The Guardian September 13, 2000

Prague: Can the IMF be reformed?

by Norbert Stary*

The question of the day is: Can the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and 
the World Bank (WB) be reformed? Can they be transformed into 
democratically controlled institutions serving the interests of the 
majority of the world's people?

Young radicals like the Czech student Alice Dvorska, press spokesperson of 
the Initiative against Economic Globalisation, are clear: "They are 
unreformable institutions representing the interests of transnational 

But some more established theoreticians on the Left (and also even on the 
Right) are calling for reform of the world's financial institutions.

Can a tiger become a vegetarian?

The most drastic forms of pauperisation can be modified on the principle 
that you don't milk a milch cow dry. But that's all.

Any attempt to fundamentally change the character of these institutions  
by transforming them into democratically controlled institutions serving 
the interests of the majority of humanity  is like trying to turn a tiger 
into a vegetarian.

It's just not on. The tiger's stomach simply can't cope with a vegetable 
diet. Its organism is structured for hunting and meat-eating, and if a 
tiger's a tiger, it has to have meat.

The IMF and the World Bank talk about "cancelling" the debts of the poorest 
countries. But when we get down to the nitty-gritty, we find that they will 
only agree to this if the usual IMF conditions are accepted: more 
privatisation, including privatisation of public services, more cuts in 
public spending, further closures (in the poorest countries!) of cash-
strapped institutions providing health care, education, etc.

Private ownership

The IMF's organism is geared to maximising the profits of transnational 
corporations which want the rest of the world completely privatised at 
knock-down prices.

For the IMF to be capable of behaving otherwise, it would have to become a 
totally different organisation.

The deeper meaning of the struggle against the IMF, the World Bank and 
globalisation is that it is a struggle against private ownership which 
inevitably leads to concentration of capital in the hands of transnational 
corporations, on the one hand, and to mass poverty, on the other.

The leaders of the IMF won't agree to this, no matter how often they say 
they want to help the poor.

* * *
*This is an abridged translation of an article by Norbert Stary which appeared in the Czech left-wing daily Halo Noviny on August 23, courtesy of Postmark Praha

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