The Herald (Harare)

9 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Bretton Woods Institutions Should Not Be Monopolised

opinion

Since the time the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were formed in the late 1940s, top executive vacancies of the two Bretton Woods institutions have been recycled around the Americans and European countries. When the two institutions were formed, America and the European Union agreed between themselves to recycle top executive positions of the two institutions to avoid other nations from occupying them.

America was chosen to be responsible for heading the World Bank while the EU was for the IMF. That scenario has been taking place from their formative days until this day. Why is it that America and the EU are not prepared to reform yet they are telling other nations to do?

They have realised that reforming would compromise their interests. America, like the EU, always uses the two institutions to punish other nations with sanctions if they fail to do what they want. Zimbabwe has been put under illegal economic sanctions by America and the EU.

They later advised the WB and the IMF to withhold any assistance to the Southern African nation.

Zimbabwe, which has been under sanctions for more than a decade now, has been calling for reforms to be effected to the two institutions, including the United Nations. It must be realised that since American Eugene Meyer became the first World Bank president in 1946, the institution has not been reformed to accommodate other people outside America.

The Americans have been clinging onto it to the extend that whoever candidate they sponsor takes over even if he/she is not qualified for that post.

In July 2012 Dr Jim Yong Kim, another American courted, controversy for taking over the presidency of the WB with no economic background because his candidature was put forward by American President Barrack Obama. Dr Kim won the election which pitted him against a Nigerian economist and Finance Minister, Dr Ngozi Nkonjo-Iweala. Dr Nkonjo-Iweala, despite her qualification for the job, lost it because she was not an American and Dr Kim won it because he was an American but not qualified enough to lead the World Bank.

So the fact that America decided, in 1946, that the World Bank would be under their stewardship, makes it impossible for other countries to overturn that decision

On the other hand, the EU had a Belgian, Camille Gutt, becoming the first managing director of the IMF in 1946, beginning an era of the EU bloc recycling members from within it to lead the IMF.

Today, the same institution is headed by a French lady by the name Christine Largade who also took over from her French compatriot Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

The EU, like America, is not prepared to let the IMF be led by any person outside the EU bloc.

It makes sure that nobody is allowed to contest that seat. It is a known fact that while the Americans are enjoying rotating their people at the World Bank, the EU is doing the same with the IMF.

With such a scenario, you get to a situation where world affairs are handled by a few powerful countries at the expense of the global village.

America and the European Union have been manipulating the two institutions to their advantage by disadvantaging other nations from taking appropriate decisions on what should be done. In this so-called global village, the world is supposed to rotate such positions like what the UN is doing with the position of Secretary General. The so-called global village is failing to bring all the countries closer to each other as the powerful nations are manipulating developing countries to their advantage.

The issue of America holding onto top executive position of the World Bank and EU doing the same with the IMF shows that the world is far away from reaching modernity.

The UN, in which they tried to make it appear as if there is rotation in coming up with the Secretary-General's position, still is not independent from the Americans and the European countries. America is good at imposing its will on that world body and anything that goes against America cannot pass through. With America and other four nations having permanent seats in the Security Council with veto powers, then anything against them is blocked. The Security Council itself should not be left to a few countries but must be open to any country. For the UN to be reformed, nations should unite to call for the increase of veto powers to other countries not only five countries. Every country should be given an opportunity to voice her concern without fear or favour.

The UN, with a membership of more than 190 countries, should realise that veto powers should not be left to only a few countries which always use such powers to their advantage. Every country has got power to decide its destiny hence the power of the UN should not be confined to just five nations. To illustrate how America normally abuses its veto power in the UN, in 1996, 10 Security Council members in the UN led by African members Egypt, Guinea-Bissau and Botswana sponsored a resolution backing the then UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali for a second five-year term but America blocked that resolution. The US was opposed to Boutros-Ghali because of his reluctance in approving Nato bombing of Bosnia in which Kofi Annan, who took over from Boutros-Ghali, hastily approved the bombing and was rewarded by having two terms in office.

So the world leaders should always make a lot of noise in every UN General Assembly meeting to call for immediate reforms to be implemented in the UN, WB and IMF so that the world is not left at the mercy of a few countries. Such reforms should start now not later.

The writer is a Harare-based political and social commentator.

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