BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Business
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Market Data 
Your Money 
Business Basics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

The BBC's Rob Watson
"The beginning perhaps of a week of anarchy in the US capital"
 real 28k

Monday, 10 April, 2000, 10:55 GMT 11:55 UK
World Bank under siege
Protestors want debt relief for poor countries
Protestors want debt relief for poor countries
Campaigners from around the world are targeting the spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank for a series of mass protests.

They are hoping to repeat the success of the demonstrations at the world trade talks in Seattle in December, which succeeded in disrupting the meeting, which ultimately collapsed without agreement.

Chinese worker with bicycle parts
US unions fear trade with China will cost jobs
The protestors say that the World Bank and IMF are the enemies of poor people in developing countries, and put forward policies that harm the environment.

They also want more democratic control of the institutions that control the world economy, and oppose globalisation which they say is carried out in the interests of large multinational companies.

On Sunday a few thousand protestors gathered on a chilly day to surround the US Capital with a human chain to urge full-scale debt relief for the world's poorest countries.

More demonstrations expected

But many more are expected during the week, culminating in a wolrdwide day of direct action being coordinated on the internet by the shadowy "A16" mobilisation for global justice group.

Workers' rights worldwide are a key issue
Workers' rights worldwide are a key issue

The IMF acting managing director, Stanley Fisher, has already environmental and development groups in March to try and convince them that the organisation was sympathetic to their concerns.

Police chief Charles Ramsey says his forces have spent $1m on riot gear and training, and there will be no repeat of the 1960s, when Washington was paralysed by anti-Vietnam War demonstrations. .

One group is even trying to organise a boycott of bonds issued by the World Bank on global capital markets to fund its opposition, with some US local governments pledging not to buy the bonds.

IMF, World Bank out of favour

The demonstrations come at a sensitive time for the Bank and Fund, which have come under pressure from developing countries for failing to help enough during the Asian crisis, and from right-wing critics in the US Congresss.

Ethiopian famine victim
Protestors say IMF polices harm the poor
They have also come under attack for going slow on commitments on debt relief, which has sparked worldwide support under Jubilee 2000.

Later in the week, UK Chancellor Gordon Brown will attempt to persuade fellow finance ministers to speed up plans to forgive the debts of the world's poorest countries as part of the Jubilee 2000 campaign.

Already an influential report by Professor Allen Meltzer, which has the backing of US Congressional Republicans, has called for a radical scaling down of the operations of the World Bank and IMF.

An unseemly squabble between the United States and Europe over the next head the IMF has also damaged the credibility of the organisation.

The US blocked the first candidate proposed by Germany, deputy finance minister Caio Koch-Weiser, and only belatedly agreed to another German, Hans Kohler, the head of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, after a serious diplomatic row.

Nothing for poor countries

Meanwhile, hopes that poor countries would be given a bigger say in the global economic system have been dashed again.

The World Bank and IMF have been working behind the scence on a proposal to ensure that the world's 58 poorest countries can gain tariff-free access to Western markets.

But the United States administration, frightened by a protectionist backlash in Congress in an election year, has been quietly sabotaging the proposals, aided and abetted by Japan and France.

The US is opposed to developing countries' textile and clothing exports gaining free access to US markets, while France and Japan fear exports of agricultural products from the Third World.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

07 Apr 00 | Business
WTO breakdown warning
23 Mar 00 | Business
Growing row over IMF role
15 Feb 00 | Business
Warning over 'casino economy'
24 Sep 99 | The Economy
Reforming the IMF
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to other Business stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Business stories