PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus

Shine the Light: World Bank – IMF by peaceprobe
January 20, 2006, 10:05 am
Filed under: Politics of Empire, Shine the Light: Wash. DC

Turn the Lights on!

On Wednesday our Shine the Light campaign processed around the International Mandatary Fund and the World Bank. These Washington DC positioned institutions are conveniently located about three blocks from the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. For years hard nosed talkers from the IMF negotiated difficult to digest economic stabilization packages for poor countries. These packages often combined exchange rate modifications, and new mandates for tax policy. The effects of these packages were higher prices for staples such as rice, cooking oil, fuel and various agricultural inputs. Many a farmer told me how hard it was to survive as prices rose and market prices remained the same or dropped. International economic policy has always been heavily influenced by the White House located just down the street where the values of development, small farms and self reliance are extolled much as they have been since the days of pioneers. 

As our group Shine the Light, wove its way around the two blocks of concrete structure among security police we sang, “Lord Listen to your Children Praying” and occasionally smiled at professional looking passers by. Iraq carries a debt far in excess of 100 billion dollars which any future government will find burdensome perhaps impossible to lubricate even with oil revenue. The way in which this debt is handled will be decided in part within the walls of these buildings. If the burden is too heavy, its weight will sow the seeds of future conflict and war and may help write the script for a future generation of terrorism. Everything appears real clean right now there on the side walk but I kept thinking that I saw thick dark crude oil seeping up through the cracks in the sidewalk awaiting refinement.

Paul Wolfewitz, one of the designers of the Iraq war at the US Department of Defense and recent appointee as President of the World Bank now brings his special neo conservative orientation to this, the world’s premiere lending institution. The bank has responded to some of the world wide pressure with selected reforms in recent years. However, resistance to trade liberalization that helps global corporations from people at the bottom continue to disturb and stop the banks otherwise quiet methodical composure.

Several years ago a group of us negotiated our way into the World Bank when during a conference we designed a liturgy of worship that required that its final song and poetry be sung and spoken inside the World Bank. For two hours the police closed the building down while we negotiated. At the time I was with Christian Peacemaker Teams and the Bank negotiating officer with whom I talked turned out to be a committed Roman Catholic and welcomed the opportunity to discuss matters of economic justice. I still remember how his face fell in quiet disappointment when I compared our negotiations to complete our liturgy to the heavy handedness of IMF – World Bank negotiators when they visited Third World Ministries of Economics. With some success I did not blame him personally. For a time we sustained one another in a negotiated silence then after more than an hour of no talk he sought me out once again in the crowd to inform me that a small group would be welcomed inside to complete the liturgy and carry on a brief discussion with senior bank officials.

When the meeting was completed – without a complete meeting of minds – we shook hands, gave each other a warm wink and promised to meet another day.


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