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Fight the power

By Lora J. Mackel
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 14, 2000
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This week, the groups that gathered in Seattle to protest the World Trade Organization have assembled once more to shut down a globalization conference in Washington, D.C. They are specifically going after the most powerful arms of this economic movement, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. Diverse groups, such as the AFL-CIO and Greenpeace, oppose these lending groups because their policies are harmful to workers and the environment at home and abroad, and perpetuate global poverty. The average American should support these protests, and work to disband the World Bank and the IMF.

First, a bit of history on the World Bank and its arm the IMF. They started out as a group of wealthy American and British capitalists who lent high interest loans to third world and developing nations in hopes of ending the spread of communism. Besides the high rate of interest, these loans came with a lot of strings attached. They required that the debtor government provide the groups with access to that county's economy.

This led to virtual colonization, where the European and American corporations would reap all the benefits from the economies from afar, while the residence of the countries saw nothing. At the same time, these corporations would recruit the native people to work for them in substandard conditions and for little pay. It was the ideal business situation for the corporations, they had maximum profit with little overhead.

In the areas of civil rights and the rights of workers, this created even more problems. Multi-national companies, who invited themselves into third world nations, operate free of civil rights restrictions. Even when the beneficiaries of these companies are American, their companies are not held to American labor laws. So they can exploit workers without fear of prosecution. And they do.

As a result of the practices of the IMF and World Bank, millions of people are suffering. People in Latin America, Asia and especially Africa have been reduced to conditions that were even worse than those before the "international relief" arrived. Add to that the high rates of interest that had to paid off by the debtor nations government. In some countries, this interest was so high that over seventy percent of the governments budget went to paying the lender. When these countries had to use their paltry budgets to pay off the IMF and World Bank, the people of that country got no health care, education, or aid of any type.

This has a profound impact on how those people live. The hardest hit groups in these counties are children. They are often sick, undernourished and have no education. They have no hope of changing the conditions of their lives because their poverty locks them into a monotonous hopeless life.

It does not have to be like this. The American public can band together and put pressure on our legislature and the world community to ensure that organizations like the World Bank and the IMF are not allowed to make these high interest loans to countries and then exploit them for all their worth. Most importantly the debts of these dupe nations must be forgiven, and these nations should be compensated for the resources they provided multi-national corporations.

Further, the American public can send a strong message to multi-nation corporations by monitoring their treatment of their host nations. We can also change the laws, ensuring that the labor of multi-national corporations is treated fairly. This will require a great deal of vigilance, but it would be well worth the effort of protecting civil rights.

By supporting the protests in Washington, the average American can change the way international business is conducted. These protest will help to dismantle the IMF and World Bank, which will protect the lives and rights of millions of people. Once dismantled, workers everywhere will be much better able to assert their rights in the new economy. Governments of the virtually colonized countries will be able to reclaim their land and resources, and decide which corporations, if any, they want to have within their borders.

If these things occur, it will be possible to have a global economy, but one in which the people, principally the labor, will have more control than the elite of corporations. The ironic part is that these monetary lenders started out with the intention to stop the spread of communism. But only when they are dismantled will they leave room for true democracy.

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