IMF Imperialism in Haiti

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Mar 102010
 
Authors: Wade McManus

The international lending institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), is at work again with its one trick pony show. This Western imperialist machine’s gears continue to manufacture “rapidly developing” economies.

Many of the globe’s poorest nations have accused the IMF of spreading a new form of colonialism, one not necessarily controlled by military force, but like a puppet connected to strings. To gain power and influence the IMF offers extremely impoverished and disaster stricken nations loans they can’t afford to refuse.

To save their nation from immediate hardships of malnutrition, widespread disease and the like, countries almost invariably accept loans.

The problem is the IMF doesn’t offer these loans with sheer generosity and humanitarianism, but with the aims of opening up their economy to the free global market. Their loan is completely conditional to radical changes in their economy.

Haiti is undoubtedly impoverished, beginning with their independence from the French. But conditions worsened and they became the poorest nation in the western hemisphere. Even before the earthquake that has recently left their country in ruin, the IMF had intervened in Haiti.

During the 1990s, Haiti was given a loan in the hundreds of millions of dollars. In return, Haiti had to perform the classical change dictated by the IMF, the removal of barriers for international trade.

In this case Haiti was forced to remove tariffs, or fees on international producers, on rice. Historically Haiti was a leading producer in rice, making enough to feed themselves, and to sell the excess.

But this all changed quickly.

Suddenly the price of Haitian rice plummeted, heavily decreasing production. Meanwhile, the United States began to heavily subsidize rice production in the U.S., artificially reducing the price of production.

The price was so deflated that the U.S. overproduced rice and dumped it on Haiti, only further driving down the value of Haiti’s own rice. This trend virtually halted production of rice in Haiti, forcing them to buy form the U.S. and others. This lead to the crash of Haiti’s primary economic sector and food shortages, eventually ending in food riots.

Now after the earthquake, the IMF is again on the prowl, further straddling Haiti with new loans and new strings attached.

Initially it seemed the IMF was doing this in good faith, announcing that all debt would be forgiven. The global community applauded them for their generosity.
But now, only shortly after, the IMF has begun to back peddle. Instead of forgiving the debt, Haiti would not have to pay on it for five years, which again changed to three years. But inevitably Haiti will be responsible to their lenders.

You may be asking yourself, “So, why is this important now?”

Well it turns out Haiti is sitting on black gold, a massive oil reserve that rivals Venezuela’s. This presents the opportunity for the IMF to turn their second favorite trick — the liquidation of natural resources.

As a condition to receive a loan, the IMF often requires countries to sell their natural resources for dirt-cheap. Private corporations can bid for access to theses resources at a much lower price than their true value. The idea is immediate payment towards the loans.

But it isn’t a stretch to believe that Haiti, a country greatly in need of wealth, will be forced to practically give away its most valuable resources.

If Haiti were in condition to tap into the oil reserves on their own they could afford reconstruction overtime. But bound by these loans, the great puppet masters are sure to manipulate Haiti into giving up their untapped treasure.

A humanitarian obligation and a heavy heart is hardly the reason for the IMF to get involved in Haiti. Rather it is to spread what some activists have called “disaster-capitalism.”

The western imperialist machine is using the tragedy that has rocked the very foundation of Haiti to cheaply gain access to valuable resources for the western superpowers.

_Wade McManus is a senior political science major. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com. _

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