THIS IS MY FIRST QR-CODED tableau try it:
“Bonnet d’âne pour le FMI” (dunce’s cap for the IMF; literary ‘donkey’s cap’) I read in Le Monde Diplomatique of August 2011, with a sarcastic comment by Pierre Rimbert on how the arrest of Dominique Strauss Kahn for sexual assault of a hotel worker on May 15th overshadowed a self-critical report of the International Monetary Fund by its own “Independent Evaluation Office” (IEO) published on May 20. The report itself is on-line and worthwhile reading, because the ‘economic assault of international banks’ on all of us is too easily overlooked as we all like daily scandal better…
These are some harsh findings in the report of the Independent Evaluation Office of the IMF:
“…the relevance of research to authorities and its utilization were hampered by the lack of early consultation with country authorities on research themes and by a lack of country and institutional context.” [page 27; paragraph 75]
“…there is a widely held perception that IMF research is message driven. About half of the authorities held this view, and more than half of the staff indicated that they felt pressure to align their conclusions with IMF policies and positions. Policy recommendations provided in some research publications did not follow from the research results, and a number of country authorities and researchers noted that IMF research tended to follow a pre-set view with predictable conclusions that did not allow for alternative perspectives. This detracted from the quality and credibility of studies and reduced their utilization.” [page 28; paragraph 77]
“…there was no IMF-wide leadership of research. Research activities were highly decentralized, and there was very limited coordination across departments. There was no mechanism to set IMF-wide priorities or quality standards. Collaboration among staff across departments was limited and mostly based on personal relationships.” [page 28; paragraph 79]
Reading the self-critic report of the IMF made me check its reception and how it was related to the impact of Strauss Kahn and his short lived IMF reign. It lead me to the English language Turkish newspaper ‘Today’s Zaman’ (said to be close to the Turkish Justice and Development Party) and a long comment by their columnist Asim Erdilek, from which I took this citation:
What both IEO reports omit, however, is that since 2008 the IMF’s official views have been moving away from the Washington Consensus. This began under the former IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn, a former socialist French finance minister, who chose his compatriot MIT macroeconomist Olivier Blanchard to be the IMF economic counselor and research department director (see my columns “The IMF’s evolving policy makeover” (1) and (2), published on Feb. 22 and March 1, 2010, respectively). In several recent publications the IMF has demonstrated its tilting to the left in economic policies by calling for higher inflation rates as well as greater financial regulation in developed countries and for capital controls in developing countries. We have to wait and see whether this tilting to the left will continue, creating an opposite research bias, under the IMF’s controversial new managing director, also from France.
Christine Lagarde one of the few ministers in the cabinet of Sarkozy’s UMP party that survived the frequent reshuffles of France’s president (“Le joker de Sarkozy”; Le Figaro; 2009), is a lawyer by profession and not an economist, she is known for publicly denying bad news and proposing her view of “la vie en rose.“:
Christine Lagarde estime que “le gros de la crise est derrière nous” Le Nouvel Observateur 20/8/2007 (Christine Lagarde estimates that the main part of the crisis is behind us)
Christine Lagarde: conférence de presse “L’économie française repose sur des fondamentaux qui sont solides […] Je ne conçois pas aujourd’hui de contamination à l’économie mondiale” Le Monde Blogs 17/8/2007 (Christine Lagrande during [an often cited] press conference: “French economy is put on solid fundaments […] I do not conceive today a contamination of it by world economy”)
Lagarde : “Il n’y aura pas d’éclatement de la zone euro” Le Figaro 18/11/2010 (Lagarde “the Euro zone will not be blown up”)
If she will be anything more than a mouthpiece for the international banking world is doubtful, if her method of public broadcasted optimism is enough to quell the financial crisis is most unlikely.
The conspiracy theories that have been circulating with Dominique Strauss Kahn as a supposed leftist belonging to the French Socialist Party, to be discredited by a schemed sexual intervention, leading to the appointment of another French director of the IMF from the right wing UMP party of Sarkozy, are grotesque. DSK is a man finding apparently pleasure in risky violent sexual behaviour. The coming-out of the lady he assaulted, did also put an end to any Hollywood movie inspired conspiracy story, with high class call girls on secret missions. It was indeed just a lady doing hotel work who befell the outrageous assault. Sarkozy may even not have been comfortable with the demise of DSK, as with DSK the interest of France in an international organisation, was some how manifest, at a level beyond national politics. That a politician like Sarkozy grabs the occasion delivered to him by DSK’s fall, is obvious, but this was first of all a improvised emergency measure. And so Christine Lagarde, promoted by France, added this “personal touch to her pitch to lead this global institution” for the board of IMF directors on on June 22, 2011:
“I stand here as a woman, hoping to add to the diversity and balance of this institution. I stand here as former head of an international law firm with a dedication to integrity, to the highest moral standards and a belief in participative management. I stand here as a Finance minister who has been tested in times of crisis. I would like to put these skills and experience at work to serve the International Monetary Fund”
‘Rue 89’ a daily platform for commenting the news has a comment on a radio interview with Lagarde still as the French minister of finance with ‘France Inter’ on April 11th this year, where she also has to answer questions by listeners. A pensioned lady comes in the broadcast and explains how she tries to live on 800 Euros a month and succeeds only to cover 15 days with this amount. Comes the answer of Lagrande:
“Le gouvernement a tout a fait conscience de votre problème et c’est pour cela qu’il a décidé d’augmenter de 2% les pensions de minimum vieillesse.” (The government has been completely conscious of your problem and has therefore decided to augment with 2% the minimum elderly pensions)
The commentator on ‘Rue 89’, the economist Jean Matouk, precises in his article (*) the actual government measures, 4,7% augmentation for the minimum elderly income and 2% for the pensions. Matouk tells us in a sarcastic tone also to what it boils down: “16 Euros more pro month. What is she moaning about?” The next question to Finance Minister Lagarde from radio listeners make her jumps from tens of Euros to milliards, as the support for Greece and other “weak economies” in Europe and its financial consequences are brought in. I will not cite the whole interview here, details are on-line in French, but what is striking, is the correlation between the way the poor pension lady is helped by Lagarde and her world of high finances and the way ‘global economy’ is handled by the same forces.
“I stand here as a Finance minister who has been tested in times of crisis.” The pitch from Lagarde for the board of directors of the IMF and she did get the job. “Been tested” seems to be the ability of politicians to remain in the saddle during an economic rodeo, which does not mean that the bull she has been riding has been tamed. Alternative forms of domestication are needed and there seem to be no ‘alternative views’ possible with the IMF, neither with the board of directors, nor with their new head Lagarde, let me cite again IMF’s Internal Evaluation Office May 2011 report:
“researchers noted that IMF research tended to follow a pre-set view with predictable conclusions that did not allow for alternative perspectives.”
It is ‘alternative perspectives’ on economy we need to put an end to orchestrated ‘economic assaults’ that are at the basis of the legal system of our societies and remain thus – most of the times – unpunished
(*) Vivre avec 800 € par mois quand les banques enfument le monde (‘Living on 800 Euros a month while the banks smokes up the world’; there is a double meaning here in ‘enfumer’, one of a smoke screen, the other of something being fucked).
(**) For details on the Wall Street bull of Di Monica see Wikipedia.