Life and Debt

Life and Debt is a 2001 American documentary film directed by Stephanie Black. It examines the economic and social situation in Jamaica, and specifically the impact thereon of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank’s globalization policies. Its starting point is the essay A Small Place by Jamaica Kincaid.*

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The Other Debt Crisis: Climate Debt

With the Cancun UN climate conference only weeks away now, the brilliant Avi Lewis travels to Bolivia to explore the country’s climate crusade from the inside on this edition of Al Jazeera’s Fault Lines.

The climate crisis in Bolivia is not a headline or an abstraction – it is playing out in people’s lives in real time. Melting glaciers are threatening the water supply of the country’s two biggest cities. Increasing droughts and floods are playing havoc with agriculture. So it is no surprise that in climate negotiations, Bolivia is emerging as a leader in the global south – advancing both radical solutions and analysis that make rich countries distinctly nervous.

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A Global Recovery Needs A Global Response

Amidst the ongoing financial crisis, Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz writes that in the modern era of globalization it is developing countries which provided important engines for economic growth, and therefore any global recovery will only be achieved in which they play a central role. The G20 continues to lack the political legitimacy required to represent so many citizens outwith their own borders, in which they channel their recovery packages through the IMF, an organisation whose policies “remain controversial-so much so that many countries are reluctant to turn to it for assistance”. Stiglitz writes:

This is not only the worse global economic downturn of the post World War era, it is also the first serious global downturn of the modern era of globalization. There is need for a global response to this global downturn. But our responses are framed at the national level, and often take insufficient account of the effect on others. The result is that there is less coordination than there should be, a smaller stimulus than would be optimal-and well less designed. Every crisis comes to an end, and this one will too. But a poorly designed stimulus means that the downturn will last longer, and the recovery will be slower, and more innocent victims will be hurt badly. Among the innocent victims of this crisis are the many developing countries-even countries that have had good regulatory and macro-economic policies-far better than those pursued by the US and some European countries-are being badly affected. While in the US, a financial crisis transformed itself into an economic crisis, in many developing countries, the economic downturn is creating a financial crisis. While the U.S. may have the resources to bail out its banks and to stimulate its economy, the developing countries cannot. Continue reading “A Global Recovery Needs A Global Response”

Financial Barbarians at the Gate

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The Financial Barbarians at the Gate is a Guns and Butter interview with economist / historian Michael Hudson.  In it he discusses the historical takeover of the economy by the finance sector.

Financial Barbarians at the Gate (59:53): MP3

One point of note is that the illegal war of aggression in Iraq is not a war related to economics but to the strategic interests of Israel.  Hudson, explaining American Imperialism, states that “unlike England the United States didn’t have to invade countries, at least before the oil grab in Iraq” and instead drained countries through the US monetary system.  It’s revealing that he suggests Iraq as a change in economic policy, it was not about economics, the oil lobby in Washington didn’t want a war, they wanted an end to brutal sanctions to gain conventional access to the oil.

The IMF Rules the World

Michael Hudson writes that “in a nutshell, the solution to a debt crisis is to be yet more debt. If debtors can’t pay out of what they are able to earn, lend them enough to keep current on their carrying charges. Collateralize this with their property, their public domain, their political autonomy – their democracy itself.”

Not much substantive news was expected to come out of the G-20 meetings that ended on April 2 in London – certainly no good news was even suggested. Europe, China and the United States had too deeply distinct interests. American diplomats wanted to lock foreign countries into further dependency on paper dollars. The rest of the world sought a way to avoid giving up real output and ownership of their resources and enterprises for yet more hot-potato dollars. In such cases one expects a parade of smiling faces and statements of mutual respect for each others’ position – so much respect that they have agreed to set up a “study group” or two to kick the diplomatic ball down the road.

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