Activists to hold IMF-World Bank counter forum in Bali

Kata Data – October 8, 2018
Protest against IMF-World Bank meeting in Bali - October 8, 2018 (Antara)
Protest against IMF-World Bank meeting in Bali - October 8, 2018 (Antara)

Desy Setyowati – Civil society organisations will hold a People’s Summit on Alternative Development on October 8-10 in Sanur, Bali. Through the event, activists will demand accountability from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank annual meeting, which is also being held in Bali.

According to International NGO Forum on Indonesian Development (INFID) member Hamong Santono, the IMF and the World Bank have a long history of involvement in development projects in Indonesia.

“However there has been no meaningful resolution [of problems] in the interests of society or the environment”, Hamong was quoted as saying in a press release received by Kata Data on October 6.

Without citing an example, Hamong said that projects funded by World Bank loans often have a negative impact on society and the environment.

He also urged the Indonesian government to take advantage of the IMF-World Bank meeting to discuss the larger issues that Indonesia is incapable of resolving itself, such as the flow of illicit money and asset recover. “This is so this year’s meeting will truly provide benefits for Indonesia”, he was quoted as saying.

A similar view was articulated by debtWATCH Indonesia activist Diana Gultom. “There has never been any genuine process of liability”, she said.

Diana gave as an example the construction of the Kedung Ombo dam in Central Java which was built during the era of former president Suharto and other IMF recommendations to the Indonesian government through a series of LoI (Letters of Intent). “This has continued to have a negative impact to this day”.

Indonesian forum for the Environment (Walhi) Bali activist Suriadi Darmokodari meanwhile questioned why Bali’s economic problems are not being discussed at the IMF-World Bank meeting.

“What has happened is a repressive approach with the unexplained removal of Bali Rejects Reclamation (BTR) billboards opposing the reclamation of the Benoa Bay”, he said.

Institute for Public Research and Advocacy (ELSAM) deputy director Andi Mutaqqin meanwhile criticised the World Bank safeguards policy which were put into place on October 1, named the ESF (Environmental Social Framework). According to Andi, this new policy has the potential to create human rights violations and damage to the environment.

On the one hand, Andi said that national laws which cover these projects are not enough to provide protection to the environment or communities which are impacted upon. “How else could it be when national legal standards are far below the World Bank’s standard safeguards”, he said.

Centre for Welfare Studies (Perkumpulan Prakarsa) director Ah Maftuchan said he is disappointed that a number of agenda items at the IMF-World Bank meeting are closed to the public, yet Indonesia is the host for the event.

He also hopes that the government will not seek new loans from the two institutions following the meeting. “Indonesia must stop digging a hole and filling a hole with debt. No matter who is in government, if the character and practices remain the same, there will be no change”, he said.

Separately, former finance minister M Chatib Basri said that the “great event” will not inflate government debt. Through these international forums, the government in fact is able to fight for its own agenda and ideas so that they are heard by policy makers in the financial sector.

“In order to ask for additional loans, you don’t need to be the host [country]. Argentina has asked the IMF for loans this year because of the [economic] crisis, they weren’t the hosts”, he said on his Twitter account @ChatibBasri.

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was Aktivis Menggelar Forum Tandingan IMF-World Bank di Bali.]