Three days short of the August 1 Emancipation Day I make
a callupdating Bob Marleyfor emancipating ourselves
TO reason. I do this in the context of the Guardians
Business Editor, Anthony Wilson accusing me of: first, hating
the IMF; second, of being influenced in my position on the
impact of IMF/World Bank in Trinidad and Tobago and elsewhere
by ..ideological reasons (or) ideologically-motivated
revisionism, and finally, of proposing that: the
best way to increase tax revenue in the long run is by increasing
taxes on the rich and not by increasing the tax base.
These are unsubstantiated accusations that I would normally
ignore if they came from some Special correspondent
or other rightwing crank.
Wilson, however, has shown journalistic energy, enthusiasm
and curiosity. He also comes from what the old people would
have called long time good stock and is also young
enough to perhaps learn that throwing verbal stones is no
way to advance an intelligent debate.
I am, therefore, going to make an exceptiononly this
onceto reply to his claims. (If he persists in wild
claims I will simply ignore him as a lost cause in the future
as opposed to responding to reasoned questions as he put forward,
partially, in last Thursdays Business Guardian).
I hate no one. That is an irrational emotion. I belong to
a university fraternity with which Wilson ought not to be
unfamiliar in which ideas are contested routinely among colleagues
and best of friends.
I have friends at the IMF, for example, who are quite able
economists. I, however, disagree with the thrust of that institutions
economic policies. That makes them no less friends.
I have had friends in several T&T governments including
the NAR. I disagreed with their policies but that is distinct
from our friendship. Anthony Gonzales and myself, for example,
will probably never agree on economic policies but that does
not make him my enemy.
In his June 28 article, Wilson implied that I have some ideology
that he himself does not have (no need to read and spell to
the unwary reader who he is trying to persuade not by logic
and evidence but by pandering to some belief system). He initiated
this clutched strawman by claiming that, as quoted earlier
I have proposed soaking the rich as opposed to increasing
the tax base.
I challenge Wilson to quote anything I have ever written that
could even be vaguely reduced to this claim. This as opposed
to questioning why BP and other investors in Atlantic LNG
I, for example, will pay no taxes of whatever kind for a decade
(to 2009) while pensioners pay VAT.
Wilson also may be claiming to have no ideology. This is,
of course, arrant nonsense. We all have some ideology in the
sense of values and beliefs that influence our interpretations
of the world.
Reason, for example, is a major value that I treasure and,
as a result, logic and evidence are central to my thinking:
that is my ideology, which I recommend highly to all.
This is not to ignore the fact that I also have values and
beliefs that may influence my thinking, but my central value
is actually reasoning.
Moreover, Wilson may be surprised to learn that the IMF-type
lens through which he sees the world has been termed the ideology
of developmentalism by Economics Professor William
Easterly of New York University.
I cite Easterly not because he is foreign, American or an
Economics Professor at NY University but since he is himself
a major advocate of free markets, competition and capitalism.
Yet, Easterly has taken to task developmentalism
as ...having has its own intelligentsia
share the common ideological characteristic of suggesting
that there is only one correct answer
.defined as doing
whatever the IMF and the World Bank tell you to do.
Easterly then goes on to elaborate, in even more detail than
I did in prior columns, the impact of the failures of the
IMF/WB throughout the world. He ascribes responsibility to
these Washington-based institutions not merely for the turn
to the left in Latin America but also for the rise of Islamic
fundamentalism and a yearning for communism in Russia!
Easterly notes, to quote:
has a dismal record of helping any country actually develop.
The regions where the ideology has been most influential,
Latin America and Africa, have done the worst. Luckless Latins
and Africans are left chasing yesterdays formulas for
success while those who ignored the Developmentalists found
home grown paths to success
In Nicaragua IMF and WB structural adjustments failed
so conspicuously that the pitiful Sandinista regime of the
1980s is back in power. The IMFs actions during the
Argentina financial crisis of 2001 now reverberates a half
decade later with Hugo Chavez, Venezuelas illiberal
leader, being welcomed with open arms in Buenos Aires. The
heavy-handed directives of the World Bank and the IMF in Bolivia
provided the soil from which that countrys neo-socialist
president, Evo Morales, sprung...Mexico, which saw rapid growth
until 1980, ...has had slow growth ever since, despite embracing
the experts reforms
The disappointing payoff following eight structural
adjustment loans to Zimbabwe helped Robert Mugabe launch a
vicious counterattack on democracy.
The IMF/WB- Jeffrey Sachs application of shock therapy
to the former Soviet Union has created a lasting nostalgia
for communism. In the Middle East...45 structural adjustment
loans and expert advice produced zero per capita GDP growth
that helped create a breeding ground for Islamic fundamentalism.
I have quoted Easterly at length since Wilson (and Gonzales)
cannot claim that he has a differing ideological frame from
them: in the process debunking the easy and intellectually
lazy attempt to dismiss my similar conclusions on impact of
IMF-type policies not by reference to logic or empirical results
but raising the red herring of ideology.
Wilson and Gonzales also attempt to explain away the impact
of structural adjustment in Jamaica with the latter making
the amazing point that Jamaica went too late when
Jamaicas first IMF agreement was in 1977! Since then
Jamaica has had some 20 plus IMF, WB, IDB and USAID structural
Wilson puts the blame on the PNPs rescue of the financial
sector without acknowledging that it was the policy conditionality
of financial sector liberalisation that preceded and, effectively,
facilitated the financial sector meltdown.
Former World Bank Chief Economist Stiglitz also has eloquently
detailed how the IMF added fuel to the fire of the East Asia
Financial crisis of the late 1990s.
It is theoretically conceivable, however, that IMF/WB policies
worked in T&T although being an abject failure virtually
Next week, therefore, I will turn specifically to the T&T
case and also take up some of Wilsons questions on my
analysis of why the T&T economy has gone through successive
boom and bust periods taking into account the views of newly
re-appointed Central Bank Governor Ewart Williams.