The Lying IMF

Alternative sources of financing are beginning to empower poorer nations in the Global South to pursue projects grounded in genuine development theory, writes Vijay Prashad.

By Vijay Prashad
Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

Remarkably, during her visit to Ghana in late March, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced that the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Technical Assistance will “deploy a full-time resident advisor in 2023 to Accra to assist the Ministry of Finance in developing and executing medium- to long-term reforms needed to improve debt sustainability and support a competitive, dynamic government debt market.”

Ghana certainly faces significant challenges in this arena, with its external debt standing at $36 billion and its debt-to-gross domestic product ratio hovering over 100 percent.

As Harris left Accra, Reuters reported that Ghana had hired the Bermuda-based financial advisor Lazard to represent it in talks with the Paris-based Rothschild & Co., which will represent the international bondholders that are the largest creditors of this cash-strapped nation. Rather than pressure these wealthy bondholders to cancel some of the debt (what is known as a “haircut”) or to extend a moratorium on debt servicing payments, the U.S. government merely provided Ghana with a “technical adviser.”

In December, Ghana signed an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through its Extended Credit Facility to receive $3 billion over three years. In return, Ghana’s government agreed to “a wide-ranging economic reform programme” that includes a commitment to “increase domestic resource mobilisation and streamline expenditure.”

In other words, Ghana’s government will conduct an austerity regime against its own people. At the time of this agreement, consumer inflation in the country had risen to 54.1 percent. By January 2023, it was clear that electricity, water, gas and home prices had risen by 82.3 percent over the course of a year.

The World Bank estimates that Ghana’s poverty rate is already 23.4 percent, which it projects will “increase slightly, due to the cumulative effects of increases in electricity and water tariffs, rising food prices, and an increase in [consumption taxes].”

Further cuts to public spending alongside the restructuring of domestic debt will mean despair for almost all of Ghana’s roughly 33 million people.

It is unlikely that the U.S. government’s “full-time resident adviser” on Ghana’s debt will offer either a factually based assessment of the escalating debt or proffer practical solutions to what has become a permanent debt crisis. It is already clear that there will be no focus on the wealthy Western bondholders such as the United Kingdom’s Abrdn and Amundi or the United States’ BlackRock, which hold a considerable portion of Ghana’s $13 billion in Eurobond debt.

It is far easier for the U.S. to blame China, even though the country holds less than 10 percent of Ghana’s external debt. That is perhaps the reason why Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo told Harris, “There may be an obsession in America about Chinese activities on the [African] continent, but there’s no such obsession here.”

The final section of our latest dossier, “Life or Debt: The Stranglehold of Neocolonialism and Africa’s Search for Alternatives,” offers practical policy proposals for countries that are afflicted by permanent debt crises. Among them are suggestions to create progressive tax codes, reform domestic banking infrastructure, build alternative sources of funding to the IMF’s debt-austerity trap and enhance regionalism.

Given that the IMF and the World Bank punish any country that deviates from their orthodoxy, such policies would have been unthinkable even a decade ago. Now, with the arrival of alternative sources of financing for development (from China, certainly, but also from other locomotives of the Global South), space has opened up for the poorer nations to build their own national and regional projects that are grounded in genuine, and sovereign, development theories.

As we write in the dossier, “These projects must seize multiple opportunities to raise funds, and the fragility of IMF power must also be utilised to advance fiscal and monetary policies that are built on an agenda committed to solving the problems of the African people, not facilitating the demands of wealthy bondholders and the Western states that back them.”

The principles that ground our dossier emerged out of a statement written by the Collective on African Political Economy (CAPE) entitled “The IMF Is Never the Answer,” which is published in the dossier. Among other key reflections, this statement points out that there is a need for a “new kind of institutional apparatus that fosters cooperation rather than competition,” which includes “establishing currency arrangements that bypass the U.S. dollar.”

Why is de-dollarisation such an important point? U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio provided clear insight to this question: “We won’t have to talk about sanctions in five years because there will be so many countries transacting in currencies other than the dollar that we won’t have the ability to sanction them.”


Reliance upon the dollar not only allows the U.S. to sanction countries; it is also “a strong lever of IMF conditionality,” as the CAPE statement notes. The statement also indicates the importance of the “urgent need to restore and reinvigorate the capacity and autonomy of the African state to deliver on its development agenda.”

This includes increasing the ability of states to mobilise tax revenues and use these funds to build the dignity of their populations. Any approach to development in our times that respects nations’ sovereignty must be focused on creating a new form of financing for development apparatuses as well as a new role for state institutions in this process.

If you are interested in getting involved with CAPE, do write to the collective’s coordinator, Grieve Chelwa, at [email protected].

At the mid-April World Bank meeting, Ajay Banga, a former executive from Citigroup and Mastercard, will be anointed as its president. He will be the 14th U.S. citizen to hold this job and the 14th man since the bank’s first president was appointed in 1946. Banga has no experience in the world of development – prior to commercial banking, he was involved in launching the U.S. fast-food franchises Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken in India.

Meanwhile, the New Development Bank, also referred to as the BRICS Bank, has just elected its new president, Dilma Rousseff, the former president of Brazil. Rousseff comes to the BRICS Bank with extensive experience in Brazil’s programme to eradicate absolute poverty.

Unlike Banga, who will promote the religion of privatisation, Rousseff will bring her experience of working with robust state policies, such as the income-transfer programme Bolsa Familia (“Family Grant”) and the social protections programme Brasil Sem Miséria (“Brazil Without Extreme Poverty”).

As we note in the dossier, the emergence of the BRICS Bank, alongside other institutions in the Global South, has already begun to put pressure on the IMF and World Bank on key issues such as the exhaustion of the neoliberal debt-austerity model and the need for new tools, including capital controls, for governments to increase the sovereignty of their states and the dignity of their populations.

Ten years ago, the Nigerian musician Seun Kuti released a song called “IMF” in his album A Long Way to the Beginning. The song is a damning critique of IMF policy, and the video, directed by Jerome Bernard, develops that critique through the personage of an African businessman being bribed and, ultimately, turned into a zombie. When King Midas touched objects, they turned into gold.

When the IMF touches people, they turn into zombies. The art in our dossier is based on images from Seun’s music video, some of which are reproduced in this newsletter. The song is hypnotic:

So much lying from the IMF
People power

So much stealing from the IMF
People power

So much killing from the IMF
People power

Manipulation from the IMF
People power

Intimidation from the IMF
People power

So much suffering from the IMF
People power

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations.  His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and, with Noam Chomsky,  The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.

This article is from Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

6 comments for “The Lying IMF

  1. April 16, 2023 at 10:34

    1st step: All colonial powers have to pay reparation to all countries they looted from and all deals have to be restructured with a fair process. It means, Colonial powers will have to pay additional money afte the debts are written off.

    2nd step: All interest based financing to stop. It creates significant imbalance in society

    3rd step: All countries should be able to transact in their own currencies and no power should have sole control over the transaction mechanism.

    There are more but these steps would go a long way to solve a majority of the issues.

  2. Mark Thomason
    April 15, 2023 at 14:42

    Much of the IMF money is stolen by corrupt leaders, and then the IMF devotes itself to making the poverty striken victims repay it. It is a constant replay of France “freeing” Haiti for a huge price.

    Those getting repaid knew full well what would happen to the money they sent. They are not entitled to get repaid by the victims. Let them chase their money where it was hidden by their co-conspirators.

  3. Rudy Haugeneder
    April 15, 2023 at 11:35

    But will monetary lending policies change quickly enough to prevent a global depression that reduce — or eliminate –the financial powers that continue to destroy?

  4. Vera Gottlieb
    April 15, 2023 at 10:30

    Associate with the Yanx and end up with burnt fingers.

  5. Jeff Harrison
    April 15, 2023 at 10:05

    I remember when I first heard the US’s China bashing “BRI is a debt trap” line, I laughed out loud. The real debt trap operation is the IMF which is a clever operation to allow multinationals, especially US multinationals, to buy up the assets of former colonies who remained poor at distressed fire sale prices whilst keeping said countries in debt slavery

  6. Canute
    April 14, 2023 at 22:29

    The IMF and the World Bank are simply enslavement institutions that were established at the behest of the Rothschild family by the enslaved government which they own. It’s easy when you own the Federal Reserve. It’s now mistake that after Robert McNamara destroyed all US credibility after 7 years of lying his way through the Viet Nam war – he was rewarded with extending murder, deception, extortion and mendacity at the top of the World Bank. Good piece of work here. Keep at it and keep shouting.

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