Dolan: Why over 6,000 angry people went to Washington

Mike Furno

Despite the massive showing of scary police in full riot gear, tear gas equipment and extra long sticks, we rallied and marched all weekend to protest the oppressive economics of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund as well as the war on Iraq. Idealists both young and old bonded over their shared opposition to poor government policies and aggressive war mongering.

Why were 6,000 people so upset that they ventured to Washington, D.C. to protest? Everyone from anarchists to environmentalists complained that the global financial institutions are not democratic and thus fail to put into practice policies that favor human rights. We in the United States do not elect our delegate to these institutions; instead he is appointed. He does not worry about what we voters think, which means he doesn’t really take into account how we might feel about our nation’s investors often without their knowledge unknowingly taking advantage of Third World peoples through the use of World Bank bonds.

The bonds are billed as socially conscious to would-be investors through fallacies like “development” and “modernization.” The World Bank uses the money from the bonds to finance big projects in Third World countries that often create an export industry based on the local natural resources. This could mean coal mining, drilling for oil or damming up rivers for hydroelectric power plants. Most often these projects, which are financed by these bonds in the form of loans, fail miserably, resulting in as odious debt for the receiving countries.

Left with a failed project that cannot bring in any revenue and already without a real source of national income, these underdeveloped nations are left to foot the bill owed to the investors who own the bonds. Interest accumulates and the debt grows larger while the countries fall further into poverty. Once the debt becomes unpayable, the World Bank steps in to “help out” by providing structural readjustment to the country’s social structures. This readjustment means the cutting of any welfare, health care or social structure that may have been provided by the government to its people. It also means a higher percentage of taxes being used to pay off the debt rather than benefit the taxpayers in debtor countries.

Clearly, this is nuts. We in wealthy nations invest in projects where the World Bank cannot succeed and then allow the same institution to run the debtor countries economies in order to pay us back. Even the World Bank’s own internal review has acknowledged that its programs have failed, and yet we still allow it to have these powers.

Even after all this negligence and ineffectiveness, the World Bank still has the gall to use the slogan, “Our dream is a world free of poverty.” Well, friends at the World Bank, your dreams look more like nightmares if this is the way you plan to end poverty. Every country you touch ends up falling into more poverty and inequality. Of course we in the wealthy nations still provide 80 percent of the World Bank’s loans from the bond investments of churches, universities, pension funds and municipalities. These institutions are being misled by false and flawed economic policies that do not work. They are investing in a group that has proven time and time again that it cannot properly deal with poverty.

It is time that we all take stand against the World Bank and its dangerous use of loans. We must behave responsibly and divest our interests from such an organization. As protesters exclaimed over the weekend, we need “More world, less bank.” We need to focus our efforts on the needs of the people of the world rather than the profits of banks and investors who claim false altruism. Not everyone needs to smash the windows of Citibank, a leading dealer of World Bank Bonds, to act out against injustice. They only need to invest responsibly and hold their institutions accountable.