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IMF-WB Bali conference 2018

Finn G.

A collective of peoples’ movements under the banner of ‘Peoples’ Global Conference Against IMF-World Bank’ (PGC) had their efforts to hold an anti-globalisation, anti-IMF and World Bank conference hampered recently in Bali.

The people’s conference was to coincide with the IMF-WB annual meeting being held in the Southern Bali area of Nusa Dua on October 12-14.

Around 32,000 delegates made up of central bankers, multinational executives, parliamentarians and the like get together and pretend that their concern is for the welfare of the planet and humanity. Those at all familiar with these organisations know the truths behind their virtuous blustering, that they are the hand of modern day colonialism and a tool of U.S Imperialism.

It has been reported that the Indonesian government spent upwards of AUD 89 million dollars in preparation for this event, a slap in the face for the people of Indonesia who have been hit hard by numerous natural disasters causing many deaths and damages costing hundreds of millions of dollars.

The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are among the most powerful institutions on earth, wielding an enormous amount of influence in the structure of the global economy and on issues such as poverty and the environment.

Their main tool of oppression comes in the form of Structural Adjustment Policies (SAP), these policies are implemented in countries where loans have been given by the IMF-WB who in doing so guarantee the interests of it’s wealthy member nations. The largest stakeholder and the possessor of the greatest voting power is unsurprisingly the U.S.A (17.46%) who holds vastly more voting rights than any other nation, as can be seen by those who follow: Japan (6.48%), China (6.41%), Germany (5.60%), France (4.24%), United Kingdom (4.24%).

These SAP’s are implemented to ensure the repayment of loans by developing or third world countries. They do so by forcing countries to cut spending on health, education, climate initiatives and the abolition of government subsidies for transport and local agriculture, and all other standard forms of austerity.

Any chance of these countries have of working towards a diverse, domestic economy of self determination is quashed by the forceful prioritisation of export production and the removal of tariffs in order to make goods as cheap as possible for plunder nations to seize. Incentives such as reduced labour and environmental protections are provided for multinationals to set up shop, forcing the closure of small businesses and ousting agricultural workers, all of whom are then compelled to work under sweat-shop conditions for the newly arrived corporations.

Any state owned utilities and natural resources are sold to foreign investors at insanely low rates, making it incredibly easy for capital to stake its claim on the country and its people.

Protests, resistance in the face of repression
In September, the Indonesian government ordered bans on all forms of public assembly and gatherings during the period of the IMF-WB annual meeting, clearly aimed at quelling the planned activities of the PGC and other groups involved in the movement and to restrict them from airing the grievances of the most downtrodden people on earth.  

Organisers received assurances from the Bali Police that they would be allowed to proceed with the events scheduled at the Radio Repulik Indonesia Audotorium. However, not long after these assurances were given the venue suddenly withdrew the booking citing “urgent renovations” as the cause. Organisers also applied for permits in order to carry out the conference, which were denied.

Approximately 100 activists conducted a demonstration at Bali Police headquarters on the 5th of October to protest the ban, this led to the Chief of the Bali Intelligence Police agreeing to lift the ban on the PGC and contacted the venue to have the initial conference plans reinstated, written approval was received on October 6.

One day later a barrage of anonymous text messages were sent to volunteers and citizens containing warnings about joining the PGC and slurring the movement as “anti-development”. Further text messages were received by the PGC national coordinators and the Bali Legal Aid Director informing them that they were being monitored and strongly suggesting that they withdraw plans to hold the peoples conference.

The government's next move was to have police inform the organisers that they must now produce copies of passports and other identification documents for any international delegates of the People's Global Conference, three days prior to it’s planned commencement date. Following this request organisers received correspondence from the venue that they were once more retracting the groups' booking, this time due to “lacked permit from National Police in Jakarta” and that they violated national government policies, policies that were left unspecified.

Hotel Nirmala was confirmed as the new venue for the conference, payments were made for the rental of rooms and for food and drink for those partaking. The next morning police informed Hotel Nirmala management that a police permit must be submitted to them by the PGC organisers in order to hold the event, soon after these managers contacted organisers to withdraw the booking because they didn’t know the event was against the World Bank and IMF.

Later that morning local and international civil society groups gathered at the hotel for a debriefing with the PGC organisers, a rally and subsequent press conference was to be held, but they were pushed out by hotel staff. Members of the Bali Intelligence Police were seen in the area taking pictures and filming participants. It also emerged that the night before a village paramilitary group threatened, harassed and drove away a group of 20 PGC youth volunteers who were staying at the Bali Legal Aid headquarters.

Claims of violence at the hands of Indonesian police and military have been made in regards to their conduct during the demonstrations over the following days, many of whom were wearing civilian clothing and preventing protesters from coming near the venue of the annual meeting.

Regardless of the obstacles put in place, the PGC managed to hold various workshops and gatherings over the period of the meetings due to the hard work and dedication of all who were involved. Many justice oriented and fair minded organisations from all over the world were signatories to a statement made by the PGC speaking out against the treatment handed to them by authorities and the restriction of their freedoms.

No matter what Indonesian police and officials might say, their purpose is clear for all to see. Making the meeting as smooth and “trouble” free as possible for those who feather their nests is of far higher importance than any action that would benefit the everyday inhabitants and workers. The global market and its play makers will not yield to populations that wish to have a say on their own lives and society, especially at the expense of wealth accumulation and power of the minuscule minority.

The people did not back down and did what they could to raise the flag for this crucial resistance to neo-liberalism. These brave activists who are on the front line and experience the devastating effects of IMF-WB policy on a daily basis were met with solidarity from many people's groups, including the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development, a leading feminist organisation in the Asia Pacific region with representatives from 27 countries. The APWLD held a number of ceremonies over the course of the meetings to highlight the plight of women who fall victim to IMF-WB policies every year around the world.

It is up to people of all countries to carry on the fight wherever and whenever possible against these stand-over organisations. The work of the groups in this article stand as a magnificent example to us all on how to carry ourselves against oppressive global regimes, long may we continue to speak up for those who are unable and remain steadfast against the forces of capitalism and imperialism.

Both the PGC and APWLD have pages on facebook for anyone who would like to learn more about them and keep up to date with their very important work and activities.

 

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