The International Monetary Fund and World Bank were created after World War II by the victors at the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference. Dominated by the US, both institutions were from the beginning meant to further imperialism. While the IMF became the world’s monetary police and financial gatekeeper from the get go, the World Bank’s early years mainly focused on reconstructing war-torn Western Europe and Japan. A few years later, the World Bank shifted its focus to “developing” the Global South. By the 1970s the Bank proclaimed its mission was to reduce poverty.
Driven by Reagan-Thatcher neoliberalism, both institutions launched structural adjustment loans that required borrower countries to adopt austerity measures such as downsizing and privatizing public services, making them unaffordable to the poor. Both international financial institutions plunged countries, especially in the Global South, into debt crises and extracted wealth for the global capitalist class. They complement US/NATO military interventions in enacting modern-day colonialism.
Learn about the institutions and the harm these institutions caused throughout history in an one hour long webinar by the Massachusetts Peace Action.
Elaine Zuckerman completed graduate studies in political economy at Beijing University during the last few years of the anti-imperialist Cultural Revolution. When China joined the World Bank in 1980, Elaine also joined as an economist on environmental and rural projects in China. Meanwhile the Bank unfolded structural adjustment loans (SALs), leading Elaine to create the first Bank program calling to end SALs’ harmful impacts, especially on women. In 2000, she left the World Bank to found Gender Action, an advocacy campaign holding International Financial Institutions (IFIs) accountable for harmful gender and climate impacts. Gender Action challenges IFIs’ corporate-driven paradigm.
Ben Norton is an investigative journalist and analyst. He is the founder and editor of Geopolitical Economy Report, and is based in Latin America.
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