Category: Opinions

Nsingu day commemoration speech by Dr Fred M’membe

Nsingu day commemoration speech by Dr Fred M’membe Featured

THIS MONTH marks 124 years since Commander Nsingu was murdered, assassinated by the British force of Cecil Rhodes and his British South African company, which is today represented by the Anglo American Corporation.

February 4 is both a sorrowful and joyous day. Sorrowful in the sense of the pain suffered by Commander Nsingu, his father, the old man Mpezeni, at that time the Ngoni indunas, and 10,000 young Ngonis who Commander Nsingu had organised in an army to resist the occupation of the Chipeta area, which was Ngoni land.
The Ngoni capital fell to Cecil Rhodes’ army on February 4 and it was 124 years ago that Commander Nsingu was captured and court-martialed, with a decision made to execute him the following morning. On February 5 at dawn Commander Nsingu was executed in front of his lieutenants. Why did this happen? It happened because of minerals and land. 

In 1891, six years after the Berlin conference that divided Africa among European powers, this territory today called Zambia was colonised by Cecil John Rhodes, a businessman – what today you call a foreign investor – and his company, the BSA. 

Why did they colonise this territory?  What was Cecil Rhodes looking for here? He was looking for minerals, and for those minerals Cecil Rhodes was ready to kill whosoever stood in his way. He would send his agents, his representatives, to negotiate concessions with our chiefs, with our leaders. If they refused to give him concessions to prospect and mine minerals in their chiefdoms, he attacked them. He had an army, a very big army that he had set up in Kotakota in Northern Malawi. That army was well resourced, it was equipped with maxim guns and seven-pounder artillery.

Cecil Rhodes believed there was gold in the Chipeta area occupied by the Ngonis, because Rhodes had found it south of the Chipeta, in what is now Zimbabwe, under Lobengula.  He believed there was also gold up north in the Chipeta in the area occupied by the Ngonis and he sent his people to prospect for it in the Chipeta area.

One morning these Ngonis woke up to see white people with all sorts of gadgets moving around the Chipeta. It was scary but these were the descendants of the Zulu who had defeated the British army at the battle of Insandlwana in South Africa a few years before. These were very brave people, they confronted the white people and asked them what they were looking for, who they were.

“We are from Cecil Rhodes, we want gold,” they replied.

“Who gave you permission to look for gold here?” the Ngonis asked.

“This is Cecil Rhodes’s land, we don’t need permission,” the white men replied.

“How can this be Cecil Rhodes’s land when it’s Mpezeni’s,” the Ngonis continued.

“No, this is not Mpezeni’s land, it’s Cecil’s,” came the reply.

The Ngoni leadership realised there was a problem that might end in a war and this troubled Mpezeni, who was already an old man at that time. He pondered over it. He was even more worried because he knew Cecil Rhodes had an army in Kotakota that was well resourced and well equipped. Although at that time the some Ngonis had guns because they were trading, they were no match for the seven-pounders, and moreover, to use their guns they had to get ammunition and gun powder from the same place that they were fighting. Mpezeni realised that it was going to be a difficult war.

But while Mpezeni and the Ngoni elders were pondering over what to do, his young son Nsingu made it very clear that it was “over our dead bodies” that Cecil Rhodes and his company would take their land and minerals.

He organised 10,000 young Ngonis to resist the imperialist occupation of the Chipeta area they occupied, but could not use guns so they had no alternative but to fall back on their Asegai spears, developed by Shaka some years back. It was the only weapon the Ngonis had to defend themselves against maxim guns, seven-pounders. True to the Ngonis’ fears, the Cecil Rhodes army attacked the Chipeta area in December 1897. The Ngonis did not attack the Cecil Rhodes army there, they were attacked and had no alternative but to defend themselves with their Asegai.

It was a difficult war for the Ngonis. Cecil Rhodes’s army killed Ngonis indiscriminately, burning their crops , and overran the Ngoni capital on February 4, when Commander Nsingu was captured. His father, the old man Mpezeni, fled into the hills. Nsingu was court-martialed and sentenced to death, and was executed at dawn the following morning, murdered by Cecil Rhodes’s lieutenants. They did not want us to know where his grave was so they buried him secretly. His father was also eventually captured and imprisoned, and that was very painful for an Ngoni king, to be paraded in handcuffs in front of his people. When he was eventually released, our grandfather Mpezeni died from depression. 

We can say Cecil Rhodes and his company killed Mpezeni, Nsingu and the 10,000 young Ngonis over minerals and their land. By the time the war ended in February 1898, the Ngonis had lost 12,000 head of cattle, worth a great deal. With that wealth the Ngonis could have built themselves schools, hospitals and other infrastructure needed for development. Their economy, built over 62 years, was destroyed in two months of war, from December 1897 to February 1898.

The Ngonis landed in this territory from South Africa in 1835. They were soldiers from Shaka Zulu’s army, not ordinary people. They were about to be court-martialed for some offence they had committed and decided to flee, leaving behind their wives and children, and crossed into what is now Zambia around Feira or Luangwa in 1835. Actually, on the day they were crossing the Zambezi River there was an eclipse of the sun and the Zulu soldiers thought it was their god protecting them from their enemies as they were crossing, pursued by Shaka’s army. They were helped to cross the Zambezi River by the Chikudas who had canoes, and some of them travelled all the way up to Tanzania, while others moved all the way into Western Malawi and settled there. The rest settled in what is now called Eastern Province, in the Chipeta area, and it was those who eventually became known as the Ngonis.

These Zulu soldiers started marrying Nsenga, Chewa and Tumbuka women and the children they produced with Nsenga women started speaking Chinsenga, those with Chewa women started speaking Chichewa, and those with Tumbuka women spoke Chitumbuka. The Zulu language, the Ngoni language the soldiers spoke, eventually died. Today, his majesty Mpezeni speaks Chinsenga. We have an ethnicity called Ngoni but there is no Ngoni language because it died out. You can hear some Zulu words in songs, but that’s where it ends. 
As if this were not enough for Cecil Rhodes, in 1904 he took over the village of induna Kapatamoyo and turned it into Fort Jameson, which became the headquarters for the colonisation of north-eastern Rhodesia. He headquartered troops from Kotakota at induna Kapatamoyo village (Fort Jameson).

This bandit Cecil Rhodes and his company, the BSA, were later taken over by the Oppenheimer family and became the Anglo-American Corporation. They continued with Cecil Rhodes’s policy of colonisation, humiliation, exploitation and killings. Cecil Rhodes and his BSA company ruled us for 33 years, from 1891 until 1924 when he handed over power to the British foreign office because it was too much for him to run the government, army, police, judiciary and so on. He wanted to concentrate on his business. For some time we were governed from South Africa and later on from Livingstone and then Lusaka.

Anglo American and the Oppenheimer family continued with the same policies of Cecil Rhodes in an indirect way. Although indirect, the principles were the same and they continue today to try to expand their influence so they can control the minerals. They now sponsor political parties on the continent and in this land, where they have representatives of Cecil Rhodes today ruling us funded by a foundation.

These bandits now sponsor political parties in Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Mozambique, Uganda, and Kenya.  They have found good Africans to use. The chairman of their project (chair of the African Union) is no other than General Obasanjo, the former Nigerian President. He no longer represents the Nigerian government, he represents Anglo American. Why is Anglo American interested in the governance of Africa? Minerals. 

Comrades and friends, this humble ceremony honours our Ngoni ancestors, honours the sacrifices of Commander Nsingu, honours the life of the 10,000 young Ngonis and Mpezeni, who perished defending our land, defending our minerals. The issue is not a small one.

This history I am telling you, they don’t want us to know, it’s not taught in our schools, it’s not taught to our children, it’s not taught to us. It’s not written in our books. They don’t want this history to be known by you. Why don’t they teach us? They teach us about David Livingstone, Vasco da Gama, Marco Polo, but they don’t teach us about commander Nsingu. They don’t teach us about the old man Mpezeni, and the 10,000 young Ngonis who perished in the war. Why? Because they don’t want Nsingu to live in us. They have tried to destroy this history, but you have heard it. Our young people were singing this history. They were repeating the words of Commander Nsingu. We are here today to draw inspiration from this history, from the sacrifices, the bravery, the selflessness. 

Our people respect the brave, selfless patriots, and that is why this history of struggle, of resistance to colonialism, exploitation, humiliation, cannot be stopped, cannot be destroyed. We will continue to honour this history. Commander Nsingu is the highest hero of our homeland. 

As Comrade Cosmas Musumali says, “It doesn’t now matter whether you are Lozi, Luvale, Bemba, Mbunda or whatever, this is our national hero number one.” There is no other army in the history of this territory today called Zambia that has fought a foreign army, only the Nsingu army. There is no military commander in the history of this territory called Zambia who has commanded an army in a war against a foreign army other than Commander Nsingu. This is heroic history.

We in the Socialist Party look up to the Ngoni history, look up to the Ngoni sacrifices and bravery. Every Ngoni in this territory is a descendant of a fighter. There are no other Ngonis who came another way. The Zulus who came here were troops, they were fighters, warriors, Impis, and they have shown that time and time again. This history needs to be known, this history needs to be taught to our children.

Today, we cannot even find a picture of Nsingu. We have hunted in the archives in South Africa and Europe for the past five years but have failed to find a picture of Nsingu. We hope that one day we will find one so that our young people can see who Commander Nsingu was and what he looked like so we can erect a proper statue that reflects the image of our commander, our national hero, the apostle of the independence of this country. Comrades, without your history, without your roots you are nobody.
 

Why the president is travelling to South Africa

Why the president is travelling to South Africa

The statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs appears to omit the main reason why the President of the Republic of Zambia is travelling to South Africa tomorrow. As the advert alongside the message shows, the purpose of the President’s trip is to go and launch a book written by a private person who happens to be his friend named Greg Mills.

Mills is the CEO of the Brenthurst Foundation, a Johannesburg-based organisation established by the Oppenheimer family, the founders of Anglo American Plc, in 2004. This Foundation is widely believed to have bankrolled the UPND campaigns in the last few elections. Is the President repaying a little of the favour?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the President’s visit is a two-day working visit and that the President will pay a courtesy call on South African President President Cyril Ramaphosa. By definition, a courtesy call is a by the way. It is a call or visit made out of politeness. So, what exactly is the purpose of President Hichilema’s trip to South Africa if the meeting with President Ramaphosa is only a by the way? Is the meeting with President Ramaphosa a mere cover up for his private pursuits, especially that SADC leaders only recently met in Malawi to discuss the security situation in the region?

Is this the best way to use public resources and time: galavanting all over South Africa to promote the commercial interests of the President’s non-Zambian associates? Is it justified to travel to another country using taxpayers’ resources (office, money, time, etc) to physically promote the commercial interests of private entities even if they may have helped fund one’s election campaigns?

Doesn’t this make it plain who the power brokers in the new government are? Is this the beginning of State Capture?

Zambia, we can surely do better than this!

Fred M’membe

Merry Christmas and happy 2022

Merry Christmas and happy 2022

It’s hard to think of a Christmas season when all of us across Zambia have needed the break more acutely.

The truth is that 2021 has been a hard year for our country. This has been a difficult year for many of us. We didn’t succeed in delivering the real change, revolutionary change that so many people so desperately need. But Christmas is a chance to listen, reflect and remember all the things that bind us together: our compassion, our determination to tackle injustice, inequality, lack of honesty, humility and solidarity and our hope for a more just, fair and humane world.

Christmas is a time of year when the scale of injustice and inequality is in very plain sight.With our political system in gridlock, and public discourse too often descending into rancour and abuse, it’s felt like we’ve been living permanently under a dark cloud.All of us across Zambia have too often focused on the differences between us, rather than on what ties us together.

So I hope the magic of Christmas casts its spell for people this year, helping families and friends remember what it is that unites them, not divides them. I hope it reminds us that, despite the sound and fury of our national debate, the bonds of family, community and country are still deep and lasting.

Yes, it’s a cliché that Christmas is the season of goodwill. But its important for all of us that we demonstrate that goodwill to each other this year and that, for a week or so, hopefully the shouting match of social media can fall silent. It’s also a time to thank health workers who will be keeping going over the Christmas holiday should we need them, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic that has been raking havoc. I hope they get a break with their families in due course.

It’s also right to mention those people who will this year be supporting the destitute, those living on the streets, the homeless during the Christmas season, our religious leaders for whom this is such a busy time, and all those who are looking out for a neighbour or a friend who needs support at this time of year.

And I also want to ask people to think about their neighbours. While we celebrate being together, we are reminded of the many who will be alone and sadly lonely at Christmas. But our communities are built on generosity and the solidarity that comes from that. So we do not walk by on the other side. Loneliness can be a terrible thing at Christmas. So we should look out for each other. And let’s make sure we have peace in our country and on our entire planet.May I wish all of you a merry Christmas and happy 2022.

Fred M’membe

We have been on this path before

We have been on this path before Featured

Let’s not cheat ourselves or allow ourselves to be deceived. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme guarantees us nothing. We have been on this path before. Yes, the language has or is changing slightly, but the fundamentals of these programmes have remained the same. The IMF management would like recipient countries to “own” the policy conditionalities much more than they have done. But genuine ownership can only be derived if the countries themselves participate in the making of the policies; and this is generally not the case as the policies are usually imposed by the IMF, often against the wishes of the governments or people.

Still, the policies would be more acceptable if they work. But generally they have not worked. Instead of recovery, growth and getting out of debt, many recipient countries have experienced stagnation or worse, and many are still trapped in debt. Thus, more “country ownership” of IMF programmes does not simply mean improving the methods of getting countries to really accept and internalise IMF policies which, it is assumed, are good though tough. It is not a communications or public relations task.

Ownership can or should be increased only if there is genuine participation by the government and people of recipient countries; and only if the content of conditionality (i.e., the policies) are appropriate and bring about good outcomes. Thus, the key issues are the democratic (or rather non-democratic and non-participatory) process of IMF policy-making, and the appropriateness (or rather inappropriateness) of the IMF policies. Unless these issues are resolved, no amount of persuasion or arm-twisting (ultimatums such as “convince us beforehand that you are a believer or we won’t agree to giving you a loan”) will bring about genuine ownership.

The issues of non-participation and inappropriate policies are not academic but of life and death dimensions. From the mid 1980s we have lived through IMF programmes. We closely followed policy debates and policies in the different affected countries, saw the effects of the market practices and the IMF-led policies, the social and political upheavals, the traumatic economic downturn, the devastating effect on the lives of millions of people and on the viability of thousands of local firms, big and small. Due to the evidence of recent events, there is a crisis also in development thinking and the development paradigm. In the past there was a bias or blind faith in predominantly relying on the state for development. Then, there was a swing to the other extreme of having total reliance and blind faith in the private sector and on globalisation (rapid opening up to international finance and trade). Now the pendulum is swinging back.

The emerging view is that openness can have good or bad effects, depending on the specific condition and stage of development a country is in, for example, whether the local firms and banks are prepared for external competition, whether there are regulations or knowledge on managing and utilising foreign loans so that they can be repaid, whether there is reciprocal benefits from opening up, whether there are opportunities for increasing exports or if the capacity to produce and market for export has been built up, and what are the balance of payments effects of opening up given the conditions the country finds itself in. Although if conditions are right there can be many benefits from opening up, there are also great risks and costs to be borne if the conditions are not right. For many countries, the conditions are not or may not be right, at least not yet. If they nevertheless open up, they may suffer the risks and the costs.

Thus, the balance, degree, timing, sequence of liberalisation must be tailored to each country. Though it may become the new wisdom in rhetoric, this principle has not yet been translated into policy by international agencies like the IMF, nor into national policy of most developing countries. Many countries are unable to do so, even if they want to, due to conditionality or binding rules. Many, if not most, developing countries are neither growing nor developing. The situation is bleak for many. Business as usual cannot be the response, as it has generally failed. The issue of conditionality and ownership should be viewed in a broad perspective, and this includes looking critically not only at the roads taken by the IMF but also at the roads not taken.

The raison d´etre of the IMF at its creation and in the era of the Bretton Woods system is to ensure global financial stability. This arose from the recognition that left to itself the financial institutions, markets and players, can become a too-powerful force with the potential of destabilising the financial system itself as well as undermining the real economy. The IMF’s implicit mission included taming and regulating global and national finance so that finance would serve the real sector objectives of growth of output, income and employment.The original Post WW2 framework supported this function. It included a system predominated by fixed exchange rates (which could be adjusted with IMF assistance when needed by objective conditions), BOP adjustment through country-IMF discussion when needed, limited cross border financial flows, and the normality of national capital controls.

Policy was influenced by an understanding of the need for caution on the potential for instability, volatility and harm to the real economy that can be caused by unregulated finance and by speculative activity. This regulatory system and the period of relative financial stability ended with the 1972 Smithsonian Agreement. Floating replaced fixed exchange rates, financial deregulation and liberalisation took off in the OECD countries, new financial instruments developed, there has been a massive explosion in crossborder short term capital flows and in speculative financial activity.

There has also been the spread of capital liberalisation to developing countries, to which advice from developed countries and from the IMF contributed. These developments underlie the frequent occurrence of financial crises. The failure of the IMF and other international financial agencies to prevent such crises should be recognised as one of its major flaws, and this should be rectified. Indeed, the failure of the IMF in preventing the global financial system from going down the road of such rapid deregulation and liberalisation (with the consequences of currency instability, volatility of capital flows and financial speculation), and instead presiding over this road that was taken, is a major mistake. It also goes against the original role of the IMF to establish and maintain a stable financial order.

There needs to be a backtracking to the crossroads and take a new turning which is more true to the IMF’s original mission of establishing financial stability. That is the road of crisis prevention through establishment of greater stability through better understanding and regulation of capital flows and capital markets; and a more stable system of exchange rates (including among the major reserve currencies, and in the currencies of developing countries). There is need to understand capital markets and the role and methods of players like highly leveraged institutions (for example hedge funds) which are now non-transparent and unaccountable but have major impact on global and national finance and real economy. There is need especially to curb manipulative financial activity. There is need to understand the behaviour and potential and real effects of various kinds of capital flows to developing countries – including credit (to the public and private sectors), portfolio investment, foreign direct investment (and its varieties, such as mergers and acquisitions, Greenfield investment, and FDI that produces for the domestic or the foreign market).

There is need to look at inflows and outflows arising from each, including the potential for volatility of each and the effects, especially on reserves and the balance-of-payments. What are the implications for policy and what guidelines should be given? For example, when should (or should not) a government or company borrow in foreign currency? Regulations and guidelines are needed because the market lacks a mechanism that can ensure appropriate outcomes. One guideline that is most relevant could be that local companies should be allowed to borrow in foreign currency only if (and to the extent) the loan is utilised for projects that earn foreign exchange to repay the debt.

The potential for devastating effects of short-term capital flows should be recognised and acted on, to prevent developing countries from the dangers of falling into debt traps. The IMF must recognise this and have an action plan A(or at least be part of a coordinated action plan) that:

(i) regulates global capital flows, through international regulations or through currency transaction taxes; (ii) establishes surveillance mechanisms and disciplines on countries that are major sources of credit so that the authorities in these countries monitor and regulate the behaviour and flows emanating from their capital markets and institutional sources of funds;

(iii) provides warnings for developing countries of the potential hazards of accepting different types of capital inflows and provides guidelines on the judicious and careful use of the various kinds of funds ;(iv) educates members and the public on how capital markets work and establishes surveillance and accountability mechanisms to guide and regulate the workings of the markets; (v) appreciates and advises countries on the functions and selective uses of capital controls at national level, and helps them establish the capacity to introduce or maintain such controls; (vi) identifies and curbs the use and abuse of financial instruments and methods that manipulate prices, currencies and markets, and prevents the development of new manipulative or destabilising instruments and methods;(vii) stabilises exchange rates at international and national levels, which could include mechanisms to stabilise the three major currencies, and measures that can provide more stability and more accurate pricing of currencies of developing countries; (viii) provides sufficient liquidity and credit to developing countries to finance development.The prevention of crises through a more stable global financial order is more beneficial and cost effective than allowing the continuation of a fundamentally unstable and crisis-prone system which would then throw up the need of frequent bail-outs with accompanying conditionality.

IMF conditionality policies have come under severe criticism for at least three reasons: (i) that there has been “over-reach” in that the conditions widened in range through time to include “structural policies” not needed for managing the crisis; (ii) that the policies in the core economic and financial areas of IMF competence have also been inappropriate as they were contractionary and did not generate growth; and(iii) that the policies were designed in ways insensitive to social impacts, and the burden of adjustment fell heavily on the poor and at the expense of social and public services.

The scope of IMF policy conditions has been increasing through the years and has become far too broad. Many of the conditions were not relevant or critical to the causes or the management of the crisis the countries found themselves in. Some of these conditions were put into the conditionality package under the influence or pressure of major IMF shareholders for their own interest or agenda, rather than in the interests of the debtor country. On many areas where conditions are set, neither the IMF nor the World Bank has the expertise to give proper advice, and thus the potential to commit a blunder is high and the negative effects can also be high. This includes the area of political conditionality and issues relating to “governance”. In many countries, import liberalisation has led to domestic firms and industries having to close down as they were unable to compete with cheaper imports, and de-industrialisation has been the result.

There is now strong emerging evidence that trade liberalisation can successfully work only under certain conditions. Factors for success or otherwise include the ability of the country’s enterprises and farms to withstand import competition, its production and distribution capacity to export, as well as the state of commodity prices and the degree of market access for its products. In the absence of positive factors, import liberalisation may cause the country into deeper problems.

The implications for conditionality are significant. Evidence is emerging that wrongly sequenced and improperly implemented trade liberalisation is adding to developing countries’ trade deficits. The IMF should thus review its trade liberalisation conditionality to take account of the need to enable countries to tailor their trade policy to their particular conditions and their development needs. In areas of its core competence, there are also serious problems with IMF policies. The problems with conditionality do not lie only in “new areas” outside the traditional areas of the IMF’s concern. The criticism is now widespread that even in the areas of the IMF’s core competence (macroeconomic, financial, monetary and fiscal policies), there are major problems of appropriateness of policy and conditionality.

Policy objectives and assumptions and policy instruments on how to obtain them are under question, given the poor record of outcome. This questioning of the appropriateness and outcomes of policy had already been going on for several years (especially in relation to policies and results in Africa), but the doubts and criticisms grew much more intense as a result of the IMF handling of the Asian crisis.The IMF policies tend to be biased towards restrictive monetary policies (including high interest rates) and fiscal contraction, both of which tend to induce or increase recessionary pressures in the overall economy. The contraction in money supply and high interest rates decrease the inducement for investment as well as consumption (thus reducing effective demand). The high interest rates also increase the debt-servicing burden of local enterprises and cause a deterioration in the banking system in relation to non-performing loans.

The Fund has also maintained the strong condition for financial liberalisation and openness in the capital account. Thus, the country is subjected to free inflows and outflows of funds, involving foreigners and locals. The country’s exchange rate is in most cases open to the influence of these capital flows, to the level of interest rate, and to speculative activity. Often, there are large fluctuations in the exchange rate. Given the fixed assumption that the capital account must remain open, there is thus the need to maintain the confidence of the short-term foreign investor and potential speculators. A policy of high interest rate and lower government expenditure is advised (imposed) in an effort to maintain foreign investor confidence. But since this policy causes financial difficulties to local firms and banks, and increase recessionary pressures, the level of confidence in the currency may also not be maintained.

The narrow perspective on which the restrictive policies are based neglects the need to build the domestic basis and conditions for recovery and for future development, including the survival and recovery of local firms and financial institutions, the encouragement of sufficient aggregate effective demand, the retention of the confidence of local savers, consumers and investors.

Most IMF policies imposed on countries that face financial problems and economic slowdown are opposite to the policies adopted by (and encouraged for) developed countries, such as the US, which normally reduce interest rates to as low a level as needed and which boost government expenditures, so as to increase effective demand, counter recessionary pressures and spark a recovery. Thus there have been criticisms by mainstream and renowned Western economists (including Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz) that criticise the IMF for imposing policies on developing countries that are opposite to what the US does when facing a similar situation.

Since the type of policies that are linked to IMF conditionality have been increasingly criticised for not working, including because they are contractionary and recessionary in nature and effect, it is no wonder that there is a lack of credibility and confidence in the substance of IMF conditionality, even in its core areas of competence. There is thus a need for IMF to review its macroeconomic package, re-look the policy objectives and assumptions, compare the trade-offs in policy objectives with the number and effects of policy instruments, and widen the range of policy options and instruments. This review should be made in respect of government budget and expenditure, money supply, interest rate, exchange rate, and the degree of capital account openers and regulation.

The IMF has also been heavily criticised, especially by civil society, for the inappropriate design of their policies from the viewpoint of social impact, including reducing access of the public to basic services, and increasing the incidence of poverty. The adverse social impacts are caused by several policies and mechanisms. The contractionary monetary and fiscal policies induce recessionary pressures, corporate closures, lower or negative growth rates, retrenchments and higher unemployment. Cutbacks in government expenditure lead to reduced spending on education, health and other services. The switch in financing and provision of services from a grant basis to user-pay basis impacts negatively on the poorer sections of society. The removal or reduction of government subsidies jacks up the cost of living including the cost of transport, food, and fuel.

These and other policies have contributed to higher poverty, unemployment, income loss and reduced access to essential goods and services. It is not a coincidence that countries undergoing IMF conditionality have been affected by demonstrations and riots (popularly called “IMF Riots”). The social impact of IMF policies is another major cause of the crisis of credibility in IMF conditionality. It must be recognised by the IMF that the major problem with its conditionality is that the policies associated with it are seen to be inappropriate and harmful. This view is not confined to critical academics or NGOs but is now adopted by renowned mainstream scholars, by parliamentarians of many countries, and also by policymakers of the countries taking IMF loans and undergoing IMF conditionality.

The growth of the criticism is caused mainly by the poor record of the policies adopted, and not so much by the lack of implementation of the policies. Therefore, the most urgent task is not so much to “sell” the old conditionality better to the client governments or to the public, but to review the content of conditionality itself and to come up with a better and more appropriate framework and approach. For years the IMF had been advocating that developing countries open their capital account, which would open them more directly to the forces of international capital markets. Also, there were strong moves to add capital account liberalisation to the mandate of the IMF through an amendment to the articles of association.

This advocacy that developing countries open themselves to the full force of global capital markets, when the Fund itself had inadequate knowledge of the capital markets, was surely remarkable, and in hindsight a great mistake with so many adverse consequences.With the recent admission of lack of knowledge, let us hope the Fund is starting a learning process that will lead to recognition of previous errors and a more appropriate, cautious approach with a change in policy advice to developing countries.It should go without saying that appropriateness of conditionality policies in terms of being in the interests of the debtor countries is the key issue to be resolved. “Acceptance” of externally imposed conditionality by the debtor countries is secondary and dependent on it. Moreover, the right to participate in policy making, and thus genuine ownership, is a critical element in ensuring appropriate conditionality and its implementation.

The role of the major shareholder countries is even more important. The public perception is that they would like to make use of the Fund for their interests, often at the expense of recipient countries and their people. The perception is that the major shareholders (who are also the home countries of the major creditor and investor institutions) make use of their position to skew the policy conditions in a manner that is biased in favour of creditors and investors. Is there a conflict of interest in their making use of the vulnerable state that debtor countries find themselves in, as leverage for imposing policies that are in their own narrow interests, even if these are against the interests of the debtor countries?

Finally, it is difficult or even impossible to ensure that the interests of debtor countries will be adequately reflected in conditionality and Fund decisions when the voting rights in the Fund are so skewed towards the creditor countries. Thus, the issue of the relationship between ownership and conditionality has to face up to the issue of the ownership of the IMF itself.

When decision-making rights are so imbalanced as they now are, it is not a wonder that the developed countries are perceived to be controlling the Fund’s policies, and in a manner that reflects their own interests rather than the interests of the whole membership. This situation is likely to continue until there is a fairer balance in the decision-making system.There is a dire need for the modernisation and democratisation of the governance system, including a revision of the quota and voting system. This can be accompanied by genuine reform of IMF policies and priorities. The issue of “ownership and conditionality” can then be better resolved in that context.

Fred M’membe
We are in real danger of extinction

We are in real danger of extinction Featured

We are really in danger of extinction if we don’t take this issue of global warming very, very seriously. It’s no joke. An important biological species — humankind — is at risk of disappearing due to the rapid and progressive elimination of its natural habitat. We are becoming aware of this problem when it is almost too late to prevent it. It must be said that consumer societies are chiefly responsible for this appalling environmental destruction. They were spawned by the former colonial metropolis. They are the offspring of imperial policies which, in turn, brought forth the backwardness and poverty that have become the scourge for the great majority of humankind.

With only 20 per cent of the world’s population, they consume two-thirds of all metals and three-fourths of the energy produced worldwide. They have poisoned the seas and the rivers. They have polluted the air. They have weakened and perforated the ozone layer. They have saturated the atmosphere with gases, altering climatic conditions with the catastrophic effects we are already beginning to suffer. The forests are disappearing. The deserts are expanding. Billions of tons of fertile soil are washed every year into the sea. Numerous species are becoming extinct. Population pressures and poverty lead to desperate efforts to survive, even at the expense of nature. Third World countries, yesterday’s colonies and today nations exploited and plundered by an unjust international economic order, cannot be blamed for all this.

The solution cannot be to prevent the development of those who need it the most. Because today, everything that contributes to underdevelopment and poverty is a flagrant rape of the environment. As a result, tens of millions of men, women and children die every year in the Third World, more than in each of the two world wars. Unequal trade, protectionism and the foreign debt assault the ecological balance and promote the destruction of the environment. If we want to save humanity from this self-destruction, wealth and available technologies must be distributed better throughout the planet. Less luxury and less waste in a few countries would mean less poverty and hunger in much of the world.

Stop transferring to the Third World lifestyles and consumer habits that ruin the environment. Make human life more rational. Adopt a just international economic order. Use science to achieve sustainable development without pollution. Pay the ecological debt. Eradicate hunger and not humanity. Enough of selfishness. Enough of schemes of domination. Enough of insensitivity, irresponsibility and deceit. Tomorrow will be too late to do what we should have done a long time ago.

Over and over at the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, world leaders stressed the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The 2015 Paris Agreement commits countries to limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for 1.5°C. Scientists have warned that crossing the 1.5°C threshold risks unleashing far more severe climate change effects on people, wildlife and ecosystems.

Preventing it requires almost halving global CO2 emissions by 2030 from 2010 levels and cutting them to net-zero by 2050 — an ambitious task that scientists, financiers, negotiators and activists at COP26 are debating how to achieve and pay for. But what is the difference between 1.5°C and 2°C of warming? Already, the world has heated to around 1.1°C above pre-industrial levels. Each of the last four decades was hotter than any decade since 1850. We never had such a global warming in only a few decades. Half a degree means much more extreme weather, and it can be more often, more intense, or extended in duration.

Climate change is already affecting every inhabited region across the globe. More warming to 1.5°C and beyond will worsen such impacts. For every increment of global warming, changes in extremes become larger.For example, heatwaves would become both more frequent and more severe. An extreme heat event that occurred once per decade in a climate without human influence, would happen 4.1 times a decade at 1.5°C of warming, and 5.6 times at 2°C, according to the U.N. climate science panel (IPCC).
Let warming spiral to 4°C, and such an event could occur 9.4 times per decade.

A warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture, resulting in more extreme rainfall that raises flood risks. It also increases evaporation, leading to more intense droughts.
The difference between 1.5°C and 2°C is critical for Earth’s oceans and frozen regions. At 1.5°C, there’s a good chance we can prevent most of the Greenland and west Antarctic ice sheet from collapsing.
That would help limit sea level rise to a few feet by the end of the century – still a big change that would erode coastlines and inundate some small island states and coastal cities. But blow past 2°C and the ice sheets could collapse with sea levels rising up to 10 metres – though how quickly that could happen is uncertain.
Warming of 1.5°C would destroy at least 70 per cent of coral reefs, but at 2°C more than 99 per cent would be lost. That would destroy fish habitats and communities that rely on reefs for their food and livelihoods. Warming of 2°C, versus 1.5°C, would also increase the impact on food production.

If you have crop failures in a couple of the breadbaskets of the world at the same time, then you could see extreme food price spikes and hunger and famine across wide swathes of the world.
A warmer world could see the mosquitoes that carry diseases such as malaria and dengue fever expand across a wider range. But 2°C would also see a bigger share of insects and animals lose most of their habitat range, compared with 1.5°C, and increase the risk of forest fires – another risk to wildlife.

As the world heats up, the risk increases that the planet will reach tipping points where Earth’s systems cross a threshold that triggers irreversible or cascading impacts. Exactly when those points would be reached is uncertain. Droughts, reduced rainfall, and continued destruction of the Amazon through deforestation, for example, could see the rainforest system collapse, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere rather than storing it. Or warming Arctic permafrost could cause long-frozen biomass to decompose, releasing vast amount of carbon emissions. That’s why it’s so risky to keep emitting from fossil fuels because we’re increasing the likelihood that we go over one of those tipping points.

So far, the climate pledges that countries have submitted to the United Nations’ registry of pledges put the world on track for 2.7°C of warming. The International Energy Agency says that new promises announced at the COP26 summit – if implemented – could hold warming to below 1.8°C, although some experts challenged that calculation. It remains to be seen whether those promises will translate into real-world action.

Warming of 2.7°C would deliver unliveable heat for parts of the year across areas of the tropics and subtropics. Biodiversity would be enormously depleted, food security would drop, and extreme weather would exceed most urban infrastructure’s capacity to cope.
If we can keep warming below 3°C we likely remain within our adaptive capacity as a civilisation, but at 2.7°C warming we would experience great hardship.

Fred M’membe