February 2008, Issue 1
1. Three new publications by VOICE
2. Aid Accountability Group meeting, a summary
3. Press releases
4. Conference on "The Changing Face of Global Development Finance"
5. Other publication: A Manual on Economic Literacy
6. VOICE participated in the last GK3 Conference
7. About VOICE
1. VOICE recently published three reports on the topic ofinternational aid and its consequences on the Bangladesh economy.
"Revealing PSI: People's resistance against policy conditionalities of the IMF"
A Policy Support Instrument (PSI) is a policy consisting of abstractterms and conditions. Usually, high profile IMF and governmentofficials discuss such policies. Academics, researchers, and analystsworking on policy issues understand the salient points, but it isextremely difficult for the general public to understand the logic andloopholes of such a deal.
During the recent visit of the IMF delegation to Bangladesh, therewere significant discussions and debates around their PSI offer.Different stakeholders emerged, voicing their concern about the issuethrough the media and other outlets. Civil society members, activists,business groups and the media in Bangladesh once again provedthemselves active in the resistance against IMF impositions. The newsmedia published reports, opinion, comments, and analysis on the issue,raising awareness all around the country.
This report is as much a commentary as a compilation of formerlyscattered information about PSI, and has attempted to demystify PSIgoing from the definition to the analysis. Different reports and viewsof newspapers also help to shed light on the issue and to documentwhat happened with respect to the PSI agreement.
Voice has published this report with the intention of disseminatingall the pertinent details for the readers, and documenting the effortsof the many social movements in Bangladesh to resist pressures ofinternational financial institutions like the IMF.
"Global Capital vs. Local Economy: Conditionalities of the IMF andFiscal Reform"
A battle is currently being raged in the global marketplace betweenglobal and local economies. However, with the force of millions ofdollars of global capital supporting it, and a powerful influence overthe local governments and policymakers, the global side is definitelynot playing fair.
The World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) havebeen lending money to Bangladesh for many years, ostensibly under thebanner of 'aid'. These loans inevitably come tied with conditions,which hinder the country's growth and keep down its people.IMF-sanctioned policies, such as privatization of public services,reduction of trade tariffs, supplanting local industries withcash-crop oriented export industries, and many more, have leftBangladesh and its people at the mercy of a free market economy whichhas no qualms with profiting from the poverty of others.
These conditions, handed down from the lenders above, have resultedin policies of fiscal and social reform that have mercilesslydestroyed our local economies and caused the suffering of many people.VOICE has published this report with the intention of outlining someof the IMF conditions and their subsequent effect on our country. Wehave presented a seminar summary as well as a reference section ofmedia articles. We hope that this report will bring to light theinjustices of the IMF and serve as a potent weapon in the struggleagainst IFI sanctions.
"Breaking the Cycle of Neo-Liberal Economy: How the World Bank andthe International Monetary Fund Stand Against the People"
The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, for the past fewdecades, have provided third-world countries with loans and grants inthe name of such lofty pretexts as 'poverty reduction' and'international development'. These loans inevitably come tied withconditions which hinder the country's growth, a case of stepping onsomeone's chest even as they are being helped up.
The detrimental effects these conditions have had on Bangladesh areimmeasurable, but that does not mean they should pass unnoticed. VOICEhas published this report, a combination of media articles, twoinsightful essays, and the summary of a seminar conducted by VOICE onthe eve of the WB-IMF Annual General Meeting held in Washington DC in2007 on the subject of the subjugation of Bangladesh to World Bank andIMF policies.
This report examines the neo-liberal hegemony currently ensnaring thecountry from different perspectives, and also stands as a historicalanalysis of the role of IFIs in Bangladesh thus far.
Clic here <http://www.voicebd.org/taxonomy/term/19> to go to VOICE'sofficial Books page.
2. Aid Accountability Group meeting, a summary: "Accountability offoreign donors, lenders stressed"
Foreign aid should be free of conditionalities and donors or lendersmust be accountable to the people and governments of recipientcountries, rights campaigners said on Thursday. External finance onlyaccounts for two per cent of the country's gross domestic product, and75 per cent of the foreign money goes back to donor countries andlending agencies in the forms of consultancy fees and payments forforeign procurements, said Piash Karim, professor of economics at aprivate university. 'Only 25 per cent of the aid remains at hand forthe target group,' he said at a press conference on 'From Paris 2005to Accra 2008 - will foreign aid become more accountable andeffective?' The Aid Accountability Group organized the programme atDhaka Reporters' Unity at Segunbagicha in the city. Political will anddemocracy are needed to ensure accountability and transparency inforeign aid management, Karim added.
Paris declaration on effectiveness of foreign aid was adopted in2005, and donor countries and lending agencies will evaluate the aideffectiveness in September this year in Ghana's capital. Omar TareqChowdhury, director of Proshika, an NGO, proposed the creation of aposition of global ombudsperson, to whom all donors and lenders willbe made accountable. If any aid recipient country is aggrieved, it canapproach the ombudsman for justice, he suggested.
There was never a debate seen inside the government or parliamentover foreign aid, said politician Saiful Hoque. 'Certain ministries,bureaucrats and a group of consultants control the entire business,'he said. Conditions attached to foreign aid have negative effects onthe economy and those serve the purposes of a limited coterie, hesaid. The country annually receives about Tk 10,000 crore in foreignaid, while it spends about Tk 4,000 crore on foreign debt servicing.It means that the country actually retains about Tk 6,000 crore fromexternal donors and lenders for development expenditures, whereasnon-resident Bangladeshis sent home Tk 42,000 crore last year inforeign currencies, he compared. Haque suggested that if remittancewas prudently utilised and partly invested in infrastructures, thecountry's dependence on foreign aid could largely be minimized.
Foreign aid should aim at accelerating poverty reduction, ensuringgender equity and protecting human rights declared by the UN, saidAhmed Swapan Mahmud, coordinator of the Aid Accountability Group.
3. Press releases
"Unity against harmful global policies urged" The New Age Bangladesh
The Global Economic Justice Forum has urged the people to be unitedagainst the harmful global policies imposed on the country. The forumsuggested that the policies for 'people's globalisation' should begiven more emphasis than trade globalisation, which protects corporateinterests only. It also recommended creation of a new world orderwhich will ensure food for all. 'It is imperative to develop ademocratic world order to ensure economic justice,' the forum said ina written statement. It termed the poverty reduction strategy paper asa destructive policy hatched by multilateral lending agencies anddonor countries.
Such policies are being implemented by governments in the developingworld, Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, a member of the forum, said at a pressbriefing at the Dhaka Reporters' Unity on Friday. These policiesactually serve the interests of global corporate houses and createinequality in the society instead of reducing poverty, he said.People's awareness can help stop formulation and implementation ofsuch lender-dictated destructive policies, he said. Policiesprescribed by global lenders International Monetary Fund and WorldBank have led to the destruction of the country's jute sector and theforum waged a campaign against this type of destructive policies, saidAsraful Alam, another member of the forum. 'We want to alert thepeople to the dangers of such policies which protect the interests ofcorporate world,' he said. Forum members Asgar Ali, Aminur Rasul andRafiqul Alam were also spoke on the occasion.
The forum has taken a three-day programme from January 29 to raiseits voice for justice, peace and people's globalisation. In 28different sessions, topics including human rights, employment,remittance, migration, good governance, local government, climatechange and natural resources will be discussed. The forum will alsoorganise a token protest against corporate globalisation at theRabindra Sarobor in Dhanmodi Saturday January 2nd.
"From Paris 2005 to Accra 2008: Will Aid Become More Accountable andEffective?"
Press Conference held on January 24th.
A Press Conference was held yesterday (January 24, 2008) at the DhakaReporters Unity titled "From Paris 2005 to Accra 2008: Will Aid BecomeMore Accountable and Effective?" in the context of the ParisDeclaration and the upcoming High-Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness inAccra, Ghana in September 2008. The conference was organized by theAid Accountability Group, a newly-formed group of civil societyorganizations.
A Press Statement was read out by Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executivedirector of VOICE and coordinator of the Aid Accountability Group,examining the perspectives of civil society regarding AidEffectiveness and the High-Level Forum. Dr. Piash Karim, Professor ofEconomics and Sociology at BRAC University, Omar Tareq Choudhury,Director of Proshika, Zakir Hossain, Executive Director of NagarikUddyog, and Saiful Huq, General Secretary of the Workers Party ofBangladesh also presented speeches in the press conference.
read more... <http://www.voicebd.org/node/81>
"Reclaiming People's Rights to Public Services and Natural Resources" Seminar organized by VOICE on January 30th as part of the Global Economic Justice Forum.
A Seminar was held today (January 30, 2008) at the Women's VoluntaryAssociation auditorium in Dhaka titled "Reclaiming People's Rights toPublic Services and Natural Resources," as part of the programsscheduled for the 2008 Global Economic Justice Forum currently takingplace.
Ahmed Swapan Mahmud, executive director of VOICE, moderated theseminar, which began with a presentation on Access to NaturalResources by Rubayat Ahsan, Research fellow, VOICE. Sardar ArifUddin, Team Leader of Action Aid Bangladesh, Ms. Aude Leroux-Levesque,VOICE Communications Intern, Dr. Piash Karim, Professor of Economicsand Sociology at BRAC University, also presented speeches in theseminar.
read more... <http://www.voicebd.org/node/82>
4. Conference on "The Changing Face of Global Development Finance" Ahmed Swapan writes from Ottawa, Canada, February 2, 2008
A conference on "The Changing Face of Global Development Finance -Impacts and Implications for aid, development, the South and theBretton Woods Institutions" has been held in Ottawa on February 1 and2, 2008. The conference was co-organized by the Halifax Initiative andco-hosted by the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, TheNorth-South Institute, and The Reality of Aid Network. Civil societyorganizations from the North and the South attended the two dayconference that dealt with a number of sessions concerning the BrettonWoods Institutions.
The conference provided an overview of the current internationalfinancial system and its institutions, identified the shifts that arecurrently taking place, looked into the potential challenges, andexamined the alternatives to the World Bank and International MonetaryFund.
The conference also extensively discussed the issues around the newsources of bilateral development funding, the sources and mechanismsfor financing development, the opportunities and challenges to outsidethe aid box, etc. It also discussed the context of the ParisDeclaration and Aid Effectiveness-the deeper system and politicalreforms to reclaim own development and economic policies.
Among many, some of the speakers were: Roy Culpeper from the NorthSouth Institute, Febrina Furtado from Rede Brazil, Antonio Tujan fromthe IBON Foundation and Reality of Aid Network, Roberto Bissio fromSocial Watch and the Third World Institute, John Foster form the NorthSouth Institute, Lucy Hayes from Eurodad, Moly Kane form Inter Pares,Alejandro Bendana from the International South Group Network, YaoGraham from the Third World Network, Lydia Alpfzar Duran, WarapotManupipatpong from the Asian Development Bank Institute, ChristianaDendys from Results Canada, Rasheed Draman from the ParliamentaryCentre, Charles Mutasa from Afrodad, Gisele Morin-Labatut from IDRC,Jorge Marchini from the International Debt Observatory and the LatinAmerican Society for Political Economy, Gerry Barr from CCIC, RobertFox from Oxfam Canada, and Fraser Reilly-King from the HalifaxInitiative.
The conference ended on the project to build up further actionstoward Doha and Accra with hope of building greater solidarity amongthe various stakeholders.
5. Other publication: A Manual on Economic Literacy Published by VOICE, June 2007
In this training manual, Voice Bangladesh stresses that "economicliteracy" is a prerequisite to conceptualize, understand, and fightfor "economic justice". This manual could benefit NGO workers in thefield, farmers, coordinators, political activists, students, andprofessionals at a local and national level.
It discusses issues related to the market, the fiscal year, wage,multinational companies, colonization, globalization, foreign aid, anddonor agencies. Besides introducing these terms, the manual explainshow corporate groups have invaded the market of developing countriesand create an unjust economic order. Rich countries and multinationalcorporations are making profit by exploiting the markets of poornations and brushing away the potential for small entrepreneurs.Similarly, trade liberalization has inspired privatization whichresulted in the governments of poor countries loosing control overtheir market and their people. It also depicts the policies of themajor International Financial Institutions such as the World Bank, theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF), the Asian Development Bank (ADB),and the World Trade Organizations (WTO).
This manual attempts to demystify some of the difficult economic andtrade concepts for the grass root practitioner, which are presumablyalready understood by academics, researchers, and advancedpractitioners.
6. VOICE participated in the last GK3 Conference
The World Association of Community Radio broadcasters (AMARC)activities were held from December 11 to 13, 2007, at the third GlobalKnowledge Conference GK3 Event on the Future, in Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia. On of VOICE staff, Ms Farjana Akter, joined the AMARC-GK3programme. As a member of AMARC-WIN delegation, Farjana Akter joined aseminar organized by AMARC on the `Role of Women Broadcastersvis-à-vis Good Governance'. The main objective of this seminar was toempower rural women to promote good governance through communitymedia. The seminar was attended by various community radiobroadcasters, NGO activists, and women groups from different regionsof the world.
During the seminar, panelists said that Community radio can be usedby rural women to empower themselves in their daily life, and that itshould be a priority on the agenda because it can help increasing theparticipatory practice in a society, which leads to the people'sgovernance. Community radio can facilitate the people's access toinformation and promote their participation on the local leveldecision-making process, which ultimately results in a greaterparticipatory governance and a more democratic society.
7. About VOICE
VOICE is an activist, rights based research and advocacy organizationworking around the issues of corporate globalization. It criticallyworks/campaigns on neo-liberal economic hegemony, role ofInternational Financial Institutions (IFIs), WTO and TNCs, aidconditions, food sovereignty, media, communication rights andinformation and communication technologies, governance and humanrights, policy research and advocacy etc, both at local and nationallevels. It strategically works through networking and partnership fora new development paradigm to establish a micro-macro linkage in orderto generate increased support to influence policy for creating a justsociety. It believes in promoting the capacity, knowledge andempowerment of the people, and the voices of the unheard. For moreinformation on our different activities, programmes and publications,please visit www.voicebd.org <http://www.voicebd.org/> .
VOICE is currently working on a completely new edition of itswebsite, which will be more comprehensive, up to date, and easier tonavigate through. Please continue visiting www.voicebd.org
<http://www.voicebd.org/> , and we will inform you as soon as the newwebsite is online.
VOICE will regularly publish a newsletter on the subjects of IFIs,globalization, social movements, trade, and social and economicjustice issues. Its objective is to disseminate information in orderto build awareness and solidarity for ensuring rights and economicjustice, and aims to raise a voice for constructing a new world,challenging the so called mainstream development discourse andneoliberal economic order. This newsletter challenges and countershegemonic approaches and promotes people's power and authority on thedecision making process and on their own resources. We invite you tosend news, comments, and suggestions that could enrich our newsletterat the following address: email@example.com