Paul Sweeney: As the IMF is here in Ireland, with the ECB and EU Commission, on a mission of assisting Irish citizens to bail out our banks and thus the banks of Europe, and, as a consequence, our public finances, we need to watch carefully to see what is their overall attitude and the nuances.
Yesterday, the head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, delivered a major speech at George Washington University where he said that the "Washington Consensus" certainties have come crashing down, with the Crash of 2008, and he spoke of the challenges that have been posed for macroeconomic policy, social inclusion and multilateralism.
He said that: “This 'Washington consensus' had a number of basic mantras. Simple rules for monetary and fiscal policy would guarantee stability. Deregulation and privatization would unleash growth and prosperity. Financial markets would channel resources to the most productive areas and police themselves effectively. And the rising tide of globalization would lift all boats.”
Mr Strauss-Kahn said that this “'Washington consensus'” not alone “caused incalculable hardship and suffering” but it did more than this. He issued a major challenge to all economists. For he said that “'Washington consensus' also devastated the intellectual foundations of the global economic order of the last quarter century.” That is some criticism.
It is hoped that this speech is heard wide and far in this land, especially by economists who are still wedded to deregulation, privatisation (and socialisation of private debt), and deflationary cuts as a panacea. I’m afraid that the 'Washington consensus' is not behind us (as he claims) here in Ireland.
In what is a possible reference to Ireland’s deep troubles DSK, as he is known, said “Europe needs a comprehensive solution—based on pan-European solidarity.” That is not exactly what is on offer. Ireland’s elite screwed up but as far as Europe cares, we are on our own, thanks to the bankers, developers, anti-regulation ethos and the government that bailed out the bondholders in our name.
He coined a new expression - “globalisation had a dark side”! This dark side was and is the growing chasm between rich and poor.
Afterwards, in replying to students' questions, he spoke of the IMF's support for countries that adopt temporary capital controls (a real surprise), of the challenges faced by European integration (challenges!! An understatement surely!) and by Greece in particular, and about the IMF's work to design carbon taxes and the issuance of new SDRs for climate-change finance.
Of course, DSK may soon resign and stand for the Socialists in France. Thus he may leave the IMF in the hands of the neo-liberals again. In the meantime, we hope his emissary in Ireland hears his words. But will his comrades in the Troika from the EU and ECB hear it too? I fear not until Ireland sinks a bit lower.
You can read his speech here.
In the meantime, the ECB is actually raising interest rates, in this climate!
And in the business pages, the ex-Anglo Irish and other bank directors are still photographed as if they are still great!. They still stride the land that they impoverished in just a few short years. No bank board member has yet to be held to account for the biggest value-destruction in the history of Ireland. Nothing seems to change when it comes to power.