“The World Bank and the IMF bear major responsibility for the widespread poverty in the Philippines through its imposition of onerous loan conditionalities and so-called development programs that resulted in higher prices, stagnant wages, union busting, cuts in social spending, higher regressive taxes, and displacement of farmers and indigenous peoples,” said Raymond Palatino, Bayan secretary general.
By MENCHANI TILENDO
MANILA, Philippines – For Filipino progressives, it is high time for governments to reject the neoliberal policies being imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) as it holds their annual meeting this week in Morocco.
The IMF-WB is currently holding its 2023 Annual Meetings from Oct. 9 to Oct. 15 in the earthquake-hit North African country Marrakech, Morocco. The global lenders usually hold this gathering of finance ministers and central bank governors outside their Washington headquarters every three years; and this is the first time in 50 years that they held their meetings in Africa.
A press statement last Sep. 18 by World Bank President Ajay Banga, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva, and Morocco’s Minister of Economy and Finance Nadia Fettah Alaoui stated “at this very difficult time, we believe that the Annual Meetings also provide an opportunity for the international community to stand by Morocco and its people, who have once again shown resilience in the face of tragedy. We also remain committed to ensuring the safety of all participants.”
Morocco has been utilizing credit to the IMF-WB to tamper down their economic downturns including the recent impacts of the pandemic, which significantly affected their tourism and exports. The institution has pushed Morocco to balance its budget and to continue raising its interest rates.
However, activists and rights organizations in Marrakesh and other countries in the global South urged the institutions to take actual steps against the issue of debt and climate crisis.
In the Philippines, Filipino progressives held a protest in front of the Department of Finance yesterday, saying that the IMF-WB must be held accountable for its anti-poor and ant-development policies, resulting in widespread poverty in the Philippines and other countries in the Global South.
“For almost 80 years, the IMF-WB have since left their mark on economies especially in the global South – often with adverse consequences. The 2023 Annual Meetings will be held in a continent wracked by colonialism and continuing economic and political interventions by powers and global institutions”, said IBON International in a statement.
“The dominant power in the IMF-WBG, the United States, has called on these institutions to re-tool and adapt, borrowing seemingly progressive language on gender, climate change, health, and fragility and conflict. But glossy words cannot cover up their track record. Nor can they conceal ongoing harms”, IBON International added.
IMF-WB’s economic outlook
On Oct. 10, Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, chief economist of the IMF, will present their October 2023 World Economic Outlook which will primarily tackle their latest global growth projections and key policy recommendations. Key issues will include their core monetary policy solutions to the multi-decades high inflation in 2022, analysis on the effects of geopolitical tensions to commodity markets, and other economic disruptions in commodity prices and energy transition.
In yesterday’s protest in Manila, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said the longtime intervention of the IMF-WB in the Philippine economy is responsible for the country’s underdevelopment.
“The World Bank and the IMF bear major responsibility for the widespread poverty in the Philippines through its imposition of onerous loan conditionalities and so-called development programs that resulted in higher prices, stagnant wages, union busting, cuts in social spending, higher regressive taxes, and displacement of farmers and indigenous peoples”, said Raymond Palatino, Bayan secretary general.
“We are a showcase of the WB-IMF’s notorious track record of further aggravating the socio-economic conditions of pre-industrial, backward countries such as the Philippines. It bankrolled the corrupt Marcos dictatorship as it introduced a wave of neoliberal programs that caused massive livelihood and job losses”, Palatino added.
Sectors push back against IMF-WB imperialist dictates, condemn Marcos Jr.’s policies
At least 79 years after the 1994 Bretton Woods Conference established the IMF-WB to finance reconstruction efforts for the adverse effects of the Second World War, the Philippine government has continued to implement economic policies they are pushing..
Consumer group Bantay Bigas assailed the Marcos Jr. administration for granting the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Finance the powers to implement the programs such as Support to Parcelization of Lands for Individual Titling (SPLIT) project and Rice Liberalization Law that are being pushed by the World Bank.
“Marcos Jr. has collaborated with the IMF-WB to roll out policies of the Department of Finance and the Department of Agrarian Reform which are anti-poor and anti-farmer. The government has continuously coddled neoliberal policies which gives leeway to foreign corporations and big businesses to plunder our lands and natural resources”, said Cathy Estavillo, Bantay Bigas spokesperson.
“The SPLIT has led to the massive displacement of Filipino farmers from their lands through land conversion projects. Through the subdivision of collectively-owned land titles, farmers are now more deprived of their right to their own land. This maneuvered policy will make it even easier for landlords and businessmen to pawn the land titles to banks,” Estavillo added.
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) Commission 2 (On Socio-Economic Concerns) said that the IMF-WB has persisted in imposing high taxes on poor Filipinos and low taxes on big corporations through the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law (TRAIN) Law and Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Law.
“Marcos Jr. has allowed the full foreign ownership of local industries in the country such as telecommunications, mining, energy, among others. His first year in office has elevated the Philippines to the top 5 of the World Bank borrowers. We have no illusion that the IMF-WB, which played a key role in shaping anti-people policies in various government agencies, will change. Their only interest lies with maintaining the US-imperialist dictates of ensuring capital over economies,” Jainno Bongon of the ILPS Commission 2 said.
Demand for a pro-people development
IBON International reiterated that the austerity measures being pushed by the IMF-WB have hollowed out social infrastructure and services, and exacerbated inequalities.
“The WB has funded destructive, mega-infrastructure projects that violently displace Indigenous Peoples from their ancestral lands and that has affected the lives of farmers, workers, women and children, and other sectors. It has also supported market-assisted land reforms that have been implemented in militarized contexts,” said IBON International.
Bayan, for its part, said that it is time to reject the neoliberal prescriptions by the IMF-WB.
“After 78 years of subservience, it’s time to reject the neoliberal prescriptions dictated by IMF-WB and instead the country should adopt a development model in favor of genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization”, Bayan said. (JJE, RVO)