Sunday, August 27, 2006

WorldBank: Singapore Should Waive Ban On Outdoor Protests

The World Bank says Singapore should allow outdoor protests at its joint meetings with the International Monetary Fund next month, after the city said it would only permit demonstrations at a designated, indoor area.

``The bank's preference is that civil society groups should be able to peacefully express their views outside of the conference facility in a way that doesn't cause disruption,'' World Bank Singapore representative Peter Stephens said in an interview. ``We have our preference and Singapore has its laws, so we're trying to find an area that's acceptable to all.''

Singapore forbids the public assembly of more than four people without police permits and is unused to the mass rallies associated with global trade and finance summits. At the 2005 World Trade Organization meeting in Hong Kong, police used tear gas to quell crowds and arrested more than 1,000 people, while 600 were injured during IMF meetings in Prague in 2000 after cobblestones were pulled from the streets and flung at police.

``We have made maximum effort to facilitate the involvement of civil society organizations, within the framework of our laws,'' the Singapore government's committee organizing the meetings said in an e-mailed response to questions.

``We are unable to waive the current rules which prohibit outdoor demonstrations and processions, so as not to compromise the high level of security that will be in place during the conference,'' it said.

Terror Risk

Singapore police last month said groups accredited by the World Bank and IMF would be allowed to hold demonstrations in a designated area of the downtown convention center hosting the Sept. 12-20 meetings. All other protests will need police permission.

``Being held indoors means the number of people would be restricted,'' said Ruki Fernando, a spokesman for the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, a Bangkok-based human rights group. ``There can't be activities such as cultural dances, street theater, which require big spaces.''

Under Singapore law, permission must be sought for public assemblies and speeches. The government says the rules help maintain harmony in the city, where 36 people were killed in 1964 race riots between the Chinese and Malay communities.

Still, the government said it may work with the IMF and World Bank on protests during the meetings, expected to be attended by European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet and more than 16,000 other officials.

``The World Bank has suggested some alternatives for consideration and we will examine the practicality of these,'' according to the statement from the S2006 Organising Committee. ``Any alternative with a realistic prospect of being adopted must be within the framework of our laws and must not compromise security, which remains our foremost priority.''

Unions, NGOs

The meetings have already attracted significant interest from lobby groups. As of Aug. 17, about 200 representatives of ``civil society organizations,'' or CSOs, had been accredited to participate in the meetings, and a further 200 had submitted applications, the World Bank said in an Aug. 18 e-mail.

That would represent a record in terms of participation by CSOs, which include non-governmental organizations, community and religious groups, and labor unions. ``We're still in discussions with the authorities regarding logistical issues,'' William Murray, the IMF's spokesman in Washington, said in an earlier e-mailed response to questions about Singapore's decision on outdoor protests.


For Singapore, the meetings are an opportunity to showcase the city as a financial center and base for doing business in Asia. Singapore is ranked second, after Hong Kong, in terms of economic freedom by the Heritage Foundation, and was named the best place in the world for Asians to live in a survey released in April by human resource consultancy ECA International.

Still, the city also has a reputation for being rule-bound and punitive, meting out penalties for misdemeanors ranging from spitting to littering. Amnesty International says the government curbs freedom of expression and in a 2005 report on human rights in the city, the U.S. Department of State cited ``restriction of freedom of assembly and freedom of association'' as a problem.

``It is a good opportunity for the Singapore government to show the international community that Singapore is in line with international laws in this aspect, not just in their infrastructure and economy,'' Fernando said.

Both the IMF and World Bank said Singapore's law on public assembly wasn't a factor in choosing the city-state as a venue for the meetings, which will be held at Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Centre.

The indoor protests will be restricted to part of the lobby area, the police said last month.


How hypocritical of the WorldBank / IMF! They are the ones who have chosen a safe haven like Singapore to hold the meeting and now, they are trying to gain favor with the civil societies by urging the Singapore police to allow the protest.

What a stage, what an act! The show has gone on for far too long.

To protest on Batam Island or Singapore. You decide.

Technorati Tags: , , and .

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Global Protests Set At IMF / WB Annual Meet

A TOTAL of 350 organizations from 74 countries will be mounting global protests against the International Monetary Fund-World Bank during the latter's annual meetings in Singapore next month, the Jubilee South announced Tuesday.

At a press conference, Jubilee South convenor Lidy Nacpil said the twin initiatives -- the Global Actions against International Financial Institutions (IFIs) from September 14 to 20 throughout the world and the International People's Forum against IMF-WB from September 15 to 17 in Batam, Indonesia -- are demanding:

• immediate and 100 percent cancellation of multilateral debts claimed from the South without externally imposed conditions;

• open, transparent, and participatory external audit of all IFIs;

• a stop to privatization of basic services like power and water;

• a stop to funding environmentally destructive projects like dams, gas, and mining; and

• a stop to conditions that exacerbate the health crises such as requiring user fees for public education and health care services.

Nacpil admitted the difficulties in organizing protest actions in Singapore because of the city-state's strict internal security policy.

“More than the deportation is the fine,” she said, noting that in Singapore, three persons wearing the same colored shirts are considered staging a mass action.

Milo Tanchuling, convenor to the forum and secretary general of the Freedom from Debt Coalition, said local protest actions were being planned starting September 11.

“This is not because of 9/11, but because of the birthday of former dictator [Ferdinand] Marcos, whose policy of borrowing started all this,” Tanchuling said, adding that the Philippines has a standing national government debt of 3.8 trillion pesos and a public debt of 5.9 trillion pesos.

Tanchuling said 32 percent or about 300 billion pesos of the annual budget automatically goes to debt payment.

9/11 refers to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks in the United States. September 11 is also the birthday of the late Marcos, the Philippine president for at least 20 years before his ouster in 1986 by a bloodless people power revolt.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , and .

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Convention Hotels for WB / IMF Meeting in Singapore

Yes, while more then 10 000 delegates rest themselves in swanky hotels such as Ritz-Carlton which command up to USD 185 per stay, we have come up with a list of hotels fit for down-to-earth folks like you and us.

The red star on the map marks the convention venue.

The Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Center

1. Allson Hotel, 101 Victoria Street from USD 80
2. Bayview Hotel, 30 Bencoolen Street from USD 84
3. Beach Hotel, 95 Beach Road, from USD 53
4. Carlton Hotel, 76 Bras Basah Road from USD 123
5. Excelsior Hotel, 5 Coleman Street from USD 102
6. Hotel Grand Central, 22 Cavenagh Road from USD 78
7. Hotel Hamilton, 40 Hamilton Road from USD 32
8. Hotel Royal @ Queens, 12 Queen Street from USD 82
9. Metropole Hotel, 41 Seah Street from USD 65
10. Oxford Hotel, 218 Queen Street from USD 52
11. Park View Hotel, 81 Beach Road from USD 58
12. South East Asia Hotel, 190 Waterloo Street from USD 51
13. Strand Hotel, 25 Bencoolen Street from USD 67

These hotels are relatively near the convention area, Suntec Singapore International Convention & Exhibition Center. Getting to the convention area would not be a problem. From the map, Excelsior Hotel seems to be 1 km away from the convention center itself. See you when we see you.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Irony of the Pansy IMF

There's something highly ironic about the location of the International Monetary Fund's annual meeting next month: Southeast Asia.

With the 10th anniversary of the start of the Asian crisis approaching, the IMF is returning to the scene of the crime, so to speak. It botched its response to turmoil that began in Thailand, Indonesia and South Korea and shoulder-checked markets a world away. Its multibillion-dollar bailouts came with rigid policy requirements that worsened the crisis.

Yet the bigger irony is that the IMF is heading to Singapore, cap-in-hand, looking for a bailout of its own. It's not money the Washington-based institution needs; it's a mission.

Several years of global calm have left the IMF with a relevance problem. Healthy growth and greater liquidity in capital markets mean its well-trained, amply paid army of Ph.D.s have few financial brushfires to put out.

With participation in its loan programs at the lowest level in decades, the IMF is facing an identity crisis. Its loss of clout has been surprisingly rapid.

In 1994 and 1995, it extended nearly $18 billion to Mexico, followed by more than $35 billion to Indonesia, Korea and Thailand. After that, Argentina and Brazil kept IMF officials plenty busy. So did Russia, an economy that in the late 1990s was deemed too nuclear to fail. As recently as April 2000, the IMF had loan programs with 25 countries, worth nearly $81 billion; 11 of them exceeded $1 billion.

Today, it has programs of any significance with only a handful of countries. The IMF does its best to put on a good face. Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato was in Tokyo last week, doing just that. His basic retort to arguments the IMF is irrelevant is that making fewer loans doesn't reduce its role in the global financial system.

The reality is more complex. In recent years, more and more economies have blown off the IMF's prescriptions. Amid healthy global growth, IMF is more of an observer of global trends than an overseer of them. How can the IMF carry a big stick when it has so few carrots out there?

Asia still mulls creating a regional bailout fund that would further sideline the IMF. Getting out from under IMF programs drove some governments here to pay back their loans early. And clearly, Malaysia's move in 1998 to peg its currency wasn't the disaster the IMF feared. One wonders how many Asian nations, faced with another crisis, would turn to the IMF.

Even so, a question must be asked: is the IMF irrelevant, or merely waiting in the wings for the next global crisis? While it's probably more the latter than the former, the IMF needs to step up efforts to restore its clout.

The currency-reserve arms race that's swept Asia since 1997 is a clear sign of IMF distrust. Korea, for example, is sitting on $225 billion of reserves. Holding vast reserves is expensive and inefficient, and yet Asians are amassing ever bigger amounts. The IMF is often viewed as the global economy's fire brigade. Now, Asian nations want their own fire trucks.

If the IMF is indeed irrelevant, it's less because of its missteps than rising currency reserves. The thing is, if the Bretton Woods system hadn't been created after World War II, many governments and investors would probably be arguing for an IMF-like organization. It's not a perfect, efficient operation and it's made its share of mistakes, yet it's better to have it than not.

The IMF's phones could be ringing again if the U.S. dollar crash economists have predicted for years unfolds. The same is true if China suddenly spiraled into crisis or terrorist attacks slammed global markets. What if the energy-price doomsayers are right that crude oil is headed above $100 a barrel?

The IMF needs to work harder to stay relevant, though, and it should use its Sept. 19-20 meeting to do just that. An obvious way is to step up the process of changing the system by which it allocates voting shares to members. Given the trajectory of global growth, does it really make sense for China to have barely more IMF votes than Belgium and fewer than Italy?

Developing nations doing the most to affect global trends are vastly underrepresented, while European ones with little influence are overrepresented. Singapore offers the perfect opportunity to repair this growing inequity.

The institution that was the brainchild of economist John Maynard Keynes also should go further in reducing its surveillance on individual economies. After all, it's never been known for its ability to predict or prevent crises.

Rather than churning out mountains of reports on this nation or that one, a more panoramic view would help. The IMF should accelerate the shift toward tracking cracks in the global system and how they could affect economies.

Independence is part of it. The IMF really should be more vocal about the risks U.S. current-account and budget deficits pose to global stability. The same is true of China's rickety financial system and its controversial currency policy. It's not about doing the U.S.'s bidding and demanding China let the yuan rise. It's about exploring and explaining the risks of the issue.

Having a more collaborative relationship with members would bode well for the IMF's future. Of course, so would having more borrowers. Without them, the IMF has few ways to influence economies doing the wrong things. The IMF sure does have its work cut out in Asia next month finding ways to stay relevant.

Technorati Tags: , , and .

Friday, August 04, 2006

International People’s Forum vs the World Bank / IMF

If any of us activists are put off by the oppressive laws of host nation Singapore for this year’s IMF / WB meeting, we are in luck this year. An alternative forum, yes another platform for us where can freely express ourselves has arrived. The International People Forum (IPF) deliberately clashes with the IMF / WB meeting.

International People’s Forum vs the World Bank / IMF

This September 2006, the IMF and the World Bank will be holding their Annual Meeting in Singapore on September 19-20. In the spirit of resistance to neoliberal policies and in keeping with the history of people’s struggles worldwide against economic domination, Asian movements together with an international group of networks, movements, campaigns and NGOs will be convening an International Peoples Forum vs the IMF and the World Bank on September 15 to 17. The Forum will be a convergence of activities and actions that articulate critiques, express protest and assert alternatives to the role, policies and operations of these institutions.


Batam: Venue of the International Peoples Forum

The main site of the IPF is Batam, Indonesia, which is 30-40 minutes ferry ride from Singapore. Other activities may also be held in Singapore.

Batam is approximately 30 minutes from Singapore. Round trip ferry ride to Singapore is around US$ 16, not including cost of Indonesian visa on arrival for those who require it. From Singapore international airport (Changi), you can take a bus or taxi to the pier.

The IPF site in Batam is located within walking distance to shops and to the pier (for the ferry rides to and from Singapore).


Please register with the International Forum organizers if you are planning on attending the events in Batam. Please download and email the registration form to (This is the same document as is posted under Calendar of Events above; document contains both event and participant registration forms). Download the invite here.

Convenors of the IPF:

1. INFID Indonesia
2. Freedom from Debt Coalition Philippines
3. Jubilee South Asia/Pacific Movement on Debt and Development (JS APMDD) Africa Jubilee South
4. Jubilee South Americas
5. KAU Indonesia
6. Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
7. Focus on the Global South
8. Forum Asia
9. GCAP Asia
10. South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)
11. LDC Watch
12. La Via Campesina
13. Solidarity Africa Network
14. Southern Africa Peoples Solidarity Network
15. African Forum on Debt and Development
16. 50 Years is Enough Network
17. Jubilee USA Network
18. European Network on Debt and Development (EURODAD)
19. Bretton Woods Project (BWP)
20. Bank Information Center (BIC)
21. Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM)
22. NGO Forum on the ADB
23. Social Watch International
24. Action Aid International
25. Friends of the Earth International
26. Greenpeace International Gender and Trade Network International (IGTN)
27. Oilwatch International
28. Oil Change International
29. Development GAP
30. Networkers South-North
31. Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale (CRBM)
32. Si Ala Vida No Alas IFIs Southern Peoples Ecological Debt Creditors Alliance (SPEDCA)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , and .