SIERRA LEONE STILL FACING THE IMF/WORLD BANK ECONOMIC TERROR AXE
By Mahmud Tim Kargbo
Susan George, A Fate Worse Than Debt: “Debt is an efficient tool. It ensures access to other people’s raw materials and infrastructure on the cheapest possible terms”.
Is it right for our rulers to surrender the daily activities of running the government to financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank we never voted for to govern us? The IMF does not represent anyone other than their country. What this means in practice is that the United States runs our country. So don’t be surprised if you’re walking around a white man’s land and you’re referred to as one of their neat modern slaves.
Interestingly, looking at Sierra Leone today, you would find that the figures are swinging down. Education standards are going down, chances of getting a daily bread are going down, health standards are going down, and checks and balances are literally breaking up.
Hypocritically, while the IMF and World Bank are telling us to cut down expenditures on social amenities through their so-called “Structural Adjustment Policies” programme, back in the United States, their government is pushing ahead concretely with the need to improve spending in social amenities for their nationals. This casts serious doubt on the leadership qualities of most of our leaders. To many, it’s a lack of vision and a sense of unpatriotism from those we elect to rule us. To date, one can reliably say with all sense of objectivity that our politicians keep on failing us by not putting their egos aside and doing what is right for the general good of the people and the country.
World Bank and IMF representatives inside Sierra Leone and other developing countries are living in subsidised housing, complete with free furniture and an extended assignment, a mobility premium to defeat the cost of child education. Salaries are tax-free and averaged $86,000 back in 1995, according to a General Accounting Office report to Congress. And no structural adjustments for this privilege coterie of bankers and policy analysts.
Meanwhile, here in Sierra Leone, although the IMF/ World Bank claimed to be here to fight and eradicate poverty in partnership with our politicians, with all our huge mineral resources, small population coupled with high percentage of youth which the IMF/World Bank should have capitalised on with concrete technological skills, electricity and other means of education to process our resources internally and create employment facilities to efficiently boost our economy, a hidden genocide lays waste the country via their so called Structural Adjustments Policies which our leaders are well prepared to endorse each time immediately the IMF/World Bank knocks their door with a paper in their hands to sign any part of it.
The IMF is supposed to seek consultations with civil society organisations and other pressure groups to allow the people to have their own say in running their country before concluding any salient decisions that have to do with the lives of the people. Here in Sierra Leone, we aren’t seeing this at all, and this continues to cast doubts in the minds of objective nationals about whether the IMF/World Bank and the current government are really genuinely representing the interests of the people or whether the IMF/World Bank are in Sierra Leone to partner with corrupt state officials to make money at the expense of the country and its people.
It will be remembered that the IMF and World Bank have been accused in many quarters around the globe of partnering with corrupt leaders in third-world countries to exploit countries and their citizens. For instance, the IMF’s “structural adjustment policy” which states that they should lend enough to prevent default on international loans that are about to come due and otherwise would be unpayable”. This is nonsensical, to say the least.
This is supposed to be a careful country-by-country investigation to ensure that the money loaned is spent wisely, or at least in the interest of the people or country. And there are punitive measures when a country cannot meet the laid-down standards. Why are they brushing the laid-down rules and regulations aside and keeping on lending governments that failed to meet their set standards? It sounds highly suspicious, doesn’t it? Common sense is needed to break out of this whole IMF/World Bank frequent excuses in our country.
This further raises doubt about whether structural and adjustment policies are the correct reforms our country needs to grow in the first place. It’s now evident that the key issue with these structural adjustment policies, however, is whether they build the capacity to recover and whether they promote long-term development. So far, the adjustments the World Bank, Sierra Leone Government, and IMF are bluffing with have nothing to write home about regarding real development that has to do with the genuine good of the country and its people.
From what we are experiencing here in Sierra Leone, the so-called structural adjustment policies are currently undermining democracy and democratic accountability of the IMF and World Bank, who of course have no one to be accountable to but also the Sierra Leone government, as corrupt government officials can use structural adjustment policies as an excuse not to cater for the majority although their cabal members are living in flamboyant lifestyles beyond their normal earning powers.
They must be ghosts.
Sometimes, we are made to understand that corrupt governments have borrowed money from these institutions and/or directly from various donor nations and ended up using that money to pursue personal interests or divert resources away from their people. So we have every reason to be concerned about the level at which IMF and World Bank names are playing in the current deplorable economic situation in our country.
We are told by Joseph Stieglitz, a one-time Economics Noble Price Winner, economic adviser to the Clinton administration in the United States, currently a professor at Columbia University, and former top worker of the IMF, that “in most cases, the IMF/World Bank corruption is done knowingly with the support of various rogue leaders and top officials of the mentioned institution due to their own personal interests.
Quoting Oxfam, it would be wrong to hold civilians to ransom by placing stringent conditions on the basic necessities of life because of the way their government spends its money”.
Further, it’s been argued and established that structural adjustment policies encourage corruption and undermine democracy. As Ann Petitfor and Joseph Hanlon note, top-down “conditionality has undermined democracy by making elected governments accountable to Washington-based institutions instead of to their own people”. The potential for unaccountability and corruption therefore increases, as we are currently experiencing in this government.
Where are the leadership qualities of our present-day leaders in signing a document that asked them to drastically cut down on essential investments in health, education, and other essentials of life? Why have our leaders failed to understand that we need these investments before we can compete internationally? Why are they dancing to the IMF’s intention of pushing the weak Sierra Leone economy into the market by agreeing with the World Bank and the IMF to reduce state support and protection for social and economic sectors?