A multi-party administration under Gota – The Island

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By Gamini Seneviratne

(This article was first published in The Island in 2001. It is reproduced today, given its relevance to the current situation.)

This heading should not be construed as referring to micro-political families in this region and other parts of the world, although for the purposes of the IMF these “families” are important. “The IMF” here refers to the entire complex of global predators it orchestrates.

For those who can laugh at the grand theft, the growth of such post-royal family trees of a much lower order in South Asia is a bit of a joke. From Bhuttos et al in the west, Ranas in the north, Zias et al in the east, small Gandhis, chemicals, dams, power stations, etc., in the center, in cement, in the steel, airlines, ports, weapons, peace agreements and so on in the south, the story of betrayal has many twists. The main thread of the rope that ties them all together is provided by the IMF and its relatively poor relative, the World Bank and its associated banks that do some of the dirty work for it. What matters to us is that the rope is used to strangle people in our countries.

It is a pity that Dr Kumari Jayawardena has not extended his research to those who have become “somebody” – a bad word – overnight in recent years, for such an account could not fail to illustrate vividly what is said here.

The following lines from an old rugby song sum up the link between the IMF/WB, multinational corporations and western military power. The money they bring in comes from us, but it cannot be extracted without the help of corrupt presidents, prime ministers, other avowed military leaders and their henchmen.

My father makes

French letters,

My sister is making holes with a pin.

My uncle organizes abortions,

My god, how the money rolls,

rolled,

My god how the money comes in!

How does the IMF go about implementing its program to destabilize the socio-economic foundations of our populations and their way of life? Dr. Nadeem Ul Haque, the head of the IMF in this country and the efficient decision-maker, (apart from the man from the World Bank calling himself “country director”), for the apologies of a government that imposed itself to us, stated in an address to the National Chamber of Exporters last week [The Island, 26th December, 2000].

I have reason to believe that Dr. Haque is a civilized person, and these comments are not directed at him personally. As a South Asian and a national of Pakistan, whom we have long considered a friend, I have no doubt that he would be willing to be as accommodating to us as Washington is willing to allow him to be. It can be taken as read, however, that it has no such leeway. Willy-nilly, it is part of the extraction system on a global scale.

In his speech, Dr. Haque was obviously aware that his audience had somewhat limited interests and he addressed them as any good speaker should. However, he, in passing, touched on more vital issues. I comment on them.

They concern “governance”, trade unions and “smallness”. “Imagination” too, which is the distinctive sign of these selfish constructions like “economic efficiency” that the great family of imperial looters continues to present to our astonished gaze.

Take the case of “smallness”. Dr. Haque had told our imaginative and hopeful exporters that it had to do with the size of a country or its population. He said that small countries must have small governments or government agencies. What he didn’t say was that they should have small ministers’ offices: when he talks about the cost of “governance”, he thinks of public services.

What he means is that governments should be bankrupt unless it is to use their influence to remove “subsidies” on, for example, public health, agriculture, education and the administration of the law and to provide “incentives” to the government. oh so effective! “private sector”.

What Dr. Haque started with was the antipathy of would-be monopolists to “big government,” meaning a system of regulation of economic activity in the public interest. The desired end of “reform” is that “big business” is favored at the cost of the social responsibilities of the institutions that have been put in place by the people to act on their behalf.

The IMF has no word on “big business” and what one might call, if one were in a particularly benign mood this season, its inefficiencies. In fact, one would have to be quite sozzled and cold-blooded to buy this poor quality and very private “good”.

The cynical exploitation of the consumer by big business following ‘privatization’, which the IMF has the audacity to come here and preach to us yakkos, has long been known in the United States and, more recently, in UK.

How did these companies deal with this abomination? In the United States, the negligence of any private medical care center or any primary or secondary educational institution [yes, parents do tend to lose interest after their ‘kids’ reach a certain age] could lead to demands for “compensation” in often high monetary terms. Lawyers get richer and enter the league of “great businessmen”. The same goes for their public services, such as private transport. Internal airlines, all private, in the United States have the worst safety record in the world. Not to mention the inconvenience to which they subject their customers, the luggage they “lose” or the rotten food they serve. Such little things contribute to an increase in “profit” which, after all, is the only thing that matters in private enterprise.

In the UK, we have had graphic examples just recently of the outcome of Big Business taking over Big Government. To give a current example, ordinary people in this country are crying out for the renationalization of the rail system. Cutting costs resulted in critical safety procedures being neglected and leading to horrific accidents. “The IMF” would undoubtedly point to a ledger’s “bottom line” as evidence of the efficiency of privately run this mode of public transportation.

And it is not only in these countries, but everywhere, including “little” Sri Lanka, that we have had massive resistance to GMO foods sold by multinational corporations, which the IMF is mandated to support.

And, predictably, here we have the IMF demanding that the government “get rid of” its responsibilities to the people. Dr Haque [I am sorry that I have to keep on referring to him by name, but it is a relatively common name, such as is mine here, and am sure that his namesake, the late Dr. Mahbub Ul Haq, would not have taken offence]asserts that in most “advanced countries” [big] companies would view the need to comply with national laws as “a waste”, presumably, of time – and profit. Of course, of course, in the most “advanced” countries, [big] corporations have all the shortcuts they need to turn a profit thanks to “lobbyists”, mostly former senators, congressmen or other senior officials of the aforementioned “big government”

Dr. Haque speaks of a “labour aristocracy.” Perhaps such a phenomenon exists in Australia. We know, however, how unions have been manipulated in the United States; for example, woodworkers were “employed” to provide justification for the continued logging of ancient forest over a thousand years old in Washington and Oregon. The identical motivation occurred when dockworkers in New York and New Orleans were paid to push wheat that had been paid for into the sea rather than shipping it to you-know-who. In the United States, when the term “labour aristocracy” took on its full meaning, its members were currently employed to prevent imports of Third World manufactured goods. This goes against the agreements that the United States itself made us swallow through the WTO. If the IMF seeks “governance”, it should look to such acts which promote “economic efficiency”.

Attempts to emasculate unions are part of this ploy. Here we have the United States vigorously advocating against “cheap labour” from Asia that undermines the livelihoods of its citizens. And here we have the IMF urging our governments to destroy a so-called “labour aristocracy”. Our organized working class has, largely through the dictates of the IMF, endorsed slavish governments compounded by the actions of an incompetent and utterly corrupt administration [which the IMF has done nothing to bring down – as they cannot until a suitably subservient alternative is found/built up], were forced to survive on a budget that reduced theirs to a shoelace on a single shoe. How would they react? What other attacks, if any, does the IMF have to offer them?

Dr. Haque also spoke of “coddling constituencies.” His complaint, that is, the IMF’s, is about the “constituencies” that are of no use to them – in fact, those that are in the way of the larger and smaller “families” mentioned above. What the IMF has directed its “reforms” towards is pampering big business. In South Asia, as elsewhere, the incumbent contenders for state power are the instrument through which the IMF family operates. The less representative they are of the people and the better armed they are against the people, the better.

The term “reform” should make people cringe, especially among South Asians. We’ve had so many. In this country we had the “Colebrook-Cameron Reforms” one hundred and sixty-seven years ago. They were designed to smash the traditional socio-economic foundations of this country and use the elements of it that would provide not “cheap” but free labor to their marauders. The use of this term by the IMF has no other connotation than those of a century and a half ago. Except that the “stakes”, as in the betting game, are much higher now.

The main question that Dr. Haque raised is “Why hasn’t South Asia grown up?” He also spoke of Singapore and others turning to us for advice on the “agendas” that we in South Asia, in Sri Lanka in particular, had initiated. His thesis is that the winner is whoever crosses the line, not whoever is fastest. It is not possible to accept such convoluted logic. We’ve had a lot of ‘theory’ on how various countries targeted by big business have reacted to the ‘windows of opportunity’ that have been put forward in the parlance of the camel seeking refuge. East Asia is considered to have ‘developed’ along the lines of a ‘Confucian ethic’ [a matter that I was quizzed on at a ‘brown-bag’ seminar at Cornell ten years ago, long before I was aware of any family connection with that institution]. The IMF [or Dr. Haque] do you have a corresponding cultural theory about India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka? – a Hindu/Islamic rate of growth, a Christian rate of debauchery, a Theravada level of tolerance and a Mahayana mode of chaos together resulting in a Buddhist condition of stagnation?

And, finally, let’s not forget, a scale of South Asian corruption?

Dr. Haque spoke of the need to indoctrinate our children to support the educational “reforms” he advocates. Perhaps he should take some time to read “The Pearl of Great Price”, the memorial oration of Lalith Athulathmudali delivered by the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Colombo, Professor Savithri Goonesekera. The program we set for ourselves fifty years ago has resulted in a relatively high growth in the chances of our people. This is precisely the kind of growth that the big family the IMF talks about cannot support. And that is why these gains have been eroded by “market reforms”. The global resource control agenda is hampered by manifestations of self-sufficiency everywhere. The substance of Dr. Haque’s complaint is that South Asia has not “grown” in the directions desired by transnational capital. With the goals we set ourselves, the money can’t come in.

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