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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The IMF & Mass Unemployment

More from Naomi's Klein's Shock Doctrine:

Between 1996 and 1998, $600 billion disappeared from the stock markets of Asia in a financial panic stemming from a rumor that Thailand did not have enough dollars to back up its currency, most of it withdrawn by corporate traders and international financial institutions in 1997. This economic crisis led countries from Thailand to South Korea to Indonesia to turn to the International Monetary Fund for financial aid. The IMF granted the aid, but on the condition that these countries restructure their economies in ways that, among other things, facilitated investment in or the sale of their indigenous industries by offshore investment firms and multinational corporations. Klein writes (pp. 263-278):

"As far as the IMF was concerned, the crisis was going extremely well. In less than a year, it had negotiated the economic equivalent of extreme makeovers for Thailand, Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines . . . The human costs of the IMF's opportunism were nearly as devastating in Asia as in Russia. The International Labor Organization estimates that a staggering 24 million people lost their jobs in this period and that Indonesia's unemployment rate increased from 4 to 12 percent. Thailand was losing 2,000 jobs a day at the height of the "reforms"--60,000 a month. In South Korea, 300,000 workers were fired every month--largely the result of the IMF's totally unnecessary demands to slash government budgets and hike interest rates. By 1999, South Korea's and Indonesia's unemployment rates had nearly tripled in only two years . . . As is always the case, women and children suffered the worst of the crisis. Many rural families in the Philippines and South Korea sold their daughters to human traffickers who took them to work in the sex trade in Australia, Europe and North America. In Thailand, public health officials reported a 20 percent increase in child prostitution in just one year--the year after the IMF reforms . . . The Korean titan Samsung ... was broken up and sold for parts: Volvo got its heavy industry division, SC Johnson & Son its pharmaceutical arm, General Electric its lighting division. A few years later, Daewoo's once-mighty car division, which the company had valued at $6 billion, was sold off to GM for just $400 million . . . Other big players who got a piece of the Asian distress sale included Seagram's, Hewlet-Packard, Nestlé, Interbrew and Novartis, Carrefour, Tesco and Ericsson. Coca-Cola bought a Korean bottling company for half a billion dollars; Procter and Gamble bought a Korean packaging company; Nissan bought one of Indonesia's largest car companies. General Electric acquired a controlling stake in Korea's refrigerator manufacturer LG; and Britain's Powergen nabbed LG Energy, a large Korean electricity-and-gas company . . . Bechtel got the contract to privatize the water and sewage systems in eastern Manila . . . Motorola got full control over Korea's Appeal Telecom. The New York-based energy giant Sithe got a large stake in Thailand's public gas company, the Cogeneration. Indonesia's water systems were split between Britain's Thames Water and France's Lyonnaise des Eaux. Canada's Westcoast Energy snapped up a huge Indonesia power plant project. British Telecom purchased a large stake in Both Malaysia's and Korea's postal services [ ! ]. Bell Canada got a piece of Korea's telecom Hansol . . . Employment rates have still not reached pre-1997 levels in Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea . . . The truth is that Asia's crisis is still not over, a decade later. When 24 million people lose their jobs in a span of two years, a new desperation takes root that no culture can easily absorb . . . The layoffs have continued, with new foreign owners demanding ever-higher profits for their investments. The suicides have also continued: in South Korea, suicide is now the fourth most common cause of death, with thirty-eight people taking their own lives every day . . . And [NY Times columnist] Thomas Friedman . . . declared that what happened in Asia wasn't a crisis at all. 'I believe globalization did us all a favor by melting down the economies of Thailand, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia and Brazil in the 1990s, because it laid bare a lot of rotten practices [such as capital controls that would limit investment by offshore predators in national industries!] and institutions,' he wrote, adding that 'exposing the crony capitalism in Korea was no crisis in my book.' "

As a Republican, John McCain would of course support unregulated corporate globalization, irrespective of the cost in human suffering.

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