Eric Toussaint – a courageous whistleblower

15 October 2013 by Jean Ziegler

This text is the postface of Eric Toussaint’s book, Procès d’un homme exemplaire (The Trial of an Exemplary Man), Al Dante, Marseille, 2013.

In our Europe with its uniform conscience, wishy-washy consensus, and triumphant State-imposed logic, any attempt to break with the current brutal world order is considered to be either a utopian project or quite simply delirious. A revolutionary, on our continent, is at best considered to be original, a kind of intellectual bum, an inoffensive dreamer, or a colourful outsider, at worst, a threatening troublemaker, a deviant, or simply mad. Meanwhile, global capitalist financial oligarchies govern the planet, according to a self-legitimising ideology based on economic rigour, noxious nationalism, and a human rights doctrine subtly promoting discrimination. Am I exaggerating? Real, living democracies that respect the freedom and the pursuit of happiness of their citizens do exist in the United States, France, Belgium, England, Switzerland and many other Western countries. However, in their neocolonical empires, confronted by the marginalised populations they dominate, these same Western democracies practice what Maurice Duverger calls fascism abroad: in many countries in the Southern hemisphere, all social indicators have been negative for more than 50 years (except for demographics). Malnutrition, misery, illiteracy, chronic unemployment, endemic diseases, and broken families are the direct consequences of the unbalanced terms of trade and the tyranny of debt. Western democracies practice a form of genocide based on indifference. Régis Debray has remarked: “Free (wo)men need slaves.” [1] That is the price to pay for our fragile prosperity in the West!

People in poor countries are working themselves to death to finance the development of rich countries. In reality, it is the South that is financing the North – especially its dominant classes. Debt is indeed the most powerful means of domination used by the North against the South today.

More capital flows from the South to the North than in the opposite direction. Every year, the poor countries send considerably more money to the upper classes in rich countries than they receive in the form of investments, cooperation loans, humanitarian aid, and “development” aid.

No need for machine guns, napalm, or tanks to subjugate and reduce people to slavery. Today, all we need is debt.

Foreign debt has become a weapon of mass destruction. It enslaves people and destroys their belief that they can be independent, thereby ensuring permanent worldwide domination by those capitalist financial oligarchies.

In 2013, a child under the age of ten will die of hunger every five seconds. Every day, 57,000 human beings die of hunger. Nearly 1 billion of our 7 billion fellow human beings suffer from permanent and serious malnutrition. This is happening on a planet, which according to the FAO, could easily feed 12 billion people (2200 kilocalories per day).

As a percentage of its population, Africa is the continent on which there is the greatest number of famished people: 36.2% in 2012. In absolute figures, it is Asia that comes out on top in this macabre competition. The foreign debt noose prevents the most impoverished countries from making the minimum required investments urgently needed for their farming systems.

Although 37 of the 54 African countries are nearly entirely agricultural with vast swaths of fertile land, and a relatively small population; in 2012, $24 billion worth of food had to be imported into the continent due to the lack of agricultural investments. Seed production and animal and mineral fertilisers are all lacking. There are 250,000 draught animals on the continent, but less than 85,000 tractors. In 2013, the hoe and the machete are still the main tools used for farming there.

Only 3.8% of arable land south of the Sahara is irrigated. The rest is watered only by rainfall, and is subject to the deadly risks entailed by a chaotic climate.

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.
is in charge of managing the debt of poor countries, and its mercenaries are the firefighters of the international financial system, who transform themselves into arsonists just at the right time…

When there is a major crisis, they intervene in exotic financial places, making sure above all that no international speculators will lose their initial wager. The Economist, which is not exactly the voice of a left-wing firebrand, has written: “… So when sceptics accuse rich country governments of being mainly concerned with bailing out western banks when financial crisis strikes in the world, they have a point.” [2]

For decades, Jacques De Groote played a key role in maintaining, reproducing, and strengthening this cannibalistic world order: as Belgium’s Executive Director at the FMI and World Bank World Bank
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.

, and as an advisor to the predator Joseph Désiré Mobutu.

Today, De Groote has been brought before Swiss courts in Bellinzona with six Czech co-defendants for “aggravated money laundering and fraud,” according to the bill of indictment delivered by the Swiss Ministry of Justice.

Eric Toussaint has written a fascinating, incisive and extremely well-documented book about the stormy career of the nefarious Jacques De Groote.

Toussaint is a world-renowned author and a precious advisor to the numerous governments attempting to refute their odious debt Odious Debt According to the doctrine, for a debt to be odious it must meet two conditions:
1) It must have been contracted against the interests of the Nation, or against the interests of the People, or against the interests of the State.
2) Creditors cannot prove they they were unaware of how the borrowed money would be used.

We must underline that according to the doctrine of odious debt, the nature of the borrowing regime or government does not signify, since what matters is what the debt is used for. If a democratic government gets into debt against the interests of its population, the contracted debt can be called odious if it also meets the second condition. Consequently, contrary to a misleading version of the doctrine, odious debt is not only about dictatorial regimes.

(See Éric Toussaint, The Doctrine of Odious Debt : from Alexander Sack to the CADTM).

The father of the odious debt doctrine, Alexander Nahum Sack, clearly says that odious debts can be contracted by any regular government. Sack considers that a debt that is regularly incurred by a regular government can be branded as odious if the two above-mentioned conditions are met.
He adds, “once these two points are established, the burden of proof that the funds were used for the general or special needs of the State and were not of an odious character, would be upon the creditors.”

Sack defines a regular government as follows: “By a regular government is to be understood the supreme power that effectively exists within the limits of a given territory. Whether that government be monarchical (absolute or limited) or republican; whether it functions by “the grace of God” or “the will of the people”; whether it express “the will of the people” or not, of all the people or only of some; whether it be legally established or not, etc., none of that is relevant to the problem we are concerned with.”

So clearly for Sack, all regular governments, whether despotic or democratic, in one guise or another, can incur odious debts.
. His research and publications have made him a leading authority on these matters, even for the IMF and the World Bank. Among his works, Your Money (or) Your Life - The Tyranny of Global Finance (2005), and Debt, the IMF, and the World Bank. Sixty Questions, Sixty Answers (2010), World Bank: a never-ending coup d’Etat (2006) are indispensable works for understanding how the current world economic order — established by capitalist financial oligarchies — functions.

Procès d’un homme exemplaire (The Trial of an exemplary man) is a profound and lively scientific work that is in a league of its own. Jean-Paul Sartre made a distinction between scientific, analytical, erudite works, on the one hand, and “books that take action,” on the other. Procès d’un homme exemplaire (The Trial of an exemplary man) is in the latter category, because its author acts as a whistleblower — one who takes bold action.

As I am writing these lines, the Bellinzona penal court has not yet given its final verdict. We must therefore continue to scrupulously presume the innocence of Jacques De Groote – even if that is a difficult attitude to maintain.

Nevertheless, Eric Toussaint’s book has raised many troubling questions. How could a figure like De Groote continue engaging in his questionable activities at the IMF and World Bank with total impunity? What kind of protection did he enjoy, and who were his accomplices?

This powerful book answers those and other pertinent questions.

Translated by Charles La Via and Mike Krolikowski

Jean Ziegler is the author of Mass Destruction – the Geopolitics of Hunger, Editions Points, 2012 (in French).


[1Régis Debray, in Le Tiers monde et la gauche (The Third world and the left), collective work, Editions du Seuil, 1979, p. 79.

[2“A Plague of Finance,” The Economist (London), 29 September 2001.



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