Friday, April 13, 2012

Promise-breaking at the World Bank, Part 1: Before

That 66th birthday month of his, March 2012, was auspicious for adding a little spice to his dreary life, but no, it just can’t last. Born in March 1946 alongside his evil twin, IMF, in Savannah Georgia, after conception in what must have been a rather sleazy New Hampshire hotel (the ‘Bretton Woods’) in mid-1944, the old geezer known as the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or much better by his nickname World Bank (but let me just use WB), really ought to be considering retirement.

Not to be ageist (ok just this once), but still, it’s patently obvious that WB’s relentless WashCon ideology is so last-century, so discredited by recent world financial melting, and so durably dangerous in today’s world. His presidents have reflected the worst of the old yankee imperialist mindset. And let’s not even start on IMF’s extremist lads and lass, who in recent years have migrated their austerity dogma from North Africa to Southern Europe and to my native Ireland, meeting growing resistance along the way.

Even that one moment in 1997-98 when, obviously in mid-life crisis and slightly destabilised by his East Asian buddies’ spills, WB developed a little moral spine and sensibility – witnessed by his chief economist Joseph Stiglitz’s loose talk of a new Post-Washington Consensus – the devil on WB’s right-hand shoulder (named Larry Summers) told his then president James Wolfensohn to boot Stiglitz out, in September 1999, if Wolfensohn wanted to hang around WB for another five years. Order given, and immediately executed.

So the fresh, slightly punky Post-WashCon chatter was never heard again in the 21st century Bank. Read More