Bye-Bye Mobutu
Jude Wanniski
May 19, 1997

 

Memo To: Dan Quayle
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Mobutu Seso Seke

I know you must have thought about our lunch with Mobutu back in 1989, when you invited me to the Vice President's quarters for the experience. You may not remember that I sat quietly, not saying a word, until you decided to single me out of the several others at the table and tell Mobutu that Mr. Wanniski is not a big fan of the International Monetary Fund. Mobutu was in Washington for a state visit, but also to close a deal with the IMF, as I recall. After you introduced me with a twinkle in your eye, I told him that I hoped he had done a cos^enefit analysis on the money he was getting from the IMF, considering the conditions it had placed on the loan. As I recall, it was the usual IMF poison of tax increases and currency devaluation. Mobutu obviously did not speak any English, as his face remained impassive during my question, but as soon as the interpreter translated it into French, his face lit up and he broke into a big, hearty laugh. His answer, translated back to us, was something like Yes, yes... Every time I get financial assistance from the IMF, and we meet the conditions they ask, the economy always seems to get worse and worse. The senior State Department people at the table looked horrified at the exchange, and I was sure they thought you had done something naughty, by bringing me to the lunch for exactly that purpose.

I hope you saw the Wall Street Journal op-ed piece last Thursday (May 15), by Greg Fossedal of the deToqueville Foundation, who made the case that the IMF was central to destroying Zaire in the Mobutu years. Here is a country which has enormous natural and human resources, plus a charismatic leader like Mobutu who would do anything the United States wanted of him in fighting off Communist threats in central Africa. Instead of helping him develop his economy, we did everything we could do drive it into the ground. And I mean we, because our country has been in control of the IMF since its inception in 1944, and our big banks have been pulling the strings for the last 30 years on development aid. On Saturday, The New York Times ran a lengthy review of Mobutu's 30 years, and of course never mentioned the IMF's poisonous advice. Can that have anything to do with the fact that the NYTimes has been a major supporter of IMF conditionality during the last 30 years? It has done so with the best of intentions, but the road to you-know-where is paved with good intentions, and the Times has paved plenty of those with its economic editorials for the last several decades.

Sadly, there is no member of the Congress in either party who spends five minutes a year complaining about the evil done by the Evil Empire the IMF. Almost the entire African continent has been ravaged by IMF policies, with millions of deaths as a result of tribal slaughter and starvation. But as long as U.S. taxpayer funds get cycled through our banks at a profit, there is not a murmur of protest. I would have thought a lonely voice would have emerged out of the Congressional Black Caucus, but the CBC members are all tucked safely in the Establishment plantation.

My spies tell me you are planning to run for President in 2000. If you do, I encourage you to make a stink about the IMF. It might make a difference. Nothing else seems to matter.