SchNEWS Of The World


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States Of Unrest

THE A to Z of Resistance To The IMF/World Bank in the global 'south'.

The Empire has found that it doesn't always need to pull out the guns to get control of countries and extract their goods when economic 'persuasion' will do, and has intitutionalised this process - with the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and World Bank. Lend money on the pretext of helping the country 'compete in the modern world' - and have them paying the loan off - or at least servicing the interest - for evermore. Chances are anyway that the money went into weapons which are keeping that regime of choice in power, or infrastructure like roads which that multinational corporation needs to do its dirty work. Once you've got that country in debt you can really put the clappers on them: start dictating how far they have to tighten their belt to repay you by imposing wage restrictions and spending cuts. Then enforce privatisation which lets you and your corporate mates come in, own and control vital services like water, prizing a country bit by bit from its people, bumping up the prices up to suit while you're at it. And then get on with the reason you're actually there: to help yourself to that country's natural resources and cheap labour force. Cos these people owe you something and how else are they going to repay the loan?

The IMF acts as a 'gatekeeper' between funding bodies and countries, dictates the conditions of loans, gives its seal of approval to governments who follow the neo-liberal line and lets the international financing community know which countries are 'good-for-business.' Developing countries have few choices - either implement the policies or risk economic isolation, and most governments choose the IMF over their own people. While governments are held responsible for the social and economic upheaval that may result, the IMF and World Bank were escaping largely unscathed - but no longer. People are now making the link between the fact that their water costs ten times more and what the IMF and World Bank is doing in their neighbourhood.

Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) are what get imposed on countries - recently renamed Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) (that's catchy - ed) - and they tend to include these elements:

* Reduced government expenditure, leading to public-sector redundancies, freezing of salaries, and cutbacks in health, education and social welfare services;

* The privatisation of state-run industries, leading to massive lay-offs with no social security provision and the loss of 'inefficient' services to remote or poor areas;

* Currency devaluation and export promotion, leading to the soaring cost of imports, land use changed for cash crops, and reliance on international commodity markets;

* The raising of interest rates to tackle inflation, putting small companies out of business;

* The removal of price controls, leading to rapid price rises for basic goods and services.

To find out more about the wheeler-dealings of the IMF see the interview in this book with Greg Palast 'Four Steps To Heaven'.

For a full copy of this thorough report 'States Of Unrest II', and 'States Of Unrest' - the equivalent report from 2000 - visit

See also SchNEWS 256, 272, 277, 292, 306, 345, 350

This article gives country reports in two parts - first part is the IMF and Government rhetoric, the second part is what the people of these countries are doing in response.


Suits You Sir

IMF policy context: The Government of Angola noted that, "governance and transparency of public sector operations; the divestiture of state assets; the strategy for public banks; fuel prices and public utility tariffs" are key economic and structural reforms. The IMF "stressed the importance of adhering to a prudent wage policy, keeping overall public spending in check."

Thanks but no thanks

January 8th 2001: Angolan public sector workers go on general strike, in most provinces, in reaction to Government proposals to lower the minimum monthly salary. The strike continues for at least four days. The state-sponsored media refuse to report the event.

August 2001: Teachers in Angola stage a three-day strike demanding better wages. Their union, SINPROF, say that the Education Ministry has not paid them the agreed wage package. The Ministry denounces the strike as illegal.


(see also SchNEWS 350 in SchNEWS Of The World, or this website)

Suits US Sir

IMF policy context: Argentina has experienced acute economic crisis over the last three years. After continued crisis talks throughout 2001, the IMF agreed a $21.57 billion loan in September. The loan was granted to, "ensure the sustainability of the public debt" and was made on a variety of conditions. These conditions include making "labour markets more flexible" and that "primary spending will be cut. [including] an across-the board cut of 13 percent in unprotected primary spending, including wages and pensions". The IMF congratulated the Government on, "obtaining limited emergency powers to legislate by decree on tax policy and on the reform of the public sector". In December 2001, Argentina defaulted on its debts, announcing effective national bankruptcy.

We're Not Having It

March 2001: On the 22 March, students and the unemployed join teacher's unions in a two-day strike. Protests spread throughout the country's regions. CTERA, the teachers union say, "the Government is trying to use teachers as hostages to force provincial legislative spending cuts."

June 2001: A series of strikes, roadblocks and clashes with the police spreads through the provinces when the Government announces a rise in taxes. Transport networks are crippled.

In a separate incident, on the 13 June, airline workers block the Buenos Aires airport to protest cut-backs on the Aerolineas Argentinas carrier. Several of the company's aeroplanes are parked across runways and riot police are used to break up protesters in the airport.

July 2001: On the 9 July, in a speech marking Independence Day, President Fernando De La Rue admits that the country has to put in place the IMF-imposed austerity measures because the country's sovereignty is "limited" due to difficulties in servicing its US$128 billion debt.

On the 18-19 July, Argentina's main union, the General Workers Confederation, calls a two-day strike at proposals to cut public salaries by 13 per cent and cut pensions benefits. Tens of thousands of workers take to the streets, blocking roads, shutting banks and Government offices and marching on Congress. Police are deployed on the streets.

July - August 2001: At the end of July, the unemployed and the homeless, in response to the passing of the Governments austerity bill, block over 50 major highways into Buenos Aires. Unemployment is now running at 16.4 per cent. The bill is the seventh attempt since 1999 to bring Argentina out of recession.

Protests and strikes continue into the beginning of August, with the Argentine Workers Confederation (CTA) leading the protests. A CTA spokesperson said: "The future of our country is clearly at stake and, in the face of growing repression, we must mobilise and strike." Another union spokesperson, representing the Argentinean Confederation of Education Workers said: "We are all in the same situation. The people are all affected by these cutbacks and by exclusion, misery and poverty. Nobody escapes."

Late August sees another three-day stoppage, culminating in a rally to the Presidential Palace, which is attended by thousands of people.

November 2001: Angry protesters storm the Buenos Aires stock exchange after the leading stock index (MerVal) falls more than 6 per cent, leading to the resignation of the Finance Minister. Trading is halted for twenty minutes as chanting and drumming protesters take control of the exchange.

December 2001: Several thousand workers, farmers, small business owners and pensioners take to the streets on the 13 December. They protest Government measures limiting cash withdrawals from banks (due to cash shortages) and delays in pension payments. Tens of thousands of pensioners turn up at the banks to collect their pensions and are told that payments cannot be made. Others are unable to withdraw cash from their accounts. The unplanned protest comes days before an official strike organised by the unions. Osvaldo Cornide, a union leader said: "The country is paralysed. There is no money, there is no work." Unions proceed with a general strike two days later.

Argentina's largest and most widespread protests in over ten years erupt across the country on the 19 December. The protests last for two days, leading to the resignation of the President. The main demonstrations occur in the capital, Buenos Aires and are widely reported as a protest of "the middle-classes". Over 6,000 people clash with riot police as they march on the Presidential Palace banging pots and pans. There are incidents of looting and arson to shops. The police use tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds but eventually retreat "to avoid incidents". On the 20 December, the President declares a state of siege, which is ignored by protesters who remain on the streets. The police continue to try and break up the protests using tear gas and water canons. The President, after failing to secure a political coalition, resigns the next day. Other protests are reported in La Plata, Mar del Plata, Cordoba, Sante Fe, Parana, Salta, Jujuy, Tucuman, Chaco, Santiago del Estero, San Luis, and Catamarca. At least 30 people are killed and many more injured.

A week later, protests erupt against a newly formed Government coalition. On the 30 December, rioters take to the streets and the Parliament buildings are set on fire. One demonstrator said: "The Government has changed but the economic policy is just as bad."


Fun With Numbers

IMF policy context: The Brazilian Government assured the IMF that: "The policy framework for 2001 aims. at a sustainable improvement in living standards for the majority of the Brazilian people, especially those in the lower income groups." The Government declared that it had passed key legislation, especially the Fiscal Responsibility Law, which "sets out for all levels of Government fiscal rules" to ensure that "fiscal targets are facilitated by. expenditure restraints." The Directors of the IMF agreed, "that the benefits of sustainable economic growth need to be more equitably distributed". The Government also reaffirmed its commitment "to multilateral trade liberalisation in the context of broad-based negotiations to include trade in agricultural products."

Thanks But No Thanks

July 2001: Police in two regional provinces go on strike for 12 days, with six other regions threatening strike action. The strike leads to a breakdown of law and order in which troops are deployed on the streets. The riots end with over 30 people killed, hundreds injured and shops looted. Professor Eduardo Brito is reported saying: "Police are under paid and under trained and are at their wits' ends."

September 2001: Environmental groups protest outside Congress in response to a controversial bill to allow farmers to clear larger areas of the Amazon for agriculture. The new bill stands to increase the proportion of forest that can be cleared for export farming, from 20 per cent to 50 or even 80 per cent. Protesters claim that the powerful landowners lobby, which is well represented in all the main political parties, is pushing for the change, claiming that economic progress depends on it.


Getting IMF-ormed

IMF policy context: The Colombian Government reassured the IMF that, "the Government initiated roundtable discussions with the political opposition, the territorial Governments, the business community, the unions, and others on the most important structural reforms. This broad dialogue on issues that affect large segments of the population has been useful, and the views expressed in these fora are being reflected in the structural reform proposals that are being presented to Congress". They went on to announce that the Government had continuing plans for, "restructuring and downsizing. the public sector to strengthen the ongoing effort to increase efficiency and minimise duplications", and, "action will be taken by executive order to merge, close, or downsize a number of entities." They added, "the Government remains committed to a liberal trade regime. agricultural sector protection and import tariff dispersion will be set in accordance with Andean Pact rules and will meet the deadlines set by the agreement with the WTO." The IMF congratulated them in their efforts and, "encouraged the authorities to continue reducing the size of the public sector, including through privatisation of public enterprises."

Farc Off

August 2001: In frustration at trying to persuade the Government to give them financial aid and to end food imports, farmers cause widespread disturbances. Thousands of small farmers, organised by The Movement for Farm Salvation, join rural communities in setting up roadblocks across the country and at least two protesters are killed when police use teargas and armoured vehicles to break them up.

Trade unions in Bogota, Colombia's capital, go on solidarity strike in support of bus and taxi drivers, who are protesting increased taxes. Hector Fajardo, Secretary-General of the United Workers Federation said: "We shall go on to the streets to support Bogota's drivers and protest against the neo-liberal programme emerging in Colombia."

December 2001 - January 2002: Municipal workers from the SINTRAEMCALI Union occupy the 17-storey Central Administration Building of Colombia's water, electricity and telecom companies (EMCALI) (see SchNEWS 339). The workers demand an end to privatisation plans. The union successfully closes the building for a month and negotiates a peaceful settlement, which shelves plans to privatise the company and promises to maintain low prices for the poor. Outside the building, over 800 people support the occupation. Despite police aggression and intimidation they provide food for the people inside. Marches and concerts, organised to support the action, attract thousands more people. The occupation ends over 10 months of 'local action', mainly compromising of mingas, where workers provide services to the poor for free on weekends.


How Kind Of You

IMF policy context: The Government of Ecuador, in laying out its policies to the IMF, explained that: "In December 2000, the prices of gasoline and diesel were increased by between 20-30 percent; cooking gas prices initially were raised by 100 percent but in February 2001 the increase was rolled-back to 60 percent in the interests of social cohesion." They also set out plans for eighteen privatisations in the electricity sector; an end to state monopoly for telecommunications; and announced that a "foreign company" has "a 30-year concession for the supply of water and sewage services to the city of Guayaquil (the largest city in Ecuador)" and that agreement has been reached for "a consortium of private oil companies to construct a second oil pipeline from the Amazon to the coast."

No Muchas Gracias

January 2001: Almost a year after Ecuador's Government was toppled by popular protest in January 2000, the country erupts into new protests on the 21 January. Indigenous groups led by the Confederation of Indigenous Nations of Ecuador (CONAIE) organise marches, block roads in over half of the country's provinces. Farmers, students and trade unions later join them. The police and army disperse otherwise peaceful demonstrations using teargas, batons and rubber bullets. In response, CONAIE calls for a mass mobilisation to march on the capitol Quito - as many as 10,000 people join the march.

The protesters, mainly indigenous Indians, block roads and set up camp in the main university, declaring that they will not be moved until the Government reverses it plans to impose austerity measures. Domestic heating prices had risen by 100 per cent and gasoline prices had risen by 20 per cent in just two months. Antonio Vargas, leader of CONAIE said: "We do not want to topple this Government. But we will not back down until the Government rescinds measures that are starving the Ecuadorian people."

February 2001: Protesters occupy the IMF offices in Quito on the 1 February. One woman on the protest said: "We want to expose the real culprits. The IMF-imposed policies, carried out by the Ecuadorian Government in exchange for more loans, have resulted in more than 50 per cent of the national budget going to pay foreign debt, have burdened the country with the highest rate of inflation in Latin America, the highest levels of corruption, the most advanced rates of deforestation and the worst example of maldistribution of wealth on the continent."

On the 2 February 2001, the Government responds by calling a state of national emergency, suspending all constitutional rights. Undeterred, the protesters escalate their demonstrations, with some going on hunger strikes at the university campus. Roadblocks are intensified, resulting in around 20 injuries and over 200 arrests.

The protests spread to other cities and regions paralysing the country. In the Amazon region, 300 troops try to disperse a crowd of some 5,000 indigenous people, leading to four deaths, including a 14-year old boy, and over 20 injuries. Elsie Monge, a nun at the protest, comments: "Under no circumstances can bloodshed between brothers and sisters be justified. We firmly reject the use of arms against the people because it violates the most precious right of any human being - the right to life." She adds that if the disproportionate use of force continues then violence may spiral out of control. In similar protests in the highlands at least 25 people are shot and wounded.

Nation-wide protests end on the 7 February 2001, when the Government agrees to lower price hikes and enter into dialogue with leaders of the protest. Protesters in Quito lead a peaceful march through the streets claiming victory, but Antonio Vargas, one of the protest leaders, warns they are, "just one more step along the way, because they will not put an end to the poverty and marginalisation of millions of Ecuadorians."

March 2001: The Government goes ahead with plans to increase VAT to 15 per cent, leading to a strike by transport workers who say that the increase will put them out of business. Business is brought to a standstill in several towns and cities.

April 2001: Talks breakdown between CONAIE and the Government. A spokesperson from CONAIE is reported saying that the Government is not listening to them and they have suspended dialogue until the Government is prepared to change its polices.

June 2001: The Government announces it has approved a controversial oil pipeline, which will be constructed through the Amazon by a consortium of multinational companies. Environmentalists and indigenous Indians protest the project, claiming that it will damage the fragile eco-systems of the 'cloud forests'.

November 2001: Protest groups stage local actions against plans to privatise the electricity company and the introduction of electricity rationing. Trade unions and CONAIE say that the Government has only introduced electricity rationing in order to win support for the privatisation plans. They also claim that the electricity system was deliberately not boosted to full capacity to deal with the shortages.


Los Gringos

IMF policy context: Although no recent Article IV or Letter of Intent documents were available from the IMF on the country's economic polices, a 1999 Article IV document noted that the "[IMF] Directors welcomed the progress the areas of privatisation, pension reform, and trade liberalisation."

Call A Doctor

November 2000 - March 2001: El Salvador experiences a four month strike by the Social Security Union (ISSS), in opposition to plans to privatise the country's health service. Nearly 12,000 doctors and workers join the strike and demand an end to the privatisation plans, the reinstatement of fired workers and an increase in pay.


This'll Hurt Me More Than It'll Hurt You

IMF policy context: While acknowledging that the newly elected 2001 Government, "had inherited a difficult economic situation" the IMF commended the decision to raise prices for petrol and water and recommended "that these [state] enterprises operate in the future at full cost recovery levels, with energy and utility prices being adjusted regularly and automatically". The IMF urged continued, "fiscal tightening [and] the need for restraint in public sector wage negotiations. implement[ing] vigorously the improve expenditure control."

Learning Lessons The Hard Way

November 2001: Students siege Government buildings and about 300 more blockade the campus of the University of Ghana in protest against non-payment of loans promised to them for their studies. After 10 months of negotiations with the Government, the students decide to take action, claiming that the grants, intended to help students buy learning materials and meet rising living costs, are being withheld against prior agreements.


Path Of Least Resistance

IMF policy context: The Indian Government assured the IMF that future reforms would include, "trade liberalisation, the industrial and agricultural sectors, infrastructure, as well as fiscal and social policies". However, the IMF Directors, "cautioned that market forces should be given freer play [to allow for] smoother adjustments". They urged the Government that, "power sector reform was a particular priority [along with] the privatisation of Government enterprises, and liberalisation of labour laws in order to improve competitiveness."

Path Of Greatest Resistance

December 2000 - January 2001: The energy unions call a nationwide strike in response to Government plans to restructure and privatise the energy sector. Widespread disturbances and disruption ensue.

April 2001: India's unions resume strike action. Union leader, Sharad Rao, said, "we are protesting against the Government's economic policies and the impact it will have on the common man." Privatisation polices, he adds, are damaging living standards. Thousands of police are deployed on the streets to ensure the strikes are peaceful.

July 2001: Ten million state employees go on general strike against privatisation plans and call for a halt to IMF, World Bank and WTO policies. A union spokesperson said that the Government policy of backing globalisation is selling the country to the multinational companies and foreign interests, adding that: "This will serve as a warning to the Government against their anti-worker polices."


Viable Options

IMF policy context: The Indonesian Government outlined its commitment to, "reducing and restructuring subsidies [and] to phase out fuel subsidies and restore electricity tariffs to commercially viable levels". The IMF warned, "against additional public sector pay increases unless these were accompanied by significant civil service reform" and hoped the Government would continue with banking sector reforms.

Even More Viable Options

June 2001: At the beginning of June, the Government issues a decree proposing to dilute labour laws and cut severance pay for retiring and resigning workers. The All-Indonesian Trade Union organises a massive strike action, commenting that: "Workers reject the new ministerial decree. It violates their rights and interests." The Government backs down.

On the 18 June, 42,000 military personnel are put on high alert after running battles in the streets of Jakarta over fuel price rises. Police fire rubber bullets and tear gas at students, residents and striking bus drivers, who claim that the removal of fuel subsidies will make it impossible for them to earn their living without putting up bus tariffs. Local authorities agree and bus fares increase by 30 per cent.


A Word From The Sponsor

IMF policy context: An IMF loan, granted in July 2000, outlined "macroeconomic and structural reforms; civil service reform [and] privatisation" as key policies. The Government's Interim PRSP stated: "The Government recognises that reforming the public service lies at the heart of tackling poverty. The operational structure of the entire public sector will be rationalized and reduced to reflect perceptions of the functions appropriate to Government. Rationalization across the civil service, defence and security forces, teachers service, local authorities, parastatals and all public institutions will result in cost savings. [and] be reshaped. to more effectively facilitate private sector activities."

You Must Be Joking

May 2001: On the 25 May, state employed air traffic controllers in Mombasa's main airport go on strike demanding better terms of employment and salary increases.

June 2001: Municipal workers, led by the Local Government Workers Union, go on strike in Kakamega to demand payment of their salary arrears. Workers say that without payment of salaries they cannot continue to meet "family obligations" and buy basic necessities.

September 2001: Teachers strike in opposition to a Government housing allowance initiative, which subsidises the rent of some teacher's but not others. The teachers union, KNUT, claims that the initiative unfairly distributes resources to those teachers who have the longest service rather than to those most in need.

Mombasa council workers start dumping municipal rubbish in the streets to protest against continued non-payment of three month's salaries. The strike, which lasts for over a week, ends up with running battles with the police. The workers, however, continue their littering protest until the council promises to pay.


Concerned Parties

IMF policy context: The IMF noted, "with concern", that despite improved economic performance, "a large proportion of the population remains in poverty". They congratulated the Government's, "renewed commitment to implementing a comprehensive stabilisation and reform program", but stressed that success would depend on, "the authorities' determination to resist pressures on wages and salaries and on other recurrent expenditure." They also added, "the pace of privatisation could be accelerated by improving the attractiveness of public sector assets to potential buyers through firmer action to liberalise markets."

Price Of Admission

August 2001: Police, using tear gas, break up two days (28-29) of peaceful demonstrations by over 500 teachers. The teachers claim that the Government has not paid them their promised salaries and benefits. Schools remain closed.

December 2001: On the 18 December, Malawi University is closed because of disturbances by students and citizens. The demonstrations, held in Zomba, are against the increasing cost of living, including soaring maize prices and unemployment. Police, who use live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas, break up the demonstrations. One student is killed.


Smooth Operators

IMF policy context: The IMF, "commended the [Mexican] authorities for maintaining prudent fiscal and monetary policies [and] congratulated [them] for achieving a smooth, democratic political transition" during the recent elections. However, the IMF Directors, "attached considerable importance to the authorities' efforts to reform the tax system" and that the current administrations policies, "would be fully effective only if they are accompanied by a comprehensive tax reform."

Ya Basta

September 2001: Roads are brought to a standstill as thousands protest in the streets of Mexico City in response to plans to impose taxes on some foods and medicines. Protesters claim that the taxes will have a disproportionate effect on the poor. Increasing tax revenue is one of the central planks of the newly re-elected President Fox.


Something To Suit Everybody

IMF policy context: The IMF broadly, "commended the authorities for achieving macroeconomic stability," but warned that, "Morocco faces important remaining challenges in raising growth sufficiently to reduce unemployment and poverty on a sustained basis", that would require further trade liberalisation and structural reforms. They emphasised that, "the highest priority" must be given to "fiscal consolidation [which] will require bold actions.aimed at curbing the growth of the wage bill."

Teachers Pet

November 2001: Education and healthcare trade unions call a general strike to, "prompt the Government to respect its commitments" on the increase of teachers' salaries. The unions claim that the Government has not met its commitments, made in December 2000, to increase the pay of teachers.


Robbing Peter To Pay Paul

IMF policy context: The Government of Mozambique outlined, "the reduction of absolute poverty; the attainment of high and sustainable growth through. the private sector" as two of its major economic policies. They continued that these and other objectives would be met through, "the maintenance of a stable macroeconomic environment, public sector reform, and safeguards for freely functioning domestic financial markets."

We Won't Be Railroaded

August 2001: On the 7 August, a strike by the Mozambican Railway Services and workers at Maputo's port brings the south of the country to a standstill. The port and railway company is one of Mozambique's largest, employing over 10,000 people. The workers protest plans to cut the work force by half under a restructuring programme backed by the World Bank. Later in the month workers resume strike action, taking the dispute into its third week. The few trains that continue operating do so under armed guard. Six striking workers are arrested.


A Word In Private

IMF policy context: According to the IMF, "priority should be given to. Wide-ranging reform of the public sector, streamline the civil service, and tackle the problems of inefficient and loss-making enterprises, including through privatisation. Directors were encouraged by the recent policy initiatives to adjust public sector prices and tariffs, and by the authorities' commitment to an open trade and investment regime".

Wire The Fuck Should We?

July 2001: On the 31 July more than 500 protesters denounce a 40 per cent price hike in electricity prices by the Nepalese Government. According to the news report, the Nepal Electricity Authority was put under pressure from the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank to raise prices as a precondition for fresh loans on water resource development.


Forked Tongue

IMF policy context: "[IMF] Directors understood the desire of the democratic Government to deliver positive results quickly, but cautioned that for most Nigerians, especially the poor, the erosion of living standards from higher inflation could outweigh any gains from increased public spending." They also urged the Government "to control the wage bill [and] welcomed the recent progress in reducing the wage bill." The IMF also stressed the importance of restoring "macroeconomic stability.and to implement market-based reforms that lay the foundations for growth and poverty reduction in the medium term."

Painful Measures

June 2001: Unions at the state-run telecom company, NITEL, go on strike to protest plans to privatise the company. The unions denounce the plans as, "a grand scheme to strip the nation of a most worthy asset, without any consideration of overall national interest."

March 2001: A 1000-strong rally in Lagos protests the Government's continued persistence to phase in the deregulation of fuel supplies. Admas Oshiomole, leader of the Nigerian Labour Congress, said at the rally that: "We can not pay world prices because we do not earn world incomes." Most Nigerians consider that, if nothing else, the Government should provide cheap fuel as Nigeria is Africa's largest oil producer. The unions oppose deregulation and liberalisation because these reforms inevitably lead to a rise in prices on basic necessities. The Financial Times describes the reform package as "painful measures".

October 2001: Students invade the main highway into Lagos, blockading the road and bringing rush-hour traffic to a standstill. The students, from Lagos State University, cite the continued strike of their lecturers as the reason for their actions. The lecturers, who are not being paid and have been on strike for several weeks, reiterate their opposition to the Government's position on salary payments and conditions of work.


Rubbish But Well Spoken

IMF policy context: The IMF considered that to, "build a solid foundation for sustained high growth over the medium-term, the authorities will need to pursue further macroeconomic adjustment and implement the structural reform program." They add that some of the country's reform priorities should include "the restructuring of public enterprises [and] accelerated privatisation".

International Monetary Fraud

May 2001: A coalition of Pakistan's Non-Governmental Organisations protest outside the World Bank building in Islamabad on the 26 May. Protesters carry banners saying: "IMF: International Monetary Fraud", and, "World Bank policies: poverty elevation or alleviation?". They call for negotiations on the settlement of foreign debt, a withdrawal of the institutions' demands to end agriculture subsidies and for an independent national commission to investigate IMF/World Bank sponsored programmes. In a press statement the coalition states that the IMF and World Bank have violated Pakistan's national sovereignty by trying to influence the country's budget.


Bitter Pills

IMF policy context: The Government of Papua New Guinea stressed that its, "record demonstrates its commitment to implement economic reforms within the broad framework of its structural adjustment program." They added that "public sector reform [and] improving the efficiency of the civil service" have made progress and that, "privatisation is a main pillar of the Government's strategy to improve the efficiency of the public sector."

Private Hell

June 2001: Large numbers of students take to the streets in protest at further austerity measures imposed by the IMF and World Bank. Police use tear gas to disperse a crowd of thousands that congregates outside the Prime Ministers office. Schools, shops and Government offices close, leaving the streets of the capital deserted. The week of peaceful protests ends in the deaths up to six students, with 13 people injured.

Later in the month, Unions threaten to close down the airport and ports and to cut-off electricity supplies in response to privatisation plans.


Murky Waters

IMF policy context: IMF Directors, "stressed that reforms to make the labour market more competitive would help ensure that investment increases employment, and that privatisation and continued trade liberalisation would help raise productivity growth and labour demand over time." They continue, "that the public enterprise-restructuring program would enhance productive efficiency and help attract foreign investment, the benefits of which would outweigh possible short-term costs. They welcomed the recently announced policy framework for accelerating the program, which appropriately focused on the four major public enterprises, and encouraged the authorities to transfer majority control of corporatised enterprises to private hands."

Driven To Drink

March: Thousands of protesters descend on Johannesburg to demonstrate against the privatisation of the city's water supply. The municipal water supply was sold to the French multinational, Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux. The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) claims that the deal, "has not come up with any plan to extend running water to Johannesburg's poor." The union is appalled that the ruling ANC, which came to power in 1994 with promises of providing free basic public services to those who cannot afford them, is inviting profit-driven multinationals to run the city's water.

August: The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) calls a massive two-day strike (30-31) against the Government's privatisation plans. All major towns and cities are crippled as nearly four million people participate in the strike. A union spokesperson said: "We demand an end to the current programme of privatisation of basic services and national infrastructure. This programme has damaged not only national parastatals but also provincial enterprises, local Government and the public service." COSATU claims that over 200,000 jobs have been lost since 1994 and that the privatisation programme undermines basic service delivery to the poor. Another union spokesperson said: "We want to broaden the public sphere and limit the space in our society that is dominated by un-elected, undemocratic profit-driven forces." Telephone utility Telkom, which is up for privatisation, has shed over 17,000 jobs in the last two years. If privatised, this number is expected to increase.

November 2001: Between 7-9 November, COSATU resumes protests against Government plans to privatise state assets, especially basic services. Protests hit several regions.

(See also 'Down To The Waterline' in this book)


Rearranging The Deck-chairs

IMF policy context: IMF Directors, "emphasised the critical importance of developing a sufficient social consensus in favour of the needed shift from preserving old jobs in sunset industries to creating new jobs in vibrant growing industries." However, "[they] cautioned that temporary solutions. or further delays in addressing corporate weaknesses could create larger problems that will prove more difficult and costly to resolve later." They added that, "firm action [was needed] to maintain confidence in the restructuring effort."

Go Ahead And Make My Daewoo

May 2001: Protests resume (after massive demonstrations in November 2000) by 20,000 workers from the Korean Trade Unions and Korean Confederation of Trade Unions over restructuring plans and a police crackdown on car workers earlier in April. 15,000 riot police are deployed in Seoul.

June 2001: Demonstrations continue into June, as over 50,000 workers from 126 unions stop work, despite the strike being declared illegal by the Government. All Korean Airlines flights are cancelled and efforts by the police to arrest 14 union leaders of the airline are blocked by workers. Nearly 9,000 hospital workers later join the strike, taking action against Government plans to restructure.

November 2001: Thousands of workers rally in the capital demanding shorter working hours and the release of Dan Byong-Ho, leader of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, who was arrested for organising illegal protests in October.


Everything Must Go

IMF policy context: Turkey experienced acute economic problems over the last year and had been in crisis talks with the IMF. The results were, "an ambitious economic reform program" which included the "restructuring the banking sector, improving budget transparency, and preparing the privatisation of state-owned enterprises." Privatisation plans included state-run steel, electricity, airline and telecom companies. The Turkish Government emphasised that "Our economic program respects the need for social consensus and social dialogue."

No Thanks

March 2001: Turkish unions threaten strike action in opposition to their exclusion from crisis talks, sparked off by a financial crisis in 2000 and an austere IMF-bailout package. The Labour Platform, comprising of leading unions and professional groups, declare that: "We will oppose together any programme that does not have our views or our approval." Public sector union leader, Kaya Guvenc, said: "We are determined to leave the programme because the IMF, World Bank and the Government exclude the people. Our problems cannot be solved unless the IMF and World Bank policies are given up." On 31 March the unions and civil society groups organise a protest, with thousands of protesters taking to the streets shouting, "IMF go home!". Bayram Meral, President of Turkeys largest union confederation said: "The policies of the IMF and the World Bank do not aim to help Turkey but to assure that Turkey can pay its debts on time and in full." The union also releases a statement saying that: "In the program that is being prepared there should be a remedy for poverty because as in all economic crisis the price of this crisis is paid most heavily by the workers."

November 2001: A mass rally protesting "the Governments subservience to IMF policies" is organised by trade unions and attended by politicians, local Government officials and thousands of people. Ergin Alsan, chairman of the Kocaeli Syndicates Union said: "The 2002 budget of the Turkish Republic is being submitted to the IMF prior to being submitted to the National Assembly. IMF officials are escorting [Minister] Kamal Dervis to the meetings during which the budget. is being discussed." He added: "They put privatisation on the agenda and they killed the industry sector. [and] they forced us take measures which will exterminate agriculture and textiles sectors. [and] our taxes have been siphoned off. [and] we grew poorer." The protesters disperse quietly.


Strings Attached

IMF policy context: The IMF granted Zambia a US$64 million PRGF loan in November 2001 on conditions that included: "Firm control on public wages [and] the privatisation of the National Commercial Bank and liberalisation of the oil sector." The Zambian Government asserted that: "Expenditure pressures during the rest of the year are likely to remain strong, particularly in view of the upcoming elections. The Government recently concluded the lengthy process of reaching wage agreements with the civil service and public workers unions."

Health Warning

April 2001: The Deputy of the Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), President Japhet Moonde, calls on the Government to improve salaries and conditions of service for all public sector workers within the next two months. Briefing the press at Lusaka Hotel, on 3 April, Moonde said that, while the Trade Union Congress welcomed the [new] increment of salaries for health workers, the same should be extended to all public workers: "Government should not be seen to increase salaries only when it is threatened with mass exodus of essential workers."

December 2001: Over 2,000 Lusaka City Council workers go on strike against the non-payment of over 3 months salary arrears. The workers claim that they had reached an agreement and that this was not being honoured.


Adjust Your Set

IMF policy context: The IMF stressed that, "a restoration of macroeconomic stability, which is a prerequisite for recovery, would hinge on the design and implementation of a credible adjustment program". They added that, "the brunt of the fiscal adjustment will have to come from savings in wage and defence outlays" and welcomed the decision to make "periodic adjustments in fuel and electricity tariffs". They concluded that, "structural initiatives such as civil service reform and restructuring or privatisation of public enterprises would also help reduce the fiscal deficit and promote efficiency."

This One's On Us

January 2001: Public servants go on strike to protest against the Government's 15 per cent wage increment. With inflation at 70 per cent, the workers argue that the increment is insufficient and leaves them unable to meet the costs of living. Zimbabwe is going through a difficult socio-economic and political crisis, especially with its costly involvement in the Democratic Republic of Congo conflict. Fuel shortages occur because of lack of foreign exchange. The political situation becomes increasingly unstable.

May 2001: The Government announces a 30 per cent price rise on basic staples such as sugar, milk, corn and bread, provoking widespread uproar. Rioters loot shops and cars, while transport networks, schools and hospitals close. Riot police and the army are put on the streets and use tear gas and batons, in running battles, to control the crowds. At least 60 arrests are made. One rioter said: "We have no jobs. We are hungry. We have nothing to eat. Yes, we are looting."

June 2001: Protesters in Harare block roads in response to a 70 per cent rise in fuel prices. The Congress of Trade Unions renews its threat to call a general strike if the Government does not revoke the price rise.

Excerpts from STATES OF UNREST II: Resistance to IMF and World Bank policies in poor countries

By Mark Ellis-Jones April 2002