innncial Crises and the -y of Nations governments could reserve revenue to pay interest on loans. Repaying the principal was out of the question. But these loans only made the problem worse. Like the project loans, they were huge and unmonitored. The debt spiraled out of control. The countries would never be able to pay back even the SALs. They were borrowing money to pay back the Bank for the money they borrowed to pay back the Bank… This went on for a long time, but finally all the communists were dead in the Third World and the Berlin Wall fell in the First. The Bank could afford to loosen up a bit and began to entertain mental organizations concerned about the destruction of the planet by Bank projects and the stockpiling of dead debt. The issues of governance, corruption, labor standards, and human rights remained out of bounds, however, where they remain to this day. Shortly thereafter Jim Wolfensohn arrived. According to Mallaby, Wolfensohn had always been charmed by the exotica of Africa, Asia, and Latin America and set out to travel the world, to encounter firsthand the Bank’s real clients: poor countries. Mallaby recounts the tales of these early missions. In Mali, his first stop, Wolfensohn was carefully coddled by a clever Bank staffer who orchestrated a theme-park-like visit with minimal discomfort or inconvenience. The trip was stage-managed in this way to make Wolfensohn believe that he was really touching the ground although, in fact, he was still miles above it. After his stimulating tour, he determined to make the Bank a more thoughtful and insightful Bank. \(Among other things, he devised the “Development Marketplace,” where every year select groups of Third World natives dress up in eyecatching indigenous fashions, set up kiosks in the grand lobby of the main building to promote their innovative poverty-fighting ideas, and compete for poverty-fighting grants in this combination flea market and game show with a $5 million prize pool. Here, the colored people learn to compete in the free marketplace of ideas. During the course of the judging, Mr. Wolfensohn himself appears, trailing reporters and photographers from the Washington Post and nodding to the colonialized sycophants While Mr. Wolfensohn promenades for the press and entertains himself with lending the real money. The $5 million grants at play in the lobby account for about .00025 percent of the $20 billion the Bank lends and gives away each year. No pictures up here, though. No photos si vous plait! This is the real work of the poverty-fighting development specialists. Together with these less interesting bankers, Mr. Mallaby and Mr. Wolfensohn seem frustrated by the persistence of Third World poverty. Despite the billions lent by the Bank each year for many years, three billion people still live on less than two dollars a day. A couple billion lack access to potable water, toilets, and electricity. Their caloric intake is less than optimal. Even five years of Development Marketplaces have not helped. Goddamn! Why is that? Along with many others in Washington and around the world, we were surprised to find that Mr. Sebastian Mallaby of the Economist Magazine and the Washington Post has the answer in his book about the World’s Banker. He knows why poverty simply goes on and on in the countries that borrow from the Bank. We are not kidding. Are you ready? The answer is… Environmental NGOs! Many of them from California! That’s right. Environmental Defense stubbornly condemning billions to misery by preventing the Bank from making its loans and building its projects in a timely and responsive manner. Environmental safeguards at the Bank have just gone too far. Mr. Mallaby has a pithy way of expressing this that he is fond of repeating: “These groups have no off switch!’ \(Isn’t that a telling comment? Why should NGOs have an off switch? And what about Sebastian Mallaby? Will whoever switched him on please flick Here is Mr. Mallaby himself switched on at the Cato Institute: “I just think that the pendulum has swung a bit far on environmental safeguards. I’m against the overly sort of legalistic interpretation of them, such that you lose sight of what we’re really trying to do, which is to balance environmental sustainability and poverty reduction!’ Notice the explicit opposition between sustainability and poverty reduction. Does this make sense? No. If poverty reduction is not environmentally sustainable, then it isn’t really helpful, is it? It’s not going to last. If people get jobs chopping down trees, then once the trees are gone, they are going to be poor againwith no trees. For example. The reason we’re stuck playing the environment off against poverty is because the Bank, Mr. Wolfensohn \(when he tires of his little circus downattention to economic growth as the main basis for poverty reduction. Yes, you need schools, clinics, clean air and water and the rest, they say, but basically, to reduce poverty, you must increase wealth rather than redistribute it. Wealth redistribution is communist and boring, as everyone knows, while free market economic growth is much more interesting and rewarding. This approach at the Bank, which has not really changed in 60 years, endures continued on page 32 1/7/05 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13
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