IN THE NEWS #424 - IMF/WORLD BANK PROTESTSBy George Grow
This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS.
Protests have been taking place this week in
Washington against the International Monetary Fund and
the World Bank. Major actions are planned Sunday and
Monday. The aim is to stop the meetings of finance
ministers and central bank officials at the I-M-F and
World Bank headquarters.
A coalition of several hundred groups hoped to bring
as many as twenty-thousand protesters to Washington.
These groups protested at the meeting of the World
Trade Organization in Seattle last year.
The protesters say the I-M-F and World Bank are
hurting people in poor, developing countries. The
protesters want the organizations to cut the huge
amount of money owed by these countries. They say the
money saved on debt payments could be used for health
care, education and protection of the environment.
The United States and its allies created the
International Monetary Fund and the World Bank after
World War Two. Most of the countries in the world are
members. 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
The main job of the International Monetary Fund is to
support world economic growth. The I-M-F provides
money to help countries deal with short-term
difficulties. These loans often come with unpopular
demands for economic changes. 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 develop transportation, health and
education systems. The World Bank is the leading
provider of development assistance. It also makes
loans to restructure national economic systems.
Protest organizers say the I-M-F and the World Bank
represent the interests of big business and the very
rich. And, they say these organizations defend the
interests of major industrial countries.
Many officials at the Washington meetings agree that
the debts of the poorest countries should be
cancelled. However, the issue is not so simple.
The World Bank and other lenders say they need to be
repaid in some way so they can make future loans.
Also, creditors do not want governments to take the
money saved from debt forgiveness and use it for
military purposes or bad investments.
Last year, industrial nations agreed to cancel up to
twenty-nine-thousand-million dollars of debt owed by
as many as forty-one countries. So far, only three
-- Bolivia, Mauritania and Uganda -- have received
World Bank President James Wolfensohn says the bank
hopes to have sixty-thousand-million dollars of debt
from twenty countries cancelled by the end of this
year. And, he says he believes the protests like
those in Washington show concerns about the changing
This VOA Special English program IN THE NEWS was
written by George Grow. This is Steve Ember.