Monday May 29, 2023

Learning from hitmen

May 22, 2022

Despite the disastrous consequences of the policies imposed by the global monetary institutions on Pakistan, a brigade of new liberal experts is still of the view that the salvation of our economy lies in a market-oriented system. They have been exhorting the government to raise oil prices, ending the subsidies that go in some way alleviating the economic hardships of people amidst the unrelenting global inflation that has pushed millions of people below the poverty line across the globe.

Their belief in laissez faire is so strong that they do not want to listen to any argument challenging their economic dogma that has been wreaking havoc in several parts of the world for decades now. Therefore, it is important that they read ‘Confessions of an Economic Hitman’ by John Perkins that exposes the agenda of global financial and monetary institutions and its impact on developing countries and their economies. The original version of this book sold more than 1.2 million copies, prompting Perkins to come up with an updated edition in 2016 titled ‘The New Confessions of an Economic Hitman.’

For left-wing activists across the world, Perkins’ revelations are not astonishing but they must serve to open the eyes of those who have a blind faith in large corporations, global economic agenda and virtues of international financial institutions. Given the fact that he was part of the cabal that sought to dominate the world through its economic and financial policies, his argument should be given serious consideration. Had such startling revelations been made by any socialist writer, they would have been dismissed as absurd and the author would have been declared the proponent of conspiracy theories. But since Perkins is still an ardent supporter of capitalism, he was invited by various forums to speak about his experiences.

The author explains that his bosses wanted him to go to the countries in the Global South with a recipe that would ruin their economy, increasing poverty, plunging them into debts, destroying their environment and making them subservient to global financial institutions. The job of the economic hitman was to suggest mega projects to the developing countries’ leaderships that would primarily benefit large corporations and financial institutions besides enriching a tiny minority of the elite in the poor states. Global financial bodies would open up their treasures to shower loans on the corrupt rulers of the third world countries trapping them in a vicious circle of debts that would spell a disaster for their economy and the society, compelling them to privatize state-run entities and leave everything at the mercy of market forces, even basic necessities like water.

Those states that appeared amenable to the idea of privatizing everything and carrying out market reforms were allowed to operate under the strict principles of the market-oriented system but leaders who summoned enough courage to challenge the dogma of the market system were taught a tough lesson. For the lords of the market system, the belief that a country should own its resources, utilizing them to alleviate poverty, improve living standards and place limits on companies’ profits is a lethal virus that must be suppressed before it gets stronger.

So, defiant leaders were taught a tough lesson, Perkins revealed, saying when the job of the economic hitman was not successful, then Plan B was put in practice – which was to topple the government that refused to take the dictation of the global monetary institutions or eliminate the leaders who stubbornly rejected the recipe of these economic hitmen. Citing declassified documents of the CIA, Perkins asserts that America played a major role in dislodging the governments that were not comfortable with the idea of following this predatory capitalism. He believes that the US orchestrated coups for the interests of large corporations and global financial institutions. Perkins is of the view that an economic system that does not give reference to people’s welfare over the corporations’ interest should not be challenged at all forums.

It is not necessary for Pakistani economic pundits to blindly accept whatever John Perkins has written in his books but they must critically assess the new liberal policies that have been part of our lives since the decade of the 1980s. For instance, global monetary institutions assert that their policies and market reforms would bring prosperity to the countries that would adopt them. Pakistan has been following these policies for more than three decades now but we should ask ourselves if it has really brought prosperity to the country. If it has then why should we have more than 60 million people living below the poverty line? The supporters of this policy argue that new liberal reforms would bring more investment and help the country witness industrialization. If that were the case then why should we have more than 5000 sick industrial units that have not been operating for decades now.

We were also told that it is not the job of the government to do business because it adds to the economic woes of the country. We were assured that once state-run entities were privatized, it would create employment on a massive scale with private companies pumping money into factories and industrial units. But what we see is the contrary; most of the industrial units that were privatised have either been closed down or been replaced with housing colonies. The process of privatization rendered more than 200,000 people jobless over the years but it failed to provide employment on a massive scale. Today millions of our youth are unemployed.

It was also claimed that state-run concerns were incurring huge losses, therefore, they should be privatized. It was also asserted that market competitiveness will lead to a fall in prices, providing people commodities at reasonable prices. But inflation in the last four decades has skyrocketed and today even essential commodities are beyond the reach of a people suffering a calorie deficit. The provision of pure drinking water, improvement of sanitation, access to decent housing and availability of quality and free health facilities is still a dream – despite several market reforms that various governments undertook since the 1980s.

The writer is a freelance journalist who can be reached at: