Recalcitrant Reformers Require Tougher Tactics

7 January 2007 by Patrick Bond


CALL IT INSTITUTIONAL change-management fatigue. Or an unlimited
spin-doctoring capacity by clever public relations officials. Or naivety on the
part of those NGOs, environmentalists, trade unionists and Third World
activists who cheered the appointment of Renaissance Man James Wolfensohn
as World Bank World Bank
WB
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

president in 1995. Whatever the excuse, the bottom-line is obvi-
ous: no substantive changes at the bank and International Monetary Fund IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.

http://imf.org

(IMF). And yet the need for a radical transformation could not be more obvi-
ous, in the wake of the late 1990s legitimacy crisis, itself a function of at least
four managerial and economic factors that still have not been tackled properly:
■ The institutions’ ‘democratic deficit’, which made them unsuitable for
genuine global governance
■ The continued reliance upon the neo-liberal ‘Washington Consensus’
approach to public policy
■ The bank’s ongoing orientation to controversial mega-projects
■ Both agencies’ failure to cancel Third World debt and cool international
financial speculation born of liberalised capital markets.
But we have to be frank about what drives these institutions, even when their
credibility is at an all-time low: lubrication of private capital accumulation and
stabilisation of geopolitical tensions through subsidised credits (often ‘bail-
outs’ for earlier commercial lenders). So the four factors were not really failures
- they were and are integral to the workings of the international economy.
Did reformers understand this problem, and did they adjust their plans accord-
ingly? Confusingly, hopes were raised in part because of the 1997-99 tenure of
Joseph Stiglitz as chief economist. Simultaneously, other catalysts for change
included commissions on structural adjustment Structural Adjustment Economic policies imposed by the IMF in exchange of new loans or the rescheduling of old loans.

Structural Adjustments policies were enforced in the early 1980 to qualify countries for new loans or for debt rescheduling by the IMF and the World Bank. The requested kind of adjustment aims at ensuring that the country can again service its external debt. Structural adjustment usually combines the following elements : devaluation of the national currency (in order to bring down the prices of exported goods and attract strong currencies), rise in interest rates (in order to attract international capital), reduction of public expenditure (’streamlining’ of public services staff, reduction of budgets devoted to education and the health sector, etc.), massive privatisations, reduction of public subsidies to some companies or products, freezing of salaries (to avoid inflation as a consequence of deflation). These SAPs have not only substantially contributed to higher and higher levels of indebtedness in the affected countries ; they have simultaneously led to higher prices (because of a high VAT rate and of the free market prices) and to a dramatic fall in the income of local populations (as a consequence of rising unemployment and of the dismantling of public services, among other factors).

IMF : http://www.worldbank.org/
, dams and extractive industries.
However, the internal procedural changes, rhetorical shifts, research reports,
individual initiatives, and multi-stakeholder forum exercises that emerged
since the short-lived Stiglitzian glasnost did not fundamentally affect opera-
tions. The view from the inside is revealing, as staff in the Middle East and
North Africa section complained in a leaked 1999 memo to Wolfensohn:
The World Bank is increasingly being drawn into activities
which are politically sensitive (participatory processes,
involvement of civil society, corruption and so on). There is no
doubt about the importance and relevance of these for devel-
opment and success of World Bank assistance, but staff are
not well prepared to handle these issues which creates more
anxiety and stress.

Yet because the legitimacy crisis has continued growing, it has been rhetori-
cally important for the bank and the fund to claim they are now ‘post-
Washington’ in their ideology. In March 2002, midway through the United
Nations Financing for Development (FFD) summit in Mexico, the bank, fund
and German officials began promoting the idea of a new ‘Monterrey
Consensus’, which would usher in an era of fair global finance. Even John
Williamson has argued in the IMF’s own magazine that his celebrated 1990
definition of the Washington Consensus was misunderstood and manipulated
by leftist critics.
The institution’s 60th birthday provides a chance to review the reform agen-
da, and to ask whether the late 1990s challenge from high-profile critics -
Stiglitz and other enlightened economists, some Third World governments
and protest movements - was as effective as it could have been. Were issues
posed by reformers - debt relief, community and NGO participation in neo-
liberal programme design, democratic governance, global financial regulation,
and commissions dealing with structural adjustment, dams and energy - the
correct ones to tackle?
And if all these reforms were foiled by institutional lethargy or worse, is it
appropriate to consider an entirely different strategy, based on Third World
states removing themselves from influence by the bank and IMF? Is collective
default feasible, and should Northern supporters assist the process by refus-
ing to buy bonds issued by the World Bank?

Debt Relief Deferred

Within a year of Monterrey, the World Bank made an embarrassing conces-
sion, regarding its prize reform: the highly indebted poor countries (HIPC Heavily Indebted Poor Countries
HIPC
In 1996 the IMF and the World Bank launched an initiative aimed at reducing the debt burden for some 41 heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC), whose total debts amount to about 10% of the Third World Debt. The list includes 33 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The idea at the back of the initiative is as follows: a country on the HIPC list can start an SAP programme of twice three years. At the end of the first stage (first three years) IMF experts assess the ’sustainability’ of the country’s debt (from medium term projections of the country’s balance of payments and of the net present value (NPV) of debt to exports ratio.
If the country’s debt is considered “unsustainable”, it is eligible for a second stage of reforms at the end of which its debt is made ’sustainable’ (that it it is given the financial means necessary to pay back the amounts due). Three years after the beginning of the initiative, only four countries had been deemed eligible for a very slight debt relief (Uganda, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, and Mozambique). Confronted with such poor results and with the Jubilee 2000 campaign (which brought in a petition with over 17 million signatures to the G7 meeting in Cologne in June 1999), the G7 (group of 7 most industrialised countries) and international financial institutions launched an enhanced initiative: “sustainability” criteria have been revised (for instance the value of the debt must only amount to 150% of export revenues instead of 200-250% as was the case before), the second stage in the reforms is not fixed any more: an assiduous pupil can anticipate and be granted debt relief earlier, and thirdly some interim relief can be granted after the first three years of reform.

Simultaneously the IMF and the World Bank change their vocabulary : their loans, which so far had been called, “enhanced structural adjustment facilities” (ESAF), are now called “Growth and Poverty Reduction Facilities” (GPRF) while “Structural Adjustment Policies” are now called “Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper”. This paper is drafted by the country requesting assistance with the help of the IMF and the World Bank and the participation of representatives from the civil society.
This enhanced initiative has been largely publicised: the international media announced a 90%, even a 100% cancellation after the Euro-African summit in Cairo (April 2000). Yet on closer examination the HIPC initiative turns out to be yet another delusive manoeuvre which suggests but in no way implements a cancellation of the debt.

List of the 42 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries: Angola, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoro Islands, Congo, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia.
)
debt relief initiative. The bank acknowledged longstanding criticisms that its
staff ‘had been too optimistic’ about the ability of countries to repay under
HIPC, and that projections of export earnings were extremely inaccurate, lead-
ing to failure by half the HIPC countries to reach their completion points.
Paradoxically, the bank blamed failure upon ‘political pressure’ to cut debt
further, as the key reason repayments were still not ‘sustainable’.
HIPC was a mirage from the outset, as even the moderate London lobby Lobby
Lobbies
A lobby is an entity organized to represent and defend the interests of a specific group by exerting pressure or influence on persons or institutions that hold power. Lobbying consists in conducting actions aimed at influencing, directly or indirectly, the drafting, application or interpretation of legislative measures, standards, regulations and more generally any intervention or decision by the Public Authorities.

group Jubilee Plus admitted in its September 2003 progress report:
According to the original HIPC schedule, 21 countries should
have fully passed through the HIPC initiative and received
total debt cancellation of approximately $34.7 billion in net
present value terms. In fact, only eight countries have passed
Completion Point, between them receiving debt cancellation
of $11.8 billion.

Add a few other countries’ partial relief via the Paris Club Paris Club This group of lender States was founded in 1956 and specializes in dealing with non-payment by developing countries.

($14 billion) and
it appears that the grand total of debt relief thanks to the 1996-2003 exercise
was just $26.13 billion. There remained more than $2 trillion of Third World
debt that should be cancelled, including not just HIPC countries but also
Nigeria, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and other major debtors not
considered highly-indebted or poor in the mainstream discourse.
Inadequate financial provision for HIPC in Western capitals probably
reflects the merits of using debt as a means of maintaining control over Third
World economies. An ‘enhanced HIPC’ was introduced to give the appearance
of concern, and at the G8 G8 Group composed of the most powerful countries of the planet: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the USA, with Russia a full member since June 2002. Their heads of state meet annually, usually in June or July. ’s Evian Summit in 2003, the world’s leaders agreed
with pleas by African representatives to relook at the programme. Yet no fun-
damental changes or substantial new funds were mooted. Proposals to write
off further debt owed by Ethiopia and Niger in April were, at press time, like-
ly to be vetoed by the US Treasury.

Poverty ‘Reduction’ Strategy Papers

In 1999, HIPC was accompanied by a renaming of the structural adjustment
philosophy: Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPs). More than two years
later, at Monterrey, South Africa’s finance minister Trevor Manuel - who
joined former IMF managing director Michel Camdessus as special envoys of
UN secretary general Kofi Annan - argued that PRSPs were ‘an important tool
for developing countries to reduce their debt burdens ... a thorough and use-
ful PRSP Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
PRSP
Set up by the World Bank and the IMF in 1999, the PRSP was officially designed to fight poverty. In fact, it turns out to be an even more virulent version of the structural adjustment policies in disguise, to try and win the approval and legitimation of the social participants.
requires time, resources and technical capacity.’ He suggested the
Bretton Woods Institutions increase their role, to ‘provide more technical assis-
tance to meet those particular challenges’.
In contrast to Manuel’s desire for PRSP expansion, civil society resistance to
structural adjustment increased across the Third World, including Manuel’s
home continent, sometimes in the form of ‘IMF riots’. A May 2001 Jubilee South
conference of the main African social movements in Kampala concluded:
In addition to the constraints placed on governments and civil
society organisations in formulating PRSPs, the World Bank
and IMF retain the right to veto the final programs. This
reflects the ultimate mockery of the threadbare claim that the
PRSPs are based on ‘national ownership’. An additional seri-
ous concern is the way in which PRSPs are being used by the
World Bank and IMF, directly and indirectly, to co-opt NGOs
to ‘monitor’ their own governments on behalf of these insti-
tutions.

The latter gambit had begun to fail by the time the FFD convened in
Monterrey. Even the World Bank’s best African case, Uganda, heard its
National NGO Forum report: ‘Among CSOs there is growing concern that per-
haps their participation in the endeavour has amounted to little more than a
way for the World Bank and IMF to co-opt the activist community and civil
society in Uganda into supporting the same traditional policies.’

Democratic Governance ?

Barely acknowledging the power imbalances in the global system, the
Monterrey Consensus offered only timid suggestions for global governance
reforms. The bank and IMF took nearly a full year to come forward with a
plan, which, as it turned out, was an insult to the concept of democratic glob-
al governance.
The Bretton Woods Institutions’ nearly 50 sub-Saharan African member
countries are represented by just two directors, while eight rich countries
enjoyed a director each and the US maintained veto power by holding more
than 15 per cent of the votes. (There is no transparency as to which board
members take what positions on key votes.) The leaders of the bank and IMF
are chosen from, respectively, the US and EU, with the US treasury secretary
holding the power of hiring or firing.
In this context, some reformist gestures were needed for the sake of appear-
ance. Nevertheless, the Financial Times reported that the 2003 bank/fund strat-
egy emanating from the IMF/bank important development committee
(chaired by Manuel) offered only ‘narrow technocratic changes,’ such as
adding one additional representative from the South to the 24-member board.
For the US, even those mild-mannered reforms were too much, and the Bush
regime’s executive director to the bank, Carol Brooking, opposed reforms and
instead suggested merely a new fund for extra research capacity aimed at the
two institutions’ Third World directors. Asked about the democracy deficit at
the September 2003 annual meeting in Dubai, Manuel merely remarked, ‘I
don’t think that you can ripen this tomato by squeezing it’.


Fanning Financial Fires

A final example of Monterrey’s amplification of the self-destructive tendencies
of international finance was the conference’s call for ‘liberalising capital flows
in an orderly and well sequenced process’. The Asian financial crisis had ear-
lier stalled the persistent arm twisting efforts of US treasury secretary Larry
Summers to force through an amendment to the IMF articles of agreement
which would end all exchange controls everywhere.
When Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi had resisted Summers’ gam-
bit in 1997, according to Stiglitz, the IMF cut off the cheaper loans it had earli-
er made available. Cross-conditionality also made Ethiopia ineligible for other
low-interest Interest An amount paid in remuneration of an investment or received by a lender. Interest is calculated on the amount of the capital invested or borrowed, the duration of the operation and the rate that has been set. loans and grants from the World Bank, the European Community,
and aid from bilaterals.
Stiglitz waged war within the bank and Clinton regime, finally winning con-
cessions, but he learned a lesson: ‘There was clear evidence the IMF was
wrong about financial market Financial market The market for long-term capital. It comprises a primary market, where new issues are sold, and a secondary market, where existing securities are traded. Aside from the regulated markets, there are over-the-counter markets which are not required to meet minimum conditions. liberalisation and Ethiopia’s macroeconomic
position, but the IMF had to have its way.’ Zenawi poignantly implored, at a
mid-2003 Economic Commission for Africa meeting, ‘While we will not be at
the high table of the IMF, we should at least be in the room where decisions
are made.’
The only reform project to deal with financial speculation was a bail-out
mechanism which might save Wall Street from its own worst excesses, but also
allow a ‘workout’ system for countries that had urgent repayment difficulties.
In mid-2003, a debt arbitration mechanism was finally proposed by the IMF’s
current acting managing director, Anne Krueger, a Bush appointee. However,
the plan came to naught, for as the The Guardian’s Larry Elliott explained:
Billions of dollars from the bail-outs ended up in the coffers of
the big finance houses of New York and George Bush was told
not to meddle with welfare for Wall Street. The message was
understood: the US used its voting power at the IMF to stran-
gle the bankruptcy code at birth.

Reforming from the Outside?

Under the prevailing balance Balance End of year statement of a company’s assets (what the company possesses) and liabilities (what it owes). In other words, the assets provide information about how the funds collected by the company have been used; and the liabilities, about the origins of those funds. of power, the top-down reform processes dis-
cussed above could not have worked. But what of other efforts at reform from
the outside (ostensibly from below), particularly via international commis-
sions in which the World Bank plays a crucial hosting and financing role?
The three major recent processes in which well-meaning civil society advo-
cates went inside the bank were the World Commission on Dams, the
Structural Adjustment Participatory Review Initiative (Sapri) and the
Extractive Industries Review. In the first case, a bank water expert, John
Briscoe, actively lobbied Southern governments to reject the findings of a vast,
multi-stakeholder research team in 2001. According to Patrick McCully of
International Rivers Network, ‘The World Bank’s singularly negative and non-
committal response to the WCD Report means that the bank will no longer be
accepted as an honest broker in any further multi-stakeholder dialogues.’
As for Sapri, hundreds of organisations and scholars became involved in
nine countries: Bangladesh, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ghana, Hungary, Mexico,
the Philippines, Uganda and Zimbabwe. They engaged in detailed analysis
from 1997 to 2002, often alongside local bank and IMF officials. Bank staff
withdrew from the process in August 2001. In April 2002, when the research,
a 188-page report, ‘The Policy Roots of Economic Crisis and Poverty’, was
tabled for action, civil society groups found that the bank ignored it.
The third case, the Extractive Industries Review (EIR), also nearly went off the
rails when in April 2003 an incident in Bali, Indonesia delegitimised the exer-
cise before a final report was drawn up. A meeting between the bank, interna-
tional mining industry and civil society ended in an uproar when 15 environ-
mental and human rights groups left in protest. According to the New York
Times, ‘The group of reviewers set up by the bank had already circulated its
draft conclusions supporting the bank’s oil, gas and mining investments, even
though conferences organised to gather information from concerned groups
and individuals in Asia, the Middle East and Africa had not yet taken place.’
In the meantime, the bank approved loans for two infamous pipelines,
Chad-Cameroon and Caspian, despite objections from the environmental, human
rights and social justice communities. By late 2003, civil societies indignation
meant that the EIR leader, former Indonesian environment minister Emil Salim,
encountered another legitimacy crisis for World Bank participation politics.
In response, Salim ensured the critique by social movements and environ-
mentalists made it into the December 2003 draft report, including the recom-
mendation that public funds should not be used to facilitate private fossil-fuel
profits. The recommendations would have meant an end to World Bank coal
lending by 2008; mandatory revenue sharing with local communities; exten-
sive environmental and social impact assessments; ‘no go’ zones for mining or
drilling in environmentally sensitive areas; no new mining projects that dump
tailings in rivers; obligatory environmental restructuring; and increased
renewable energy investments.
No one was surprised when lead bank energy staffer Rashad Kaldany dis-
agreed with the recommendations. Several major environmental NGOs blast-
ed the institution:
One of the bank’s most important environmental reforms of
the 1990s was its more cautious approach to high-risk infra-
structure and forestry projects. This policy is now being
reversed. The World Bank recently announced that it would
re-engage in contentious water projects such as large dams in
what it refers to as a ‘high risk/high reward’ strategy. In 2002,
the bank dismissed its ‘risk-averse’ approach to the forest sec-
tor when it approved a new forest policy. The World Bank is
also considering support for new oil, mining, and gas projects
in unstable and poorly governed countries, against the rec-
ommendations of its own evaluation unit.

Starting from Scratch?

Civil society enthusiasts of such commissions should have been warned by
well-meaning insiders who also failed to move the reform agenda forward.
From a vantage point in the chief economist’s office during the late 1990s and
early 2000s, David Ellerman saw more than his share Share A unit of ownership interest in a corporation or financial asset, representing one part of the total capital stock. Its owner (a shareholder) is entitled to receive an equal distribution of any profits distributed (a dividend) and to attend shareholder meetings. of reform gambits.
Finally, Ellerman threw up his hands:
Agencies such as the World Bank and the IMF are now almost
entirely motivated by big power politics and their own inter-
nal organisational imperatives. All their energies are con-
sumed in doing whatever is necessary to perpetuate their
global status. Intellectual and political energies spent trying
to ‘reform’ these agencies are largely a waste of time and a
misdirection of energies.

Persuasion by reformists within the chief economist’s office did not affect the
institution, agreed William Easterly, a former senior staffer:
There’s a big disconnect between World Bank operations and
World Bank research. There’s almost an organisational feud
between the research wing and the rest of the bank. The rest
of the bank thinks research people are just talking about irrel-
evant things and don’t know the reality of what’s going on.

Abuse of power and dogmatic ideology were Stiglitz’s long-standing justifi-
cations for his August 2002 call to consider replacing the IMF:
I’m beginning to ask, has the credibility of the IMF been so
eroded that maybe it’s better to start from scratch? Is the insti-
tution so resistant to learning to change, to becoming a more
democratic institution, that maybe it is time to think about
creating some new institutions that really reflect today’s real-
ity, today’s greater sense of democracy. It is really time to re-
ask the question: should we reform or should we build from
start?

At the same time, a Columbia University colleague of Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs,
began arguing that low-income countries should not repay World Bank and
IMF loans, and should redirect debt servicing directly towards health and
education. Decapitalisation of the Bretton Woods Institutions through a new
wave of sovereign defaults would be a sensible and direct closure tactic.
After all, Sachs insisted, no one:
in the creditor world, including the White House, believes
that those countries can service these debts without extreme
human cost. The money should instead be rerouted as grants
to be spent on more demanding social needs at home. Poor
countries should take the first step by demanding that all out-
standing debt service Debt service The sum of the interests and the amortization of the capital borrowed. payments to official creditors be
reprocessed as grants for the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The idea was not as outlandish as it appeared at first blush, according to the
Boston Globe, for during the 1980s Bolivia and Poland both got away with this
strategy: ‘Because the two countries used that money for social causes both
were later able to win debt forgiveness.’
Default may be the logical option, since so few HIPC resources are being
allocated for debt relief. Argentina, Nigeria and Zimbabwe may have been the
highest-profile defaulters since 2000, but there are many more that will even-
tually feel pressure from the grassroots, conduct a cost-benefit analysis, and
decide that default - combined with internal financing of development using
local currency to meet basic needs - is the common sense approach.

Solidarity and Strength

In parallel to Third World governments becoming more militant, pressure on
the institutions from their main shareholders - Northern citizens via their gov-
ernments - will be vital. An extraordinary new tactic will assist: the World
Bank Bonds Boycott. US groups like the Center for Economic Justice and
Global Exchange have been working with Jubilee South Africa and Brazil’s
Movement of the Landless, among others, to ask: is it ethical for socially-con-
scious people to invest in the World Bank by buying its bonds (responsible for
80 per cent of the bank’s resources), hence drawing out dividends which rep-
resent the fruits of enormous suffering?
In even the conservative belly of the global economic beast, the USA, organi-
sations endorsing the boycott included important US cities such as San
Francisco, Milwaukee, Boulder and Cambridge; major religious orders; the most
important social responsibility funds; and major trade union pension/invest-
ment funds. During late 2003, the world’s largest pension fund Pension Fund
Pension Funds
Pension funds: investment funds that manage capitalized retirement schemes, they are funded by the employees of one or several companies paying-into the scheme which, often, is also partially funded by the employers. The objective is to pay the pensions of the employees that take part in the scheme. They manage very big amounts of money that are usually invested on the stock markets or financial markets.
, TIAA-CREF,
sold its World Bank bonds as campaigners made it a special target.
Bank Boycott activists understand that the institutions’ waning legitimacy -
and hence threats to funding by socially-responsible investors and eventually
angry taxpayers - is the only target that most Third World social movements
can aim at. They have done so in recent years with an increasingly militant
perspective that worries not about the fund and bank’s ‘failure to consult’ or
‘lack of transparency’ or ‘undemocratic governance’ - all easy populist cri-
tiques, whose reformist ambitions are terribly weak. (What difference, after
all, would it make if Trevor Manuel were the first non-European IMF MD?)
Most of the attention that the leading activists pay to the Washington
Consensus ideology is to the core content: commodification, whether in rela-
tion to water, electricity, housing, land, anti-retroviral medicines and health
services, education, basic income grant support or other social services, ideal-
ly all at once and in cross-sectoral combinations. It is there, in grassroots
movements to decommodify the goods and services which the World Bank
and IMF increasingly put out of reach, that the only feasible alternative strat-
egy can be found.
Patrick Bond Bond A bond is a stake in a debt issued by a company or governmental body. The holder of the bond, the creditor, is entitled to interest and reimbursement of the principal. If the company is listed, the holder can also sell the bond on a stock-exchange. - Pambazuka News 170, 19 Aug 2004
A longer version of this article appeared in Capitalism, Nature, Socialism, June 2004.



Patrick Bond

is professor of political economy at the Wits University School of Governance in Johannesburg and co-editor of BRICS: An anti-capitalist critique (published by Haymarket, Pluto, Jacana and Aakar).

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