“We make or break human life every day of every year as probably no other force on earth has ever done in the past or will ever do again.”
The above rather dramatic quote comes courtesy of one Davison L Budhoo, a former International Monetary Fund economist who in 1988 broke ranks with the Fund, publishing a scathing 150-page resignation letter. In it he accused the organization of corruption, self-interest, and deceit.
Not that the Fund, then headed by Frenchman Michel Camdessus, was particularly fazed by the allegations. In those days there was no Internet, so the story didn’t exactly go “viral”; in fact, it barely got a mention in the mainstream or financial press. As such, following a spattering of articles in a few specialist newspapers and magazines, Buddhoo’s accusations were quickly forgotten.
The IMF breathed a sigh of relief, brushed off its Brook Brothers jacket and continued about its business. No inquiry or investigation was launched, no changes were made to the Fund’s operational policies and no heads rolled.
Such aversion to change has become a defining characteristic of the Fund. The result is that while the global economy may have changed beyond all recognition in the last 35 years, with countries like China, India and Brazil rising to the fore, the IMF’s role within it seems to have remained locked in time. The only difference of note (apart from the fact that, in the ballsy, perma-tanned Christine Lagarde, it has its first ever female managing director) is that instead of preying primarily on the world’s poorest, weakest and most defenseless nations — many of which have since become big creditors — the IMF, now a protagonist in Europe’s dreaded Troika, has its sights set on much bigger trophies.
The chicken, it seems, has finally come home to roost. Now it is Europe’s turn to feel the sharp taste of the Fund’s medicine. Slowly but surely the hapless inhabitants of struggling eurozone countries such as Greece, Portugal and Ireland are beginning to realize what many Africans, Asians, Latin Americans and Eastern Europeans learnt through bitter painful experience in the seventies, eighties and nineties — namely that when the IMF, armed with its balance sheets and a calculator, comes calling, you’d better hope you’re out.
For the IMF is, in plain speaking terms, the global banksters’ number one enforcer — a role it has executed (pun intended) with fervor and aplomb ever since the Bretton Woods agreement (though it wasn’t until Nixon’s launch of the floating exchange regime in 1971 that the organization began forcefully dictating economic policy to supposedly sovereign nations).
The Fund is essentially to the big global banks and corporations what Luca Brasi was to Vito Corleone or, to cite a real-world example, what Francesco Raffaele Nitto was to Al Capone. But rather than use real violence, or even the threat of violence, the IMF’s henchmen have far subtler means at their disposal, as John Perkins, the author of the best-selling book Confessions of An Economic Hitman, explains:
One of my jobs as an economic hit man was to identify countries that had resources like oil and arrange huge loans for those countries from the World Bank and sister organizations. But the money would never go to the actual country; instead it would go to our own corporations to build infrastructure projects in that country like power plants and industrial parks; things that would benefit a few very wealthy families.
So then the people of the country would be left holding this huge debt that they couldn’t repay… That’s when the IMF comes in [saying] ‘We’ll help you restructure your loan, but in order to do that you have to meet certain conditionalities. You have to sell your oil or whatever the coveted resource is at a cheap price, to the oil companies without restrictions.’ Or they would suggest the country sell electric utilities, water and sewage, maybe even its schools and jails to private multi-national corporations.
According to Perkins, it was only when a national leader took a rare principled stand, refusing to sell off all of their country’s resources to international conglomerates at bargain basement prices, that the real goons, or what Perkins calls “the Jackals,” would be sent in, as is alleged to have happened in the highly suspicious deaths, in the early eighties, of Panama’s leader Omar Efraín Torrijos Herrera and Jaime Roldos, the democratically elected president of Ecuador.