Lock Horns At WSF
By Dionne Bunsha
20 January, 2004
and radicals locked horns at the World Social Forum yesterday while
discussing the global economy. This debate is central to the different
strands that make up the WSF.
Both agreed that
the regulations of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World
Bank and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had led to further impoverishment
and insecurity for the poorest. But they had different opinions on alternatives
to the economic domination of a few powerful countries.
Some like Joseph
Stiglitz, Nobel laureate and former World Bank chief economist, believe
that the current system can be made more humane. Others like Walden
Bello, Professor of Sociology and Public Administration at the University
of the Philippines, feel that the only way to a more equitable economy
is to derail these institutions controlled by the most powerful nations
of the world.
form of globalisation being imposed by the IMF has led to greater insecurity,"
Mr. Stiglitz said. "By insisting on the free flow of capital and
the privatisation of social security, the IMF has exposed people, especially
the aged and the poor, to greater insecurity. Unemployment has also
increased, leading to greater violence." But, insecurity was not
an inherent part of globalisation, Mr. Stiglitz said. East Asian countries
used access to international exports and technology to reduce poverty.
It was only when they adopted capital liberalisation that their economy
became more volatile and vulnerable. The current form of globalisation
was based on market fundamentalism, a simplistic belief in markets based
on unreal assumptions of the economy, he said.
the WTO. Some rule of law is better than none. If not for this, the
U.S. would have gotten away with a lot worse," he said. But Prabhat
Patnaik, economics professor from Jawaharlal Nehru University, disagreed.
"In the current situation, we cannot have a fair globalisation.
The unequal distribution of power in the world doesn't make it possible."
British writer and activist, insisted that institutions like the IMF
and the World Bank were "un-reformable." "Their constitutions
are totally controlled by the Western world. They give the U.S. 17 per
cent of the vote in the IMF and 18 per cent of the vote in the World
Bank. There can be no reform within their structures," he said.
Suggesting ways in which poor countries can defy Western nations, Mr.
Monbiot said, "Debt is a source of power for poor nations. They
can collectively refuse to repay their debts. That will threaten the
existence of powerful institutions."
Class conflict rather
than "civil society" movements can force change, said Brazilian
economist Laura Tavares Soares. She said terms like "civil society"
were being used to undermine the fact that there was still class conflict
in poor countries with vast inequalities.