Kristin Palitza
Kristin Palitza

The story beneath

Covering the World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Ministerial Forum in Bamako, Mali, did not come without its challenges. The conference was called largely to push the interests of huge international organisations, like World Bank, and to shamelessly promote investment in health systems’ research that will ultimately benefit those who are keen to loan huge amounts of money to poor nations – bound to steep interest rates, of course.

Critics and nay-sayers were not invited to the conference and there was little time allocated for Q&As during which journalists and delegates could ask pertinent questions. Needless to say, this made a journalist’s job of providing balanced coverage extremely difficult. We had to dig deep to find interviewees willing to express critical viewpoints.

For example, WHO and World Bank used the Bamako meeting to lament a huge health “knowledge gap” in Africa. Yet, it is not African governments who lack knowledge but it is, quite clearly, the strategy of international institutions, such as World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) to undermine Africa’s health through the policies they have imposed for the past two decades.

What basically happens is that World Bank and IMF use poor and highly indebted African countries’ dependency on their loans to control economic policy-making. They have pushed African governments towards greater economic integration in international markets at the expense of social services and long-term development priorities.

There was another significant facet to the conference, which I found out by pure coincidence when I chatted to a delegate from a Danish health institute over lunch. A few months before the meeting, the WHO had invited organisations of the five regions (Africa, Europe, Asia, Latin America and North America) to make recommendations to inform the agenda of the global forum – but none of the suggestions were actually considered, the Dane, who had led the European process, told me. He said he almost cancelled his conference trip because the WHO’s condescension enraged him profoundly.

It’s a typical case of lip-service, tokenism and pretense consultation processes we see so often when international bodies exert their power, purposefully ignoring the needs of those they are meant to assist. Let’s hope the story beneath has found its way into the international media …

  • John Bond

    What a one sided distorted view of the work done by the “Brettenwood Institutions” and WHO.

    Consider the successes of just three local countries that have followed the IMF/World Bank advice, Botswana, Zambia and Moçambique. Why not have a look at their economic performance or their health records such as child mortality or longevity since “toeing the line”. I have heard Liberals say independance is vastly more important than either life or living conditions of the poor. This is a Mugabi like phylosophy I cannot support!!!

    I know blogging is about having ones say but ones say is much more meaningful if it is preceded by some simple homework. Just google it first…

  • Lyndall Beddy


    The World Bank was started after the Second World War to uplift the world out of poverty. It has achieved it almost everywhere EXCEPT Africa, because African Leaders don’t keep the rules, and steal the Aid.

    When China started its economic recovery – it was the largest borrower in the world from the World Bank.China certainly does not need to borrow now!

    And loans to Africa have been written off time and time again – without it helping. The greatest write off was in 2000 for the millenium.

  • Jon

    More ill-informed anti-WHO, anti-World Bank, anti-American ranting. If poor countries don’t want to deal with these agencies, then why don’t they get advice and loans from somewhere else? Nobody’s FORCING them to deal with these people.

    But if they DO accept the advice and the money from these agencies, then of course it has to be bound by set conditions.

    Only an idiot gives money to poor, misgoverned, kleptocratic nations with no strings attached.

    This is the real world, not a fairy-tale.

  • MrFoom

    Right on, sister. The world bank and it’s wageslave system of unrepayable loans has long been used to keep Africa in line.

  • japes


    I can only echo the above 3 comments. I am involved in a World Bank project and the government officials were happy to sign anything to get their hands on the money. They made no attempt to evaluate them (despite lots of advice) before signing or comply with them after signing. Now that things are tightening up, these officials are crying foul (a little like you) using every trick in the book – racism, colonialism, anti African sentiment etc etc. And its a great project but starting to look wobbly.

  • Lyndall Beddy


    Over and over again projects have been approved, the money been sent to the government, and then spent on arms and a new presidential jet, not education and health as agreed!

    It is to the disgrace of the ANC that they did exactly the same as every other banana republic!

  • Oldfox

    Spot on, Kristin!

    Former World Bank staff member Robert Calderisi writes of the “thugs in power” in Africa, but he omits to mention how the West supported and sometimes installed thugs in Africa and elsewhere (UK and USA installed Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran). Robert Mugabe was knighted by the UK in 1994, few years after Zimbabwe accepted an IMF package.

    Following IMF policies, Mozambique levied fees for admission to hospitals, thereby denying the poorest of the [poor access to hospitals.

    IMF and World Bank knowingly lend vast sums to governments which are corrupt or inefficient or both.
    The private sector does not work like this. The Nigerian telecommunications sector is one of the fastest growing in the world. Fortunately, there is no meddling by IMF or World Bank in this sector. Nigerian telecoms giant Globacom is doing so well in Nigeria, it has started operations in Benin and Ghana, and plans to invest $2 billion in Ghana over the next two years.

    IMF forced water privatizations and cost recovery policies have been disastrous around the world.
    The IMF is now, some have claimed, trying to undo the damage it caused to education when it forced countries to raise school fees. That policy stank – top bankers from the wealthy families in the USA are the people who head the IMF, and they decide that poverty stricken families have to pay school fees in countries like Mozambique!

  • Oldfox

    For the racists who read and post on these blogs, govt. corruption linked to World Bank/IMF loans is not peculiar to Afrisda!

    “Critics of the Indonesian government take a decidedly cautious view toward pronouncements about cleaning up corruption. ”If you have money and you give it to a corrupt person, that person is still corrupt,” said Danang Widoyoko, a senior official of Indonesian Corruption Watch. ”You should stop giving money until the person makes a good effort not to corrupt. In Indonesia, there is no significant improvement, but the World Bank still wants to lend money.”

    Mr. Danang cited a modest $1 million bank program to help local schools as an example of where even small programs could go awry. Indonesian Corruption Watch discovered in March that local officials in the Garut district in West Java were demanding down payments from the schools before they would be eligible for the money, Mr. Danang said. “

  • Oldfox


    William Easterly is Professor of Economics at New York University, specializing in economic growth and foreign aid. He is a former development economist at the World Bank. He wrote “The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics” which I read, and later, The White Man’s Burden: How the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (Penguin, 2006).

    In the Elusive Quest for Growth, Easterly repeatedly points out that people respond to incentives. World Bank and IMF deals provide incentives for governments, from presidents down to clerks, aid workers, foreign expats etc to continue to ask for even more aid, because their salaries, commissions, company 4X4s, 5-star hotel accommodation and very generous foreign allowances etc all depend upon the continuance of these “aid” packages. In other words, large numbers of people have an economic incentive to perpetuate the system.

    Who knows, maybe if some smart person in your department saw through the proposed deal ,and tried to prevent it, he/she may have been fired and someone else would have approved/implemented it.

  • Oldfox


    Once a poor country gets its first loan/package, its hooked, much like an insect that initially gets just one leg caught up in a spider web.

    Senegal is one of the poorest countries in the world, with its top two exports earners being peanuts and fish products. Very difficult to fund the development of a modern economy in that situation, especially when foreign factory ships ravish your fishing grounds with impunity. About 70% of its population lives in poverty.

    Senegal applied for debt relief, and the IMF agreed, on condition it deregulated its water distribution, and transferred the recurrent costs of water pumping and distribution equipment to the communities.

    How do poor rural communities, with per capita incomes of >$1 per day, pay recurring costs of costly equipment like this?

  • Oldfox

    typo: should have been “per capita incomes of >$1 per day”.
    And in an earlier comment, should have been “is not peculiar to Africa!”

  • John Bond

    Hey OldFox – You got that SO WRONG – OUCH!!! (Your error is amusing because I know a little about your grossly dishonest example but there is a chance people may just believe you so I will just them give some pointers)

    All the Brettonwood Institutions were involved in trying to keep the wireless telecoms out of African Government hands. This followed a number of papers by the French economist, Dr J P Bond between 1994 and 1998. He was then Director of Telecoms at the World Bank. He predicted the failure of the government owned “Land Line Telephony” and lobbied African Governments to stay out of Wireless Telecoms. He asked suppliers of equipment to request hard cash for equipment. He ensured that the IMF and major international lenders wouldn’t lend money to African governments for wireless telecoms because this would siphon funds from projects to uplift the poor. If you search the web, you still come across a number of his papers.

    The World Bank won’t ever admit it but the privately owned Wireless Telecoms in Africa are another of their shining successes!!!

    And Japes
    I too was involved in a project funded by a Brettonwood Institution – The U.N. The guys behind this project were unable to meet the stringent requirements for local funding so they approached the UN who provided the money (I helped put the proposal together). After 6 months there were no tangible results but the project directors all seemed to be buying new cars and homes. The UN noticed this and required more stringent reporting and, when this had not happened and there were still no tangable results, the UN cut off the funding. Ag shame – The UN are so cruel. What is wrong with siphoning some funds directed at the poor? After all, the directors were “previously disadvantaged”, wealthy maybe but still “previously disadvantaged”.

    As I said earlier – These institutions, the UN, the IMF, the World Bank and W.H.O. know there is a liberal kneejerk reaction against them. Unlike the picketing liberals having fun demonstrating in the streets, the workers at these institutions are far too busy trying to do a good job to waste time arguing with the irrational beliefs of these misguided people.

  • Lyndall Beddy


    Last time you mentioned school fees and the IMF, I asked you for references – and neither one was relevant. So I ask again- not more than 3 references please. I don’t want all the junk off the net to wade through again!

    And Calderisi mentions corruption in Indonesia – but the IMF fund programme was a success despite the corruption, because it was on a much lower scale – only part of the budget not used correctly, not all of it, like Mugabe did.

    And in one of the countries in Africa when the IMF walked around a village all the people came following waving pieces of paper, which turned out to be the first water bills. They were not upset -they were proud. It was the first time they had ever seen their names on a document and it verified them as citizens. Water is charged for or the taps will be left running and the water wasted.

  • Lyndall Beddy


    Leopold Senghor of Senegal is regarded as one of Africa’s few statemen, together with Mandela. He was president from 1960 to 1980, and was made a member of the French Acadamy after he stepped down to honour him. He was a socialist, not a communist. Senegal is one of the 4 most popular countries in Africa for tourism. Where did you get “one of the poorest countries” from?

  • Oldfox


    Bad example perhaps but not a dishonest example. I could not find articles by JP Bond. I’ll need to do some research before responding you your article.

  • Oldfox


    There are many thousands of articles, and I’m not going to filter them for you.
    I’ve quoted the book, Globalization and its discontents by Nobel Laureate and ex World Bank staff member Joseph Stiglitz several times on these blogs before. I will lay my head on a block that Stiglitz is a very moderate person, actually in favour of globalization.

    Here is a Google Book “Whose Education for All?”
    By Birgit Brock-Utne, avaiable free on internet. Can’t download, you have to read on-line, or print the screen. On page 24, shortly after the beginning of the section headed: The reintroduction of user fees, it is mentioned that “introducing or raising various educational charges’ were a feature of about one third of World Bank loans”. The impact of this policy on Tanzania is discussed in detail.
    **(,M1 )**

    Here is a short paper, available on Internet.
    World Bank, IMF Charged With Short-Changing Women
    By Allison Stevens, Washington Bureau Chief, Women’s eNews.

    Many of the articles are written by women, because IMF/World Bank polices affect women and girls more negatively than males. e.g if fees have to be paid, girls are the first to be pulled from school.

  • Oldfox


    A country’s absolute poverty can easily be measured by its GDP per capita, at official exchange rates. One could also use GDP per capita PPP (purchasing power parity), but if a country imports e.g. cars or computers of aircraft, it pays in real US dollars, not PPP dollars.

    Two years a ago, Senegal was ranked 156. It has lifted itself up by its bootstraps, and has now reached rank 137. Interesting to study these rankings.
    Nigeria 126. Moldova 124 – explains why thousands of white girls from Moldova, some with post graduate degrees, end up as sex slaves in the West but I’m digressing.

  • Oldfox


    I have a high regard for the Senegalese. Only 29% of its females over 15 are literate (up from 25% in mid 1990s) , and its working hard to improve female literacy, as it knows this is one way to uplift the entire country..

    Below is a copy of what I wrote on another TL blog comment, half a year ago.

    In Senegal, Africans govern Africans. (1% of the Senegalese population is European or Lebanese).
    Senegal is often called a ‘model’ democracy in Africa by international journalists and is celebrated for its stability and peaceful transfer of power to an opposition party in the 2000 presidential elections.

    Senegal was ranked 155th in GDP per capita couple of years ago, so its one of the poorest 20 or so countries in the entire world. But it outperforms some countries (including white ruled countries) that are far better off economically.
    e.g. Quality of educational system (Higher Education and training), as ranked by World Economic Forum:
    Argentina 105, Senegal 81
    (by comparison, SA 104, Nigeria 71, Kenya 34)

    Senegal (also Kenya) are also ahead of Argentina in both Quality of math & science education & Quality of primary education
    Senegal is ahead of Greece in a few educational measures including Quality of management schools.

    Senegal is ranked AHEAD of SA in the following:
    *Government procurement advanced technology products(44 vs 52. btw: Russian Federation is ranked 78th here)
    *Availability of latest technologies (30 vs 40)
    *Cooperation in labor-employer relations (80 vs 120)
    *Reliability of police services(48 vs 104)

    In education Senegal is ahead of SA in all respects, according to the WEF report, excepting in quality of management schools.

  • John Bond

    The responses to this blog are another typical example of the divide between the misinformed venomous rhetoric and well informed and insightful argument.

    I sit wondering “do people like Old Fox read any economic or political critique – do they know the exciting story of Africa that is currently unfolding”. Then I also wonder “Where do people like Lyndall get their information and deep insight – I want some of that!!!” (I often check on the claims made in blogs to gain greater insight and knowledge myself).

    This is the dawning of the age of enlightenment and anyone who is unable to exercise his or her insight is going to be lost. They are going to be condemned to a “Hell on Earth” as the rate of change speeds up and the shifting sands of time undermine those shaky foundations on which they have built their oddball theories. The important message to us older individuals is to gain an insight and understanding before we sprout the standard rhetorical line. Gone are the days when an intelligent individual can be defined as a Socialist/Free-Market/Liberal/Conservative/Green/Capitalist/etc. We often support aspects of these conflicting points of view…

    Thanks to all of you for the opportunity to peek into your prejudices and examine my own…

  • Lyndall Beddy


    That woman is another of your nuts.

    Girl children are the first taken out of school if the father wants a slave? And exactly what is either the World Bank or IMF supposed to do about that?

    Exactly why school fees should be paid – otherwise all these fathers will have 14 children (like Zuma).

    Exactly why water should be paid for – or 4 times as much will be used, and there won’t be enough.

  • Oldfox


    If you hae a few good articles on Moz and how it benefited from IMF/WB (apart of course from benefiting from the inflow of forex) please send me a few links and I’ll read the articles.

    I tried “googling” for articles on Moz as you suggested.
    Post 2000, IMF/Wold Bank policies had changed somewhat – they had learnt something of their previous mistakes. So policies and programmes implmented post 2000 had fewer negative effects compared to those implemented in the 1990s.
    But even the most sober analysis I read, made it clear that in Moz, govt just did not have the capacity to properly monitor/audit some of the polices, and in some cases, it only showed those statistics the IMF/World Bank wanted to see. It is also generally acknowledged that IMF/World Bank itself did not have the capacity to identify/set optimal measures/interventions etc.
    Of course, there were improvements in Moz since the mid 1980s (after Moz had lost some $30 billion of infrastructure, due to a civil war actively supported by SA).
    Only a fool however would argue that Mozambique developed at the fasted rate possible and that the IMF/WB policies/conditions imposed on it were optimal for Mozambique’s development.
    In doing a little reading, I came across the infamous cashew nut shambles the World Bank imposed on Moz. (last article below).

    A Survey of the Impacts of IMF Structural Adjustment in Africa:
    Growth, Social Spending, and Debt Relief,by Robert Naiman and Neil Watkins
    April 1999

    Strangling Mozambique International Monetary Fund “Stabilization” in the World’s Poorest Country by Joseph Hanlon
    Former officials can be more outspoken. Abdul Magid Osman, who as finance minister in the late 1980s had to negotiate with the IMF and the World Bank, says simply, “The IMF is not a development agency; it is an audit agency. You cannot leave development to the auditors. Development is much more complex — you need a vision.”

    World Bank Urged To Shell Out Over Nuts Blunder
    Cashew nuts are Mozambique’s second-largest export. Tens of thousands of peasants cultivate cashew trees, and the country has developed a relatively sophisticated processing industry, employing 9,000 people, mainly women, to crack the nut’s hard shell to expose the kernels.

    At World Bank insistence, these state enterprises were privatised in 1994-5. High bidders at $9 million for the factories [ that had cost the state $50-$60million to build ] were local businesses and not transnational corporations, as had been expected by the bank and many observers. But when the local business people took over, the bank disclosed a study which said the processing industry was so inefficient that the country lost money on every nut processed. The bank insisted that raw nuts must be exported to India, where kernels are cracked by families working at home in poor conditions.

    So if I’m prejudiced because I point out negative aspects of IMF/WB policies, so be it.
    I’ve been called worse things than just “prejudiced”.

  • Oldfox


    On some topics you are very ignorant!

    Did you know that in developing countries, for decades (did not therefore start with IMF…) only boys get taken to clinics when they are ill. They are perceived as being more valuable to the family, and being worth incurring family debt for transport costs, absence from work etc., to take a boy child to a clinic./hospital.
    Girls – well, they have to depend upon their stronger “genes” and nature.

    This has nothing to do with girls being used as slaves.
    My own mom came from a poor country. When her father died, she got taken out of school, at a tender age, and had to work. Not enough money to keep several children in school.
    I knew a (white) Brazilian guy, whose wife had to leave school at 15 and start work, when her father died.

    Back to school fees. Boys get the non farming jobs in rural areas, or when they go to cities. Families deem it worthwhile making sacrifices for the boy’s education, so they will pay fees if at all affordable.
    Fees definitely keep girls out of school, if the girl has brothers also at school, or if there are several girls of school going age in the family. If a family in a poor developing country only has one child, and its a girl, they will probably make sacrifies to keep her at school.

    You can call the women who complain about this nuts. You can call me nuts too – no problem!

  • Lyndall Beddy


    Cultural practices still have nothing to do with the World Bank or the IMF.

    A 13 year old girl was stoned to death by 1000 people in Somalia recently for adultry because she was pregnant. She had been raped – but many fanatical sects refuse to accept male responsibility.

    I suppose this is the fault of the World Bank and the IMF as well?

  • Oldfox

    I’ve made my point. Pointless trying to argue with doubting Thomases and head-in-the-sand types.
    Getting fanatical comments severs me right, I guess, as I did not keep my word on not writing about IMF/World Bank again.

    Kristin’s blog made me forget, for a while, that I should not write on this topic!

  • Lyndall Beddy

    John Bond

    Thanks for the compliment, but it is undeserved. Reading has been my hobby all my life. I was already reading 5 books a week by the time I was 12 (often under the blankets with a torch when my parents thought I was asleep). After over 40 years of reading, and thousands of books, any insights I share come from the many authors whose books I have read.