Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Singapore Hotels to Cash In on IMF/WB Meetings

IT IS not just top hotels that will be bursting at the seams during September's World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings - budget hotels around the city centre are also hoping to cash in on the overflow.

Of the 10 budget hotels The Straits Times spoke to, eight said they plan to increase their rates by between $10 and $60 a night, while others will limit the rooms available for tour groups in order to accommodate higher-paying walk-in customers.

Most of the top-tier hotels in the city will be fully booked for the event, so the budget operators are expecting to mop up the spillover of visitors unable to find rooms elsewhere.

At the 33-room Beach Hotel in Beach Road, front office supervisor Agnes Ho said it is always fully booked for conventions.

It has already closed bookings to travel agents, who get a commission of 15 to 20 per cent of the room rate, because they anticipate getting more walk-in visitors paying $90 a night, $10 more than the usual rate.

The Hotel Windsor in MacPherson Road usually keeps about more than half of its 200 rooms free for tour groups, but plans to reduce that to about 40 per cent during the event. During peak periods, it will offer fewer discounts and bump up room rates by $10.

'When the top hotels are full, they have no choice but to downgrade,' said the hotel's spokesman.

Even budget chain Hotel 81 has confirmed it will raise its rates, though it is still watching its competitors before deciding how much to charge.

And even budget hotels have spillover during peak periods. The Summer View Hotel in Bencoolen Street directs extra visitors to other budget hotels in the area, said general manager Henry Ong. It plans to levy a $40 surcharge on tour groups during the event.

Some 11,000 rooms in 44 top and mid-tier hotels located near the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre have been block booked for World Bank and IMF delegates.

Conrad Centennial Singapore, for example, has blocked 90 per cent of its 500-plus rooms for the event.

But not all participants are after luxury. Some have chosen to stay at budget hotels like the Park View on Beach Road, a stone's throw from Suntec Singapore. The hotel's director Steven Lim expects some guests to be support staff for the event, who made bookings late last year.

Though the Singapore Tourism Board does not intervene to set or influence room rates, there appears to be little room for top-tier hotels to play with.

Mr Michael Schmitt, director of marketing at the Pan Pacific Singapore, believes that hotel occupancy levels should be 'extremely robust over the period...easily exceeding the demand for hotel accommodation compared with any other event held in Singapore over the last five years'.

The Fullerton Hotel's general manager, Mr Louis Sailer, admitted that the hotel had to turn away 'substantial business for that period because we have already been booked to capacity for some time'.

However, the top hotels say they are working hard to ensure that guests not attending the meetings will not be overlooked.

At the Pan Pacific, arrangements have already been made with expected return guests to ensure that rooms have been reserved in advance.

Conrad Centennial has highlighted the situation to guests in advance so that they know what to expect. It also recommends alternative dates and advises clients to make bookings either before or after the event.

Swissotel The Stamford has been receiving room bookings since the beginning of 2004, but general manager Aiden McAuley promises to help non-delegates by recommending hotels outside the Marina Bay area.

And Raffles the Plaza's general manager Thomas Meier said that the hotel tries its best not to turn away visitors, but refers those they cannot accommodate to the Singapore Hotel Association.

The 11,000 rooms have not been fully booked and are still available for reservations, said Mr Lee Kai Yin, STB's Programme Director for the Singapore Experience.

'Delegates and visitors will have no lack of accommodation options as Singapore has an inventory of about 36,000 rooms, ranging from top-tier to budget hotel categories,'' said Mr Lee.


Let's all frock to Singapore, where the leaders will talk about OUR money, spend OUR money. Why not? The Singapore hotels will be making profits with OUR money anyway, with or without our presence.

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Monday, June 26, 2006

In Singapore, World Bank Seeks Street Protests

BANGKOK, Jun 22 (IPS) - Activists familiar with street protests outside the venues of annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) are in for a different treat at this year's gathering.

Singapore, the host country of the mid-September event, is sparing little to ensure that it lives up to its legacy as an affluent city state where universally accepted democratic principles -- such as the right to freedom of association -- are banned. The South-east Asian nation's penchant for thought control will be evident enough for the expected 16,000 delegates.

Till now, a broad group of activists who have written a letter to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, requesting the government to permit the traditional anti-Bank protests, have still to receive a reply. ''(We are concerned) about the impending restrictions and threats reportedly being made that will hamper meaningful civil society participation at the upcoming ... meeting,'' the letter, sent in March, said.

The World Bank, however, has stepped in to assure activists that space for civil society is being negotiated to avoid what some critics of the international financial institutions says will undermine the credibility of the Bank's claims to promote good governance, accountability, transparency and democracy.

''We are working closely with the IMF and with the Singapore Government -- and have been for many months -- to ensure that diverse civil society voices are very much heard before, during and after the Annual Meetings,'' writes Peter Stephens of the Bank's Singapore office in a letter to the non-governmental organisations (NGOs). ''We believe that meaningful civil society engagement is critical to the effectiveness of the meetings.''

The letter also dismisses the argument made by the NGOs that the Bank and the IMF are trying to shut the door on the world's poor by giving shape to a restrictive process. ''Far from being a regulated or restricted process, as you appear to suggest, we are trying to enable a process that is open and led by civil society, and for the issues and means of addressing them to arise spontaneously, not through a formal process that we lead or try to manage,'' adds Stephens.

But for veteran civil society actors in Singapore, the Bank's letter appears to be out of touch with the stubborn reality on the ground in the city-state. ''It will be nearly impossible to protest in Singapore for locals,'' Sinapan Samydorai, head of Think Centre, a human rights NGO, told IPS. ''Locals trying to express any political opinion in public will require a license. The licenses are often denied to locals.''

There is a possibility, though, that the Lee Hsien Loong administration, may provide space for select foreign groups, he adds. ''The government may permit a selected number of foreigners to march peacefully -- with the required license -- to show-case that there is 'freedom' in Singapore. Controlled and managed, it will boost the image of Singapore.''

Concern about the oppressive measures that await activists in Singapore emerged as early as February, when Home Affairs Minister Wong Kang Seng issued a threat that public protests may ''attract severe punishment, including caning and imprisonment''. The restrictive law against public gatherings -- where any gathering of more than four people need a security permit -- was introduced by the British when it ruled this country as part of its colonial empire. The military dictatorship in Burma, also a former British colony, keeps Singapore company by upholding the same law.

And the installation of nearly 158 closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras to monitor activity at 67 traffic intersections and at the venue of the September meeting, Raffles City, a shopping mall and convention centre, will make it easier for the country's police to respond to protests without permits.

Among the examples of a typical Singaporean response to local protestors who dare to think independently -- than succumbing to the thought control measures of the country -- was the arrest of four demonstrators calling for greater accountability and transparency of the state-managed pension fund. This silent protest in August last year brought out nearly a dozen anti-riot police in full battle gear, including helmets, shields and batons.

Neither the police nor the courts accepted the fact that these demonstrators had not broken the law, since they were below the required number that needs a permit, M. Ravi, a human rights lawyer who handled this case, said in an IPS interview. ''The court ruled that even one person protesting and saying unfavourable things against the government is incendiary.''

According to Ravi, the government does not compromise on this measure to control dissent and alternative views in the country. ''It is extremely serious about the bans against public demonstrations.''

The recent parliamentary elections in May, where the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) was returned to power, served up large helpings of the bizarre quality of Singapore's ruling dynasty. The country's founding figure, former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, father of Lee Hsien Loong, justified these authoritarian measures as a mechanism needed to transform this malaria-infested trading port in the late 1950s to a development success story.

At the poll, the PAP marginalised opposition parties by banning their use of the electronic media to campaign, denying the leader of the Singapore Democratic Party a chance to campaign in public, banning his speeches being read by others in public and police intimidation of other candidates that made normal political activity look like a crime.

Yet Lee Hsien Loong did not consider such violations of political and civil liberties a problem. On the eve of the poll, he was quoted as having told 'The Straits Times,' a government mouthpiece, that ''the political system here is as fair as you can find in any country in terms of your being able to stand up, to have a view, to organise, to mobilise and participate.''

''(You do) not need a lot of money or a lot of power to get moving,'' he was quoted as saying.

Shalmali Guttal, a senior researcher at Focus on the Global South, a regional think tank, wishes that was really so. ''This year's annual meeting seems very suspicious to us because the World Bank and the IMF are still uncertain about the calls by civil society for demonstrations to be permitted. Failure will only prove to us that the hegemony of these institutions continues at the expense of democracy.''

For her, public participation on the streets outside the meeting's venue ''is the only available option for the victims of the Bank's programmes to protest. The meeting's credibility will suffer if demonstrations are banned.''

Read other posts related to Singapore's hosting of the IMF/WB Annual Meetings:
- Singapore to cane protestors
- Open Letter to Singapore PM on WB/IMF meeting
- Singapore to silence protestors
- Singapore Gears Up for WB/IMF summit
- Singapore PM urges Singaporeans to smile for WB/IMF summit

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

Singapore's Prime Minister Calls On Citizens to Smile for IMF Meetings

SINGAPORE plans to greet delegates of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) meetings it will host in September with four million smiles.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called on Singaporeans and foreigners living in the wealthy city state of 4.4 million to submit a photograph of themselves smiling.

The photos, which can be sent to a government website (www.smileS2006.com) or via mobile phone messaging, will then be collated into a digital mural to welcome September's visitors.

"We should make a special effort to welcome all the delegates to this event. We should greet them literally with four million smiles," Lee said in a speech Sunday.

Lee also urged Singaporeans in the service industry, from taxi drivers to sales assistants and staff at restaurants, to "go the extra mile" to the meetings' delegates.

Some 16,000 delegates and visitors are expected for the meetings, making it the largest event Singapore has ever hosted.

Known for micro-managing its population, Singapore frequently rolls out national campaigns which target areas such as gum chewing, spitting and flushing toilets.

The government has warned that it will use severe punishments such as caning for protesters who commit violent acts during the IMF-World Bank meetings. Public protests are extremely rare in Singapore, where outdoor gatherings of more than four people require a police permit.

Criminals who are caned are strapped to a wooden frame and lashed across the bare buttocks with a long rattan stick.


Right. How about a smile like the above? The IMF certainly has something to smile about. So do WB. They can finally have some peace and quiet as they have set foot in a country where the likelihood of embarrassing street protests that exposes the WB and IMF's lies are non-existent. The IMF and WB are all smiles as they can advocate without disturbance to their infamous structural adjustment policies which will increase poverty around the world, and bring more profit to their very own pockets.

Obviously, Singapore will be smiling as well. With 16 million visitors, the host country will definately see a conspicuous rise in revenue in September.

That said, can we jolt the IMF and WB from their complacency in Singapore? Will it really be peaceful and quiet in Singapore come September? Who knows? You and I can make a difference.

Incidentally, Mobilization for Global Justice (MGJ) will be hold a meeting this Wednesday, 14/06/2006 to plan for actions targeting the IMF and WB's September meetings in Singapore. You know what to do

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

DOHA Doomed

THE five-year Doha Round negotiations under the World Trade Organisation now appear to be limping towards collapse, with a survey revealing that even most insiders believe the negotiations are doomed.

The survey, by former WTO deputy director-general Andrew Stoler, now at Adelaide University, found that 71 per cent of insiders — negotiators, policymakers and trade experts — predict the round will fail to produce an agreement this year as planned.

The insiders see that as the end of the Doha Round. Only 18 per cent believe the US Congress will renew President George Bush's authority to negotiate agreements when it expires in the middle of next year. Without authority, Congress could amend any WTO agreement, making negotiations futile.

A deal in principle must be reached by the end of next month to allow time for detailed agreements to be drawn up and turned into legislation before the deadline. But despite pious communiques and an increasing sense of urgency, there is no sign of the key players bridging the gaps between them.

Professor Stoler, who now runs the university's Institute for International Business, Economics and Law, said the gloomy consensus implied serious trouble for the WTO in particular and for trade liberalisation in general.

"I don't want to be overdramatic, but if they can't get a deal by the summer break in early August, then we're in deep kimchi," he said. "There are going to be real problems in terms of the consequences for trade liberalisation.

"The people who participate in this poll are the best ones around to tell us whether we're going to get anywhere. They're in a very pessimistic mood, and I don't blame them."

The survey found that insiders based in Geneva were almost unanimous that agreement could be reached only by accepting an unambitious outcome, dubbed "Doha Lite". But insiders based in national capitals strongly disagreed, and Professor Stoler said such a deal would be hard to sell to Congress.

WTO agriculture chairman Crawford Falconer, of New Zealand, is due to present a compromise blueprint next week for reducing farm protection, the key issue of the talks. The Doha Round was launched in 2001 and was originally to be completed by 2004. WTO director-general Pascal Lamy has urged Europe and Japan to agree to bigger cuts in farm tariffs, the US to pledge bigger cuts to farm subsidies, and developing countries such as India and Brazil to offer cuts to their manufacturing tariffs.

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Friday, June 09, 2006


Dear Friends,

Warm greetings!

At the 2nd South-North International Consultation on Resistance and Alternatives to Debt Domination held in Havana September 2005, representatives of movements and organizations from more than 50 countries agreed on four joint initiatives for the coming years. One of these joint initiatives is the Call for International Actions Against the IFIs in 2006. The initiative was subsequently adopted by the Assembly of Social Movements, gathered in Caracas, Venezuela, in the VI World Social Forum (polycentric) in January, 2006,

The following is a sign-on statement that expresses a critique of the role and operations of international financial institutions and calls on social movements, people?s organizations, NGOs, citizens groups, community organizations, trade unions and working class organizations, and political movements to wage a concerted campaign against the IFIs on a common platform, and organize coordinated mobilizations in as many countries as possible leading up to and culminating during the week of the Annual Meetings in September 2006.



Many thanks!

DIALOGO 2000 Argentina


SEPTEMBER 14-20 2006 Singapore and World Wide

For more than sixty years, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank together with their partner regional development banks and export credit agencies, have used international finance capital to exercise control and restructure the societies of the South to serve the interests of global private corporations and the economic and geo-political agenda of the few powerful nations that control these institutions.

The resulting effects on people's lives, on communities, on the environment, and on the economic as well as political structures in the South have been profound and over the years have generated numerous resistance struggles against these institutions.

Despite well-documented evidence and countless testimonies to the destruction, displacement and dispossession their policies and operations have caused, these institutions persist in legitimizing their role. In recent years they have declared themselves to be champions of "poverty reduction" and "good governance".

This year, 2006, we pledge to intensify our struggles against these institutions and raise the level of international coordination and concerted action. In particular, we commit to organizing different forms of mobilization and direct action in many countries across the globe during the week of the IMF and WB Annual Meetings, September 14-20, 2006. This will include various activities and actions in the vicinity of their meetings in Singapore.

WE CALL on all people's organizations, social movements, labor movements, women's movements, farmers groups, first peoples, religious and cultural groups, community organizations, NGOs, political forces, and all concerned citizens around the world to join us in mounting vigorous actions that will focus the world's attention on the destruction and
human rights violations caused by the IMF and World Bank, the regional development banks, export credit agencies, and the neoliberal global system they enforce.

Our actions will identify issues and articulate demands that reflect the particular impacts of these institutions on each of our countries but will also be united on the following global demands:

1. Immediate and 100% cancellation of multilateral debts as part of the total cancellation of debts claimed from the South, without externally imposed conditionalities. The inhuman and destructive consequences of debt domination which the international financial institutions play a major part in perpetuating are evidence against the outrageously deceitful claim of these institutions that they are working for "poverty reduction" and "financing for development".

Debt relief initiatives of international financial institutions have to date covered only a very small part of the debt claimed from the South. Worse, these initiatives come with conditions that undermine the sovereignty of people to determine their own path of development, have proven harmful to livelihoods and the environment, and keep South economies tied to the interests of global private profit.

Cancellation of only a small part of the debt may release some funds that can be used for basic services but does not free the South from debt bondage. Debt cancellation must be 100%.

And for immediate action, we highlight the especially urgent cases: most of Africa, Haiti, Nepal, Tsunami-hit countries and others recently devastated by natural calamities, countries ravaged by war, societies overwhelmed by HIV/AIDS, and others experiencing severe social, financial and economic crisis.

We reject the international financial institutions' "debt sustainability" framework. There is no level of debt that is "sustainable" in a global economic system that is founded on domination and exploitation of the peoples, economies and resources of the South. This framework is a means by which these institutions justify maintaining the "indebtedness" of Southern countries.

The insistence on their "debt sustainability framework" is also a refusal to address the more fundamental question of the illegitimacy of the debt claimed from the South. Peoples of the South should not be made to pay for illegitimate debts -- debts they have not benefited from, debts that financed projects that have caused displacement of communities and damage to the environment, debts wasted on corruption or failed projects, debts contracted through undemocratic and fraudulent means, debts with grossly unfair terms and harmful conditions, odious debts incurred by dictatorships, debt contracted in the context of exploitative international economic relations, debts for which peoples of the South have paid many times over.

Though the financial debts claimed from the South are of staggering amounts, totaling more than US$2.3 trillion dollars, the North in fact owes the peoples of the South a far, far greater debt. It is the historical, economic, social, and ecological debt accumulated over centuries of plunder and exploitation by North with the collaboration of Southern elites.

The IMF and the World Bank should bear the costs of writing off debts owed to them by using the World Bank's loan loss provisions (valued at US$3 billion as of June 30, 2005) and retained earnings (valued at US$27 billion as of June 30, 2005) and IMF gold stocks. With the market price of gold surpassing US$600 an ounce, the IMF's 103.4 million ounces of gold are worth more than US$60 billion, rather than the US$9 billion recorded on the IMF's books.

2. Open, transparent and participatory External Audit of the lending operations and related policies of the International Financial Institutions, beginning with the World Bank and IMF
Debt campaigns, movements, people's organizations, and NGOs are now involved in preparing for and conducting country-level independent Citizens? Audits of Debts claimed from South countries as well as calling on South governments to conduct transparent, open and participatory Government Audits (e.g. Parliamentary) of these debts. These audits are aimed at examining the origins and causes of the debt problem, taking stock of effects and impacts, bringing to light the dubious and illegitimate character of the debts, identifying responsibility and accountability, and establishing and strengthening the basis for urgent changes in national policies on the debt and related issues.

We challenge the international financial institutions to subject themselves to similar independent audits of the loans they have released, their lending policies, processes and operations, and the terms and conditionalities that have accompanied these loans, and take stock of the effects and impacts. Such audits should look into the culpability and accountability of these international financial institutions, and asses what restitution and reparations must be made.

The international financial institutions have recently been stepping up efforts to portray themselves as champions of good governance, including the announcement of renewed efforts and strategies to fight corruption. We challenge these institutions to begin with themselves and examine how they have been involved in creating and exacerbating the problem of corruption. External, independent audits of their loans, lending operations and conditionalities should include this question. Further, corruption must be seen as a systemic problem that also involves the private sector, especially transnational corporations.

3. Stop the imposition of conditions and the promotion of neoliberal policies and projects.

Through the conditions attached to their loans and programs, the IMF and World Bank have succeeded in restructuring the global economy. The widespread use of "structural adjustment programs" from the early 1980s in countries with significant debt, poverty, and financial problems has forced most of the South countries' economic policies to ape those of the industrialized countries, regardless of how inappropriate those policies may have been for the countries' development needs. Because of the imposition of neo-liberal policies on countries desperate for access to credit, peoples across the South now confront economies oriented to export production rather than providing for local markets, devastated manufacturing sectors, a large percentage of economic actors in foreign hands, valuable public assets privatized, health and other social sectors crippled by decades of de-funding, environmental resources devastated by over-exploitation, small farms and businesses wiped out by denial of credit and subsidies, and massive unemployment.

Our struggle against debt domination is waged in large part to win freedom from the conditions that indebted governments are blackmailed into accepting. For the September 2006 actions we demand:

a. In this 50th anniversary year of the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the IFIs end the promotion of privatization of public services and the use of public resources to support private profits.

The IMF and especially the World Bank have been the main drivers in the global push for the privatization of basic services. They are joined by other financial institutions like regional development banks and export credit agencies.

The international financial institutions promote privatization of public services through policy conditions and policy advice, financing of projects that pave the way for privatization, providing technical assistance in the preparation of feasibility studies as well as the process of implementation, and even direct support for private companies taking over public utilities. The International Finance Corporation plays a major role in providing risk guarantees as well as
equity assistance for these private companies, and facilitating government bail-outs of privatized utilities in distress.

The continued emphasis on privatizing basic services such as water provision or, when no company is interested in purchasing the utility, arranging leases and service contracts ? and the ?commercialization? of even life-saving agencies such as those managing food reserves reflects a fixation on markets as the only organizing principle for economies even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence. Failure after failure of water privatizations in the South has not deterred the IFIs from their mission to wrest assets from public ownership.

Our message to the IFC and its multilateral partners is clear: no more public resources for support of private profit.

b. Stop IFI funding and involvement in environmentally destructive projects beginning with big dams, oil, gas and mining and implement the major recommendations of the Extractive Industries Review.

The international financial institutions are also presenting themselves as leading in the fight against climate change and environmental destruction. However, no amount of clever rhetoric about stronger commitments and new strategies can hide the fact that many projects designed, driven and supported by international financial institutions violate the already watered-down standards and safeguards avowed by these same institutions and cause massive environmental as well as social problems.

The World Bank is itself a major ecological debtor, having funded major projects such as hydro-electric dams, mines, pipelines and petroleum exploration and development projects which have displaced populations and wrought major environmental damage. The World Bank has refused to implement major recommendations of its own Extractive Industries Review including 1) the principle that communities faced with resource extraction projects must give free, prior and informed consent, 2) and the phase out of investment in hydrocarbon extraction projects.

The World Bank's attempt to claim leadership on the issue of climate change with the application of its development of carbon credit trading is another tragic example of market fundamentalism. Entrusting the precarious future of the world's climate to the World Bank's clever market solutions distracts the major actors from focusing on the over-consumption that threaten to doom the planet and all who live on it. Meanwhile, the World Bank Group, which claims leadership in developing alternative energy, devotes much greater resources to developing conventional energy sources.

Indeed, the World Bank is the world's leading financer of projects producing greenhouse gases.

c. Immediately stop imposing conditions that exacerbate health crises like the AIDS pandemic and make restitution for past practices such as requiring user fees for public education and health care services.

IFI policies have aggravated health crises like the AIDS pandemic in a number of ways. Austerity measures have constrained health budgets, prevented the hiring of critically needed teachers and health care workers due to limits on spending for public sector employees, and kept people out of clinics and children away from schools by insisting on user fees. The macroeconomic policies the International Financial Institutions have imposed over the last 25 years including fiscal austerity, high interest rates, unilateral trade liberalization and privatization of essential services - have led to lower growth rates and fewer improvements in social indicators than had occurred over the two decades between 1960 and 1980.

The IFIs owe an enormous social debt to countries whose public services have been damaged by their policies. Their creditors are the women of South countries, who have had to step in to provide the health care, the food, the teaching, the water, and the other basic goods and services put out of reach by IFI policies. The World Bank and the IMF should pay for free primary education and primary health care as a form of reparations or restitution for the damage their policies have caused.

As we take to the streets and plazas on September 14 to 20, in Singapore and around the world, we stand united in our call for an end to the destruction visited upon the South by the IMF, the World Bank, the other multilateral banks, and the countries that control them.

We call upon activists to tell us about their planned activities so that we may publicize them, and about the outcomes of their actions.

For more information, visit http://50years.org.

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Tuesday, June 06, 2006

IMF at a Turning Point.

What a difference a decade makes.

Ten years ago, the International Monetary Fund was seen as one of the most influential international organizations. Today, policy-makers warn that it risks falling into obscurity and a far-reaching debate about its future is underway.

What explains this sudden change of fortune? The core purpose of the fund is to safeguard international monetary and financial stability. Its ability to serve this mandate stems from both its expertise and the loans it extends to governments.

The fund's loss of influence has been caused partly by an erosion of its intellectual standing. The International Monetary Fund's advice never met universal approval, but opposition grew particularly intense after 1997-1998 when the fund was blamed for worsening the East Asian financial crisis.

In one particularly stinging critique after the crisis, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz even suggested that the fund's staff were often "third-rank students from first-rate universities."

Further undermining the fund's reputation was the economic collapse in 2001 of Argentina, a country that had been widely seen as one of the fund's "star pupils" throughout the 1990s.

More recently, the International Monetary Fund has found its lending power curtailed, too. It still has loans outstanding to dozens of countries. But within the last six months, three of its four largest borrowers -- Argentina, Brazil and Indonesia -- have announced that they will repay their loans early and will not renew their borrowing from the fund.

Many countries in East Asia have also turned their backs on fund assistance and its accompanying advice. In order to avoid a repeat of their 1!997-98 dependence on the fund, they have been accumulating enormous reserves of foreign exchange that can protect them from future currency crises.

As demand for its loans declines, the fund faces not just a loss of influence. Its own balance sheet is also affected because its operations are financed partly by the interest payments of borrowers. The early repayments have already triggered budgetary shortfalls for the institution.

The fund's financial woes were highlighted two weeks ago when its managing director Rogrido de Rato appointed an expert group to advise him on how to develop alternative sources of income for the fund.

The importance he attached to the task is evident from the group's high profile membership, which includes former U.S. Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet, and People's Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan.

Discontent with the monetary fund has come not just from borrow! ing countries. Prominent U.S. policy-makers have opposed the fund 's provision of large-scale assistance to countries experiencing financial crises. This bailout lending, they argue, distorts international financial markets by rewarding poor choices made by investors and borrowing governments.

Some U.S. officials are also critical of the fund's "mission creep." They would prefer to see a more streamlined fund that was no longer involved in "development" lending to very low-income countries, an activity they argue is more appropriate for the World Bank.

With critics on all sides and a shrinking set of borrowers, what is the International Monetary Fund's future? Some opponents of the fund -- on both the left and right of the political spectrum -- would like to see it abolished. But this outcome seems unlikely.

At the late April meetings of the World Bank and monetary fund, member governments endorsed instead an agenda of reform that incl! udes, among other things, a call for the fund to strengthen its surveillance of both the global economy and member countries economic policies (especially exchange rates).

Surveillance has long been one of the core functions of the fund. When it was created in 1944, the fund's architects hoped the institution could draw attention to the financial needs of the world economy as a whole and discourage countries from returning to the "beggar-thy-neighbour" economic policies of the 1930s.

While its surveillance activities are important, how much influence can the fund have in this role? In the past, the fund's advice has generally had most impact when backed up by the promise of loans. Without this carrot, and in an era when the quality of its advice is being questioned, a fund focused more on surveillance activities may be a fund with a more marginal position in the world economy.

To bring the fund back to centre stage, many analysts have concluded th! at it may be necessary to consider a radical overhaul of its governance structure. Many of the countries distancing themselves from the fund today feel they have little voice within the institution whose decision-making is dominated by rich countries, especially the United States.

To address its growing legitimacy crisis, the issue of governance reform has been placed on the agenda of the upcoming International Monetary Fund annual meetings in Singapore in September. If these discussions produce little outcome, the drift away from the institution will likely only accelerate.

Eric Helleiner is Centre for International Governance Innovation chair in international governance and associate professor in political science at the University of Waterloo. He recently authored Towards North American Monetary Union The Politics And History Of Canada's Exchange Rate Regime.


Let's take a look at IMF's supposed creed as per the IMF website:
The IMF is an organization of 184 countries, working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty.
A philanthropic organization as such has to now, rethink of other sources to better their budgetary shortfalls.

Say NO to the IMF!

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Monday, June 05, 2006



The 2006 Annual Meetings of Boards of Governors of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank Group (WB) will be held in Singapore between September 13-20.

All CSO representatives who wish to participate in the 2006 Annual Meetings will need to obtain formal accreditation. The accreditation system is fully web-based. It opened on June 2 and will close on August 4, 2006. If you are planning to attend the Annual Meetings, please apply for accreditation as early as possible. Please note that no applications will be accepted past the deadline.

As in previous years, the Civil Society Teams at the Bank and IMF will organize a Civil Society Forum for accredited CSOs during the 2006 Annual Meetings.

We would like to encourage representatives from established CSOs that focus on development issues and other issues relevant to the work of the World Bank and the IMF, and have a track record in these areas, to apply for accreditation.

Please note that at the present time the World Bank and the IMF do not have any funding to enable CSO participation in the Annual Meetings. Accredited CSOs are responsible for obtaining a visa, if necessary, to enter Singapore. Information on visa requirements

More information about the 2006 Annual Meetings, accreditation process, CS Forum and other events can be found at the World Bank's website for CSOs: http://www.worldbank.org/civilsociety. If you have any questions, please contact us at: civilsociety@worldbank.org .

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IMF Seeks Talks to Steer Global Soft Landing

The International Monetary Fund said yesterday that it would shortly begin consultations between the world's leading economic powers over a strategy to tackle imbalances in the world economy.

The move is part of the IMF's adoption of the new role of global economic policeman as anxieties have grown about the size of the United States current-account deficit compared with large surpluses in other countries, notably China. The IMF's managing director, Rodrigo de Rato, said the first multilateral consultation would bring together the US, China, the Eurozone, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

"These economies are either ones with large current account surpluses or deficits, or they represent a large share of global output," said Mr de Rato. "Their cooperative action can play a major role in the orderly unwinding of these imbalances and in sustaining global growth as savings, consumption and investment patterns adjust."

The consultations, first mooted in April at the IMF-World Bank spring meetings, are a result of the biggest shake-up the IMF has seen in 40 years, as world economic leaders have become concerned that a rapid and disorderly unwinding, possibly involving a slump in the dollar, could cause global economic damage.

The emergence of China and India as significant economic powers has rendered the traditional forum for global economic discussions - the Group of Seven leading industrial economies - increasingly unrepresentative.

The recent turbulence in financial markets, which has seen the dollar fall sharply, has also heightened concerns in finance ministries around the world that the unwinding may now be under way.

In its biggest structural change since the break-up of the Bretton Woods system of fixed exchange rates in the early 1970s, the IMF was given a mandate to conduct multilateral surveillance of the global economy and to suggest steps that the leading nations should take in concert to ensure better balanced growth.

The surveillance unit will be modelled on the Bank of England, with guaranteed independence from political interference and an annual remit to look at the linkages and spillovers between monetary policy, fiscal policy, exchange rates and financial sector issues in the main IMF member countries.

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Thursday, June 01, 2006

FORUM-ASIA Condemns the use of state violence on peaceful protesters in South Korea

FORUM-ASIA strongly condemns the use of excessive force unleashed by Korean riot police and military troops on more than 700 farmers, human rights and peace activists protesting against US military bases expansion in Daeuchuri Village, Pyungtaek, forty miles South of Seoul, on 4 May 2006.

The incident has left more than 130 farmers and human rights defenders injured and 350 arrested as riot police and troops were deployed to crush the protest against forced eviction. This severe use of force to disperse the protesters has caused a large number of injuries to not only human rights defenders and peace activities but elderly farmers.

Such abuse of police power is a blatant example of the Korean authorities’ failure to respect human rights as guaranteed not only by the South Korean constitution but also various international human rights treaties to which the Republic of Korea is a party to. Clearly, there is no justification to the decision to use violent force in reaction to legitimate protests and Korean Authorities must adhere to the fundamental principle that under no circumstances should violence ever be used by authorities nor should arbitrary detentions result from protests.

The lack of national consensus on the issue of US military bases expansions and the denial or lack of respect for the rights of the affected people to information and participation in the decision-making process have aggravated the situation which resulted in strong protest by farmers who had to face forced evictions and human right defenders and peace activists who opposed the forceful enforcement of government policies which lacked legitimacy.

We, at FORUM-ASIA, strongly urge the South Korean government to release immediately those arrested in relation to their peaceful and legitimate exercise of the right to assembly and protest. Furthermore, we urge the relevant authorities to undertake an independent investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice thereby combating impunity for the prevention of the occurrence of similar human rights violations in the country.


The authorities in South Korea have scant respect for human rights. The government bestowed upon riot police and troops the power to bulldoze farmers, human rights and peace activists. These are the people who are going to be affected by the building of the base and yet, martial law is imposed upon these very people who are g0ing to be affected once again.

It says alot doesn't it? South Korean authorities against the South Koreans in favor of a US Military Base.

The sweetest part of the deal? The US is not the least affected by the violence. They will just go ahead and build the damned base.

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