s new anti-corruption Web page, where you will find instructions on what to do if you confront fraud and corruption in WB projects. You can call, fax, or e-mail the Department of Institutional Integrity. You can call collect or anonymously to the World Bank Alertline at Corporate Place in Charlotte, North Carolina \(I don’t know about you, but I personally don’t feel comfortable phoning in a corruption complaint to something called however, should include: Specifically what wrongdoing you are reporting; specific dates and time; specific location where wrongdoing occurred; how the individual or firm completed the alleged wrongdoing; why the individual or firm perpetrated the offense; why you believe the alleged activity was misconduct; what physical evidence or documentation exists to corroborate your allegations; other witnesses to the alleged wrongdoing; how you can be reached for further information. But wait. This sounds like our old friend Catch-22. You’re going to need a lot of info to file a complaint about corruption, but neither the World Bank nor the IDB is going to give it to you. At the IDB, the public has not been privy to project evaluations for the past 45 years. Nor were project status reports public. Nor technical reports in many cases. An evaluation of a decade of IDB projects in Argentina, when boatloads of public money simply disappeared, has been in the drafting for the past year, but no one outside the Bank has had a peek. Those inside have promised that the report will never see the light of day. While the IDB has a new and slightly more enlightened disclosure policy this year, it is not retroactive. According to External Relations there, reports written on the “presumption of non-disclosure” cannot be released now. That would not be fair. Also it would be embarrassing and probably incriminating. And in many cases, the policy of non-disclosure is still in effect. One $500 million loan to Argentina, for instance, made a year or so before the great collapse in December 2001, is described on the IDB Web site in two paragraphs. That’s it. No contact person, no responsible government agency, no goals, no timeline, and no budget. At the World Bank, things are not much better. Let’s take a specific case, shall we? How about the World Bank loan for about $2.5 billion to the government of Argentina in 1998? Under the terms of this loan, the World Bank would deposit $2.5 billion in the Central Bank of Argentina, essentially to prop up the Argentine peso, convertible to dollars on a one-to-one exchange, by showing that the country had the reserves necessary to cover its dollar obligations. Once the borrowed World Bank dollars were deposited, large investors and private banks could quietly withdraw their pesos from national banks, convert them to dollars one-to-one, and spirit the capital out of the country before the exchange rate imploded. In order to keep up its end of the deal, the crooks and cronies running Argentina had to guarantee that certain social programs for the extremely poor would be protected from the budget cuts they were about to enact in order to repay this and countless other bogus “loans.” Citing this requirement for social program protection, the World Bank frequently claims that it’s shielding the poor from economic crisis, even while imposing fiscal austerity and bailing out the rich. But the relative amounts for the rich and poor are telling. One of the protected social programs was called “Pro -Huerta” It graciously provided “… nutritional support to those poor who are classified statistically as having unsatisfied basic needs [Bankspeak for “hungry”] by Myer $100 bil lion in World Bank funds may have been diverted through cor ruption. That’s a lot of money. Why, you could almost pay for a frivolous American war with that. assisting them to maintain small vegetable gardens to produce food for their own consumption.” Presumably, if they are caught selling the vegetables, their gardens are plowed under and their hoes are confiscated. The project had a 1998 budget of $11 million with which to finance gardens for 2.5 million of the “absolutely poor”less than $5 a year per person. This amount was subsequently cut to $4 million in 1999 and then eliminated, in violation of the loan condition. So let’s see$2.5 billion are for the banks and $11 million are for the gardens. Whoops, make that $4… oh, well, looks like zero. A group of the hungry pulled themselves together and blew the whistle when the World Bank wrote the billion-dollar checks to the government even though Pro -Huerta was paved over. When questioned about the complaint, Management at the Bank said that although Pro -Huerta had suffered a budget reduction, the government was making efforts to sustain the program and that the Bank was therefore obliged to deposit its billions in Buenos Aires. The Bank also wished to know the identities of the complainants because if they remained anonymous, it would not be possible to ascertain whether they had been harmed by the Pro -Huerta cuts. Curious. Although the World Bank houses a team of crack international continued on page 31 6/4/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19