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IN THE NEWS – September 26, 2002: IMF-World Bank Meetings Protest - 2002-10-01

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are holding their yearly meetings in Washington. Representatives from more than one-hundred-eighty countries have gathered for the talks. They plan to discuss debt forgiveness for developing countries, economic development and the world economy.

Some groups have organized protests against the financial organizations. Others want to protest American foreign policy. Washington police say they expect as many as twenty-thousand demonstrators. Three-thousand police officers have been deployed in the city to keep order. Hundreds of people were arrested during similar demonstrations at the I-M-F and World Bank meetings in April of two-thousand.

The United States and its allies created the I-M-F and the World Bank after World War Two. The two organizations control thousands of millions of dollars in assistance. The I-M-F and the World Bank have a close relationship but different responsibilities.

The main job of the International Monetary Fund is to support world economic growth. It provides loans to countries dealing with short-term difficulties. The I-M-F often requires that countries make economic reforms in exchange for the loans. Some of the required reforms are unpopular. I-M-F officials also advise on financial policy.

The World Bank provides loans to governments and private organizations for development projects. These include projects to build or improve transportation, health and education systems. The World Bank is the leading provider of such assistance. It also makes loans to reform the structure of national economic systems.

I-M-F and World Bank opponents say the two organizations represent the interests of big business and the very rich. The opponents say World Bank development projects usually include money to pay for materials and technical help from industrial nations. They say it would be better to support projects in which materials and technical support could be found locally. Protesters also argue that I-M-F lending policies have made conditions worse in developing countries. Opponents say the activities of both organizations have damaged the environment.

A recent United Nations report also criticizes policies supported by I-M-F and World Bank officials. The U-N Trade and Development agency report says those policies may have increased poverty in Africa instead of reducing it. It says the number of people living on less than one dollar a day in Africa’s poorest nations has risen by more than ten percent over the past thirty years.

A writer of the U-N report, Yilmaz Akyuz, says the main reason for the rise may be the structural reform policies that the financial organizations support. He says the International Monetary Fund and World Bank urgently need to change their policies.

This VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS, was written by Caty Weaver. This is Steve Ember.