By J. Yanqui Zaza
Mr. Paul Wolfowitz, former President of the World Bank, might be cringing if he thought that his hard work would not have helped former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to succeed in Liberia, making this the first success story of the World Bank.
Mr. Wolfowitz visited Liberia on several missions when the country was with out electricity; he helped in encouraging creditors to cancel Liberia’s US $4.5 billion debt; won over reluctant financial donors towards Liberia; and he provided promotional praises for President Sirleaf.
But, instead of a success story, Mr. Wolfowitz might be surprised to learn that a growing number of Liberians think that the World Bank is not a philanthropic institution created to fight poverty.
Yes, the claim “to reduce poverty” might have been propaganda, but surely, the architects knew that the World Bank, along with its sister International Institutions, could use the movement of money to weaken countries as well as poor people.
Since its inception in 1943, the Bank, acting in concert with the International Monetary Fund, have imposed very harsh lending conditions on poor countries creating immense hardships to the point where many people have now begun to reject the false story of the Bank.
For instance, three different individuals, speaking in the month of December 2017, added their voices to many others who have exposed the Bank as the source of Africa’s problems. On December 11, 2017, Dr. Thomas Jaye, the Director of Policy Support and Consultancy Services at the Kofi Annan International Peace Training Center, speaking at the Commencement Convocation at Liberia’s College of the University of Liberia, stated that the World Bank and others are barriers to development in Africa.
They use the arrangement of money to impose inimical policies on African countries, he added. In less than three days, the World Bank, again, came under fire from the well respected Ghanaian, President Nana Akufo-AddoAdo.
Addressing the 98th Commencement Exercises of the University of Liberia in Monrovia on December 13, 2017, President Akufo-Addo stated that the economic theory of the World Bank coerced Africans to produce and export raw materials.
Africans must transform the structure of African economies to better serve the needs of the African people, he stated. On December 15, 2017, the exposure of the World Bank continued at the Governance Commission Seminar organized to provide current monetary position of the country and the way forward to the leaders of the two political parties preparing for the 2017 Liberian Presidential runoff.
Mr. J. Yanqui Zaza, serving as the lead panelist, wondered if the World Bank knew or cared not to know when its client (i.e., Liberia) and big business (i.e., de facto parent) signed 62 fraudulent concessionary agreements during the administration of President Sirleaf — one of the darling Presidents of big business.
Mr. Zaza asked if it were possible for a profit-making entity, such as the World Bank, to become a true arbiter; especially so if it is responsible to decide on issues between its poor client (i.e., Liberia) and its rich creditor (i.e., Bridgestone or Mittal Steel)? For example, how could the Bank be honest since its profit is made from money borrowed from big businesses and lent to Liberia?
Could the Bank not be involved in bad business practices since it owns behemoth/powerful non-governmental agencies? The former chief executive of the Liberian National Oil Company, Mr. Robert Sirleaf, son of the former Liberian President, Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, stated that he was not the person who wrote the Liberian new petroleum law.
In a YouTube video, Mr. Sirleaf said: “…It was the World Bank’s consultant that wrote the new Petroleum Law. They are not there to operate in Liberia’s interest; they are going to operate in their business interest. That is what they were hired to do…”
Mr. Zaza did not end his inquiry of the World Bank there. For instance, he asked how come the World Bank sees no corruption on Wall Street or why it advises poor countries to pay excessive salaries to a few privileged government officials, a sources of corruption, but at the same time calls on bureaucrats to downsize poor employees?
More so, the World Bank has developed a new borrowing scheme that encourages poor countries to increase their debts, an arrangement that generates huge profit for the Bank at the expense of the ordinary man. This borrowing scheme is the Special Drawing Rights (SDR), a privilege which is similar to credit card privilege or a bank overdraft privilege.
However, unlike credit card or bank overdraft, where the beneficiary does not increase his/her assets, the Guidelines of the World Bank permit a borrowing country to overstate its assets by including SDRs. This method is used to determine a country’s “Net International Exchange Reserves Position, which usually misleads stakeholders into believing that a country has positive cash balances, hence, it could afford to borrow more money.
Perhaps such could explain the US$155 million former President Sirleaf claims she left in the nation’s coffers. Mr. George Will, a columnist of the Newsweek, explains the philosophy behind this arrangement of money.
In his book called “The Leveling Wind.” He said since an activist government will reduce wealth for profiteers, therefore, businesses would use the movement of money to weaken government from becoming an impartial arbiter.
Subsequent to Mr. Zaza’s presentation, Mr. Emmanuel Feuderthal and Alloycious David, in a March 21, 2017 article, identified the World Bank as a greedy investor, according to Reuters. The authors stated that New Liberty Gold has the backing of the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, which since 2014 invested $19 million and became a key shareholder.
New Liberty also invested $3.9 million in Kinjor, the Liberian gold mining company in Kinjor, Cape Mount County. Kinjor, the mining Company, is not only polluting the environment, but it is displacing residents.
In fact, the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim in 2015, has acknowledged that the “World Bank has displaced more than three million people between 2004 and 2013 in 124 countries, according to data published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.”
And in March 2016 an accident at New Liberty Gold mine released cyanide and arsenic, by-products of the mining process, into a nearby river that serves villages downstream. In Jikando, where people use its water to fish, bathe and wash clothes, they began to see dead fish floating.
Soon, they started developing skin rashes themselves,” they added. They have since received nothing in compensation for the damage caused to the environment and the physical harm they suffered.
And so the question remains whether the World Bank is a true friend or a Wolf in sheep’s clothing, awaiting the slightest opportunity to devour our resources for its own benefit.