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05.10.2004 Press Review

Editorial: HIPC In The Dock

By Public Agenda

It is pretty interesting the way the World Bank galvanizes popular support for its puppet regimes in the Third World. It will sometimes bend its own rules if that was necessary to keep a particular government in office in order to push through its one-size-fit-all, try-and-error policies which have never worked any where in the world.

In the days of Rawlings, the Bank kept the funds flowing until it fell out with the regime over aspects of the Banks structural reform policies. Funds were withheld, and the regime collapsed.

It might have indeed appeared intriguing to many a casual observer, the declaration of Ghana's attainment of HIPC completion point, at a time, when several conditions set by the Bank for reaching there, were yet to be met. So might also have been the case, when in an unprecedented move (in the history of the Bank's dealings with Ghana), the Bank hurriedly approved a $103million loan, (weeks ahead of a scheduled meeting of the Bank's Board), for the country's Urban Water Reform Programme.

It appears, in the estimation of the Public Agenda, that an alien, and for that matter, an unregistered voter has always taken part in our sovereign voting exercise; and has in a fundamental way, determined the outcome of the elections.

HIPC has failed – says the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The neo-liberal policies we have followed since the 1980s, are also not working, says the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in positions papers issued early this year. And the Bank would have to be forthcoming if its star pupil is to remain in office.

To us at Public Agenda, reports of the failure of HIPC is no news. We have always maintained, and still do - that, the conditions attached to HIPC are designed to ensure that the facility perpetuates our dependency on donors. The very things we are discouraged from doing under HIPC, are the things that our so-called development partners do with zeal, for their citizens.

Trade liberalization and privatization are ploys to ensure that, we destroy our production base, and lose control over our strategic national assets. We deem it hypocritical, that, when we found it necessary to protect our rice and poultry industry (within the rules of the World Trade Organisation) the IMF would arm-twist the government into backtracking, only to turn round to postulate about reducing rural poverty in Ghana.

On assumption of office, President Kufuor pledged to work to reduce our dependency on donor funding for the national budget. The idea is brilliant, because it is the only way to free some space to do things the way we deem fit. But on this pledge, the Public agenda says: So far, so very bad, which is the reason the poverty situation in the country keep worsening. For us on this paper, the verdict is out: We need a paradigm shift.

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