Global Research, December 17, 2014
The following text is the forward to Ernst Wolff’s book entitled : Pillaging the World. The History and Politics of the IMF, © Tectum Verlag Marburg, 2014, ISBN 978-3-8288-3438-5, www.tectum-verlag.de. The book is available in English and German
No other financial organization has affected the lives of the majority of the world’s population more profoundly over the past fifty years than the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Since its inception after World War II, it has expanded its sphere of influence to the remotest corners of the earth. Its membership currently includes 188 countries on five continents.
For decades, the IMF has been active mainly in Africa, Asia and South America. There is hardly a country on these continents where its policies have not been carried out in close cooperation with the respective national governments. When the global financial crisis broke out in 2007, the IMF turned its attention to northern Europe. Since the onset of the Euro crisis in 2009, its primary focus has shifted to southern Europe.
Officially, the IMF’s main task consists in stabilizing the global financial system and helping out troubled countries in times of crisis. In reality, its operations are more reminiscent of warring armies. Wherever it intervenes, it undermines the sovereignty of states by forcing them to implement measures that are rejected by the majority of the population, thus leaving behind a broad trail of economic and social devastation.
In pursuing its objectives, the IMF never resorts to the use of weapons or soldiers. It simply applies the mechanisms of capitalism, specifically those of credit. Its strategy is as simple as it is effective: When a country runs into financial difficulties, the IMF steps in and provides support in the form of loans. In return, it demands the enforcement of measures that serve to ensure the country’s solvency in order to enable it to repay these loans.
Because of its global status as “lender of last resort” governments usually have no choice but to accept the IMF’s offer and submit to its terms – thus getting caught in a web of debt, which they, as a result of interest, compound interest and principal, get deeper and deeper entangled in. The resulting strain on the state budget and the domestic economy inevitably leads to a deterioration of their financial situation, which the IMF in turn uses as a pretext for demanding ever new concessions in the form of “austerity programs”.
The consequences are disastrous for the ordinary people of the countries affected (which are mostly low-income) because their governments all follow the same pattern, passing the effects of austerity on to wage earners and the poor.
In this manner, IMF programs have cost millions of people their jobs, denied them access to adequate health care, functioning educational systems and decent housing. They have rendered their food unaffordable, increased homelessness, robbed old people of the fruits of life-long work, favored the spread of diseases, reduced life expectancy and increased infant mortality.
At the other end of the social scale, however, the policies of the IMF have helped a tiny layer of ultra-rich increase their vast fortunes even in times of crisis. Its measures have contributed decisively to the fact that global inequality has assumed historically unprecedented levels. The income difference between a sun king and a beggar at the end of the Middle Ages pales compared to the difference between a hedge fund manager and a social welfare recipient of today.
Although these facts are universally known and hundreds of thousands have protested the effects of its measures in past decades, often risking their lives, the IMF tenaciously clings on to its strategy. Despite all criticism and despite the strikingly detrimental consequences of its actions, it still enjoys the unconditional support of the governments of all leading industrial nations.
Why? How can it be that an organization that causes such immense human suffering around the globe continues to act with impunity and with the backing of the most powerful forces of our time? In whose interest does the IMF work? Who benefits from its actions?