Social Scientist. v 20, no. 224-25 (Jan-Feb 1992) p. 115.

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The Getting of Wisdom

Vinod Thomas, Ajay Chibber, Mansoor Dailami and Jaime dc Melo (eds.) Restructuring Economies in Distress : Policy Reform and the World Bank, World Bank and Oxford University Press, Washington, D.C, 1991, pp xiv, 566.

In any country in the world, a bureaucracy with power over people's lives but no accountability to the people constitutes a threat not only to democracy and to the preservation of social and economic rights of the masses, but also to the pursuit of economic efficiency. This is even more true of what has emerged as the world's economic 'super-bureaucracy*—the staff of the IMF and the World Bank, who exercise an inordinate degree of power over millions of people spread over four continents. It is true also that bureaucrats are usually servants of powerful masters who determine the nature of their policies, typically the ruling elites in the society. In the case of the IMF and the World Bank, the rulers can be said to be the leaders of the G7 group of rich industrialised countries, who effectively determine the set of policies that are most regularly imposed on poor or developing countries desirous of obtaining finance from these institutions. These economic bureaucrats are ultimately answerable (implicitly) only to these rulers; otherwise their actions are characterised by a breathtaking lack of accountability which enables them to move blithely from country to country wreaking economic disaster without any concern whatsoever that these actions will have any effect on their own lives. Their policy advice, which usually has some veneer of 'objectivity* as well as a patronising approach which assumes that they know better than any local opinion, unfortunately has so much power because it comes in the form of *conditionalities* which are tied to the availability of much-needed financial assistance to developing countries, in a context in which other forms of finance are increasingly difficult to come by.

The conditionalities of such financial assistance in virtually all cases have so much consistency as to be known internationally as a 'package', which contains the by-now familiar elements of reduction of budget deficits, devaluation of the exchange rate and trade

Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 1-2, January-February 1992

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