Summer School Opening Plenary Summary

2 November 2015 by Robin Delobel

The opening plenary, on Friday morning, was devoted to examining the debt system in all its aspects. Émilie Paumard of CADTM Belgium sketched a general overview. For seven years we have experienced a financial and economic ‘crisis’ and there are clear indications that another financial crisis is looming.

Greece is currently the theatre of the main attack on social rights in Europe and also where strong resistance has developed; it was hoped that SYRIZA’s victory in January 2015 would lead to anti-austerity policies. The CADTM gave its reserved support to the Syriza party until its capitulation last July. It took an active part in the Truth committee auditing the Greek public debt, coordinated by Eric Toussaint and chaired by Zoe Konstantopoulou, the president of the Hellenic Parliament.

In Spain, social movements and citizens’ platforms garnered excellent results at the municipal elections that were held in May. Citizens’ debt audits organized by Podemos and Ganemos would probably never have existed if the platform for a citizens’ auditing of the debt had not been set up in 2012. ‘Auditing shows that there are alternatives to austerity’, Émilie notes. ‘This year the CADTM celebrates its 25 anniversary, and the need for organizations such as the CADTM or ATTAC is clearly perceived.’

Gilbert Lieben, general secretary of the public service sector of FGTB (one of the main trade unions in Belgium) explained how the debt is a long-standing issue in Belgium and in Liège in particular. As early as the 1980s the debt was used as a pretext to dismantle public services, resulting in redundancies, particularly among the most economically fragile households.

Zakhar Popovych spoke about how public debt contributes to the chaotic situation that has prevailed in the Ukraine for the past few years. He showed how the IMF 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.
loans have favoured the oligarchs since 1990. He considers that Ukraine’s debt is one of the main causes of the current war.

Olivier De Schutter, until recently, UN special rapporteur on the right to food, exposed how the economic logic imposed by neoliberalism and the debt system results in disastrous consequences for rural populations forced to use their land to produce export crops that are destructive for the climate and biodiversity.

Debt also has an impact on the situation of women. Amina from ATTAC-CADTM Morocco showed how austerity policies in her country and the free trade agreements are twice as hard on women, whether through the deterioration of health care or through unemployment, the rate of which is much higher among women. Amina also mentioned that the 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.

offers misleading micro-credit ‘solutions’. There are thousands of micro-credit scams in Morocco, and they usually target women.

To close the meeting, Éric Toussaint traced the development of public debts in countries of the South since 2000. But first, in the name of the CADTM network he paid homage to Sékou Diarra, our friend in CAD Mali (part of the CADTM network) who had passed away a few days before. Sékou was one of the founding members of CADTM Africa, he had participated in the Jubilee 2000 campaign. He will be remembered for his incredible kindness, his energy and indefatigable commitment as well as the many enriching conversations we had with him. His fight against the debt complimented his struggle for food sovereignty. His commitment to the CADTM had even entailed his being unduly laid off some ten years ago.

In the afternoon there were workshops on citizens’ audits, Latin America, Burkina Faso, extractivism, crimes and misdemeanours in the banking sector and much more
Room was made for participatory events to better understand the debt system, how the banks function, and the tools women can use to fight austerity.

This first day was pleasantly ended with a stand-up comedy by Sébastien and Amaury, two cronies who ask themselves questions about the convergence of struggles – a big order indeed! They managed to induce both laughter and reflection among the packed audience.

Sébastien and Amaury

Translation by Christine Pagnoulle and Mike Krolikowski.

Robin Delobel

CADTM Belgique

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