Time to seek justice, not hand out Nobel Prizes, for economic crimes | Inquirer Opinion
LETTER TO THE EDITOR

Time to seek justice, not hand out Nobel Prizes, for economic crimes

/ 04:05 AM June 19, 2023

To borrow the distinction made by the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, there are negative rights, such as the right not to be tortured, and positive rights, or those that contribute to our full development as human beings. Human rights campaigns have traditionally focused on negative rights, that is, the protection of people from repression and persecution. I believe it is time we also campaign against individuals and institutions that violate the people’s positive rights.

Neoliberal policies, such as those that have been imposed by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), institutionalized in the Philippine political economy and rationalized by a succession of economic managers and economists, have created massive poverty and inequality that have prevented millions of our fellow Filipinos over the last five decades from their full development as human beings because they have destroyed, disarticulated, and disintegrated the country’s base of physical survival, that is, the economy. That is a crime.

Neoliberal policies are now discredited. The Washington Consensus is in the junk heap. Yet, in so many countries, and not just in the Philippines, neoliberal policies continue to be the default mode. They continue to inflict severe damage on the life chances of millions of Filipinos because they have been institutionalized.

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Those who have destroyed economies cannot be allowed to just walk away from the wreckage, just as Rodrigo Duterte cannot be allowed to just get away with spilling the blood of 27,000 Filipinos. The bureaucrats and technocrats of the IMF and World Bank, their local accomplices particularly in the Department of Finance and National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), as well as the ideologues of neoliberalism that have spread the false gospel from their perches in such institutions as the University of Chicago and the University of the Philippines School of Economics must also be brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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It is high time we cease honoring such criminals with Nobel Prizes in economics and bring them instead to the ICC. If arraigning such economic criminals cannot be done right away, owing to the need to amend the Rome Statute, then let us at least establish a “Hall of Infamy,” where we can enshrine such dead and living stars of neoliberalism as the Nobel Prize laureate Milton Friedman, the ideological soulmate of Gen. Augusto Pinochet; Michel Camdessus and Christine Legarde, the notorious faces of IMF imposed austerity; and former World Bank president Robert McNamara, who conspired with the dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to make the Philippines one of the guinea pigs of structural adjustment.

Also to be honored in such a Hall of Infamy should be the local luminaries of technocratic neoliberalism, the people who worked with international technocrats to condemn us to permanent debt slavery, destroy our manufacturing, and bring our agriculture to a terminal state. Here I would include the economic managers and economists Jesus Estanislao, Gerardo Sicat, Cesar Virata, Bernardo Villegas, and Carlos Dominguez III.

And, of course, one must not forget Cielito Habito, who, as Neda chief, almost singlehandedly wiped out Philippine manufacturing with his push to bring down average tariffs to 4-6 percent simply to prove that Filipinos could take economic pain better than Pinochet’s “Chicago Boys” in Chile, who did not allow tariffs to go below 11 percent. Nor must we overlook the WTO-USAID mercenary Ramon Clarete, who famously sought to sugarcoat the impending murder of our agricultural sector by claiming that the Philippines joining the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture would result in 500,000 new jobs every year in the countryside!

It is time to seek justice, not hand out Nobel Prizes, for economic crimes.

WALDEN BELLO
Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender Recipient,
Amnesty International

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TAGS: economic crimes, International Monetary Fund, justice, Letters to the Editor, neoliberal polices, world bank

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