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Friday, July 5, 2019

The World Bank and IMF 2019

Source: The Unz Review

Michael Hudson and Bonnie Faulkner • June 26, 2019 • 1 Comment

"The purpose of a military conquest is to take control of foreign economies, to take control of their land and impose tribute. The genius of the World Bank was to recognize that it's not necessary to occupy a country in order to impose tribute, or to take over its industry, agriculture and land. Instead of bullets, it uses financial maneuvering. As long as other countries play an artificial economic game that U.S. diplomacy can control, finance is able to achieve today what used to require bombing and loss of life by soldiers."
I'm Bonnie Faulkner. Today on Guns and Butter: Dr. Michael Hudson. Today's show: The IMF and World Bank: Partners In Backwardness. Dr. Hudson is a financial economist and historian. He is President of the Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trend, a Wall Street Financial Analyst, and Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City. His most recent books include"… and Forgive them Their Debts: Lending, Foreclosure and Redemption from Bronze Age Finance to the Jubilee Year"; Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Destroy the Global Economy, and J Is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception. He is also author of Trade, Development and Foreign Debt, among many other books. We return today to a discussion of Dr. Hudson's seminal 1972 book, Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire, a critique of how the United States exploited foreign economies through the IMF and World Bank, with a special emphasis on food imperialism.

Bonnie Faulkner: Michael Hudson, welcome back.

Michael Hudson: It's good to be back, Bonnie.

Bonnie Faulkner: In your seminal work form 1972, Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire, you write: "The development lending of the World Bank has been dysfunctional from the outset." When was the World Bank set up and by whom?

Michael Hudson: It was set up basically by the United States in 1944, along with its sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Their purpose was to create an international order like a funnel to make other countries economically dependent on the United States. To make sure that no other country or group of countries – even all the rest of the world – could not dictate U.S. policy. American diplomats insisted on the ability to veto any action by the World Bank or IMF. The aim of this veto power was to make sure that any policy was, in Donald Trump's words, to put America first. "We've got to win and they’ve got to lose."

The World Bank was set up from the outset as a branch of the military, of the Defense Department. John J. McCloy (Assistant Secretary of War, 1941-45), was the first full-time president. He later became Chairman of Chase Manhattan Bank (1953-60). McNamara was Secretary of Defense (1961-68), Paul Wolfowitz was Deputy and Under Secretary of Defense (1989-2005), and Robert Zoellick was Deputy Secretary of State. So I think you can look at the World Bank as the soft shoe of American diplomacy.

Bonnie Faulkner: What is the difference between the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the IMF? Is there a difference?

Michael Hudson: Yes, there is. The World Bank was supposed to make loans for what they call international development. "Development" was their euphemism for dependency on U.S. exports and finance. This dependency entailed agricultural backwardness – opposing land reform, family farming to produce domestic food crops, and also monetary backwardness in basing their monetary system on the dollar.

The World Bank was supposed to provide infrastructure loans that other countries would go into debt to pay American engineering firms, to build up their export sectors and their plantation sectors by public investment roads and port development for imports and exports. Essentially, the Bank financed long- investments in the foreign trade sector, in a way that was a natural continuation of European colonialism.

In 1941, for example, C. L. R. James wrote an article on "Imperialism in Africa" pointing out the fiasco of European railroad investment in Africa: "Railways must serve flourishing industrial areas, or densely populated agricult5ural regions, or they must open up new land along which a thriving population develops and provides the railways with traffic. Except in the mining regions of South Africa, all these conditions are absent. Yet railways were needed, for the benefit of European investors and heavy industry.” That is why, James explained "only governments can afford to operate them,” while being burdened with heavy interest obligations.[1] What was "developed" was Africa's mining and plantation export sector, not its domestic economies. The World Bank followed this pattern of “development” lending without apology.

The IMF was in charge of short-term foreign currency loans. Its aim was to prevent countries from imposing capital controls to protect their balance of payments. Many countries had a dual exchange rate: one for trade in goods and services, the other rate for capital movements. The function of the IMF and World Bank was essentially to make other countries borrow in dollars, not in their own currencies, and to make sure that if they could not pay their dollar-denominated debts, they had to impose austerity on the domestic economy – while subsidizing their import and export sectors and protecting foreign investors, creditors and client oligarchies from loss.

The IMF developed a junk-economics model pretending that any country can pay any amount of debt to the creditors if it just impoverishes its labor enough. So when countries were unable to pay their debt service, the IMF tells them to raise their interest rates to bring on a depression – austerity – and break up the labor unions. That is euphemized as "rationalizing labor markets." The rationalizing is essentially to disable labor unions and the public sector. The aim – and effect – is to prevent countries from essentially following the line of development that had made the United States rich – by public subsidy and protection of domestic agriculture, public subsidy and protection of industry and an active government sector promoting a New Deal democracy. The IMF was essentially promoting and forcing other countries to balance their trade deficits by letting American and other investors buy control of their commanding heights, mainly their infrastructure monopolies, and to subsidize their capital flight.

BONNIE FAULKNER: Now, Michael, when you began speaking about the IMF and monetary controls, you mentioned that there were two exchange rates of currency in countries. What were you referring to?

MICHAEL HUDSON: When I went to work on Wall Street in the '60s, I was balance-of-payments economist for Chase Manhattan, and we used the IMF’s monthly International Financial Statistics every month. At the top of each country's statistics would be the exchange-rate figures. Many countries had two rates: one for goods and services, which was set normally by the market, and then a different exchange rate that was managed for capital movements. That was because countries were trying to prevent capital flight. They didn't want their wealthy classes or foreign investors to make a run on their own currency – an ever-present threat in Latin America.

The IMF and the World Bank backed the cosmopolitan classes, the wealthy. Instead of letting countries control their capital outflows and prevent capital flight, the IMF's job is to protect the richest One Percent and foreign investors from balance-of-payments problems. The World Bank and American diplomacy have steered them into a chronic currency crisis. The IMF enables its wealthy constituency to move their money out of the country without taking a foreign-exchange loss. It makes loans to support capital flight out of domestic currencies into the dollar or other hard currencies. The IMF calls this a "stabilization" program. It is never effective in helping the debtor economy pay foreign debts out of growth. Instead, the IMF uses currency depreciation and sell-offs of public infrastructure and other assets to foreign investors after the flight capital has left and currency collapses. Wall Street speculators have sold the local currency short to make a killing, George-Soros style.

When the debtor-country currency collapses, the debts that these Latin American countries owe are in dollars, and now have to pay much more in their own currency to carry and pay off these debts. We're talking about enormous penalty rates in domestic currency for these countries to pay foreign-currency debts – basically taking on to finance a non-development policy and to subsidize capital flight when that policy "fails" to achieve its pretended objective of growth.

All hyperinflations of Latin America – Chile early on, like Germany after World War I – come from trying to pay foreign debts beyond the ability to be paid. Local currency is thrown onto the foreign-exchange market for dollars, lowering the exchange rate. That increases import prices, raising a price umbrella for domestic products.

A really functional and progressive international monetary fund that would try to help countries develop would say: "Okay, banks and we (the IMF) have made bad loans that the country can't pay. And the World Bank has given it bad advice, distorting its domestic development to serve foreign customers rather than its own growth. So we're going to write down the loans to the ability to be paid." That's what happened in 1931, when the world finally stopped German reparations payments and Inter-Ally debts to the United States stemming from World War I.

Instead, the IMF says just the opposite: It acts to prevent any move by other countries to bring the debt volume within the ability to be paid. It uses debt leverage as a way to control the monetary lifeline of financially defeated debtor countries. So if they do something that U.S. diplomats don't approve of, it can pull the plug financially, encouraging a run on their currency if they act independently of the United States instead of falling in line. This control by the U.S. financial system and its diplomacy has been built into the world system by the IMF and the World Bank claiming to be international instead of an expression of specifically U.S. New Cold War nationalism.

Please go to The Unz Review to read the entire discussion.
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