Adapted by the PCDForum from Bishan Singh’s Column in:
Tuesday, August 10, 1993, The Sun

by Bishan Singh

We know that territorial colonialism has almost ended. But a
new colonialism of a more insidious and pervasive kind–economic colonization through
global market integration–is
flourishing. The new colonizing
powers are not nation states, but
rather gigantic corporations with
no national allegiance. The collapse of the economy of Eastern
Europe, the opening up of the
economies of China and India
are significant moves toward the
borderless world economy that
is the dream of the economic

Today’s development is
driven by a money-centered economic model, which is always
motivated to bring returns to
money as capital. Human and
natural resources are mobilized
and exploited merely as factors
of production. People are simply
means, not the beneficiaries of

Corporations from developed
countries like the United State or
Japan invest in developing countries like Malaysia not because
they want to help develop the
economy, but to profit from Malaysia’s people and resources.

  • THEY want developing countries like Malaysia to be politically stable when peace is good
    for profits. Where they can make
    money out of weapons, they
    create war and political strife;

  • THEY want excellent infrastructure, communication and
    support services, because these
    things aid in making more profit
    with greater convenience, not
    because it raises the quality of
    life of the people.

  • THEY want cheap labor, electricity, water supply, weak environmental laws and excellent tax
    incentives. They encourage developing countries to accommodate them with these so called
    “competitive rates,” which developing countries should read
    as “cut your own throats.”

The main agents of the economic colonization are the
Bretton Woods institutions controlled by the G-7. The IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programs for foreign debts
epitomize the economic colonialism process.

This program is designed to
reduce consumption of the poor
and redirect the resources into
export-led growth for the repayment of debts. This is like asking
a starving man and his family to
allocate all their resources to
producing commodities for sale
instead of producing food and
necessities to sustain themselves

The situation has reached
critical proportions. The IMF-World Bank structural programs
have caused:

  • Overproduction of primary
    products and a precipitous fall in
    their prices. It has also led to the
    devastation of traditional agriculture, and to the emergence of
    hordes of landless farmers in
    virtually every country where the
    World Bank and IMF operate.

  • Dramatic decline of food security in all Third World regions. Growing dependence on
    food imports, as in the sub-Sahara Africa experience, places
    these countries in an extremely
    vulnerable position. They do not
    have the foreign exchange to
    import enough food, given the
    fall in export prices and the need
    to repay debts.

  • Drastic cuts in social expenditures, especially in health and
    education, as countries struggle
    to meet basic conditionalities of
    the IMF-World Bank. According
    to the United Nations Economic
    Commission for Africa, expenditures on health in the programmed countries declined by
    50 percent during the 1980s, and
    on education by 25 percent.

  • Removal of subsidies to the
    poor on basic foodstuff and services such as rice, water and
    electricity, as governments follow IMF-World Bank requirements.

  • Regressive tax systems and
    falling real wage rates. In Mexico during the 1980s, the real
    wage rate declined by 75 percent.

  • Devaluation, which in turn
    promotes inflation and increases
    the prices of all imported foodstuff. Removal of price controls
    on domestic food items leads to
    sudden increases in the prices of
    commodities used by the poor.

  • Big increases in interest rates,
    which cause bankruptcies in domestically-owned small busi-nesses, and further unemployment.

  • The dismantling of foreign
    exchange restrictions and import
    controls, which allows the elite
    classes to export funds overseas
    and increase their purchase of
    luxury imports, thus worsening
    the balance of payments.

  • Incalculable loss as profitable
    government-owned enterprises
    are privatized.

There is so much growing
economic exploitation, tension
and polarization caused by our
desires to become rich and powerful, and the desires of the developed countries to dominate
the economy of the developing
countries. The developed countries continue to export the
dream that people in countries
like China and India can grow to
be affluent like Americans and
the Japanese. Developing countries are buying this dream –but
it is only a dream. It would take
three more earths like ours to
provide the resources required to
achieve such living standards.

The United Nations Conference on Environment Development
(UNCED) declared that
sustainable development was the
only option for the future. The
whole world agreed and made
the commitment to promote this
goal. Unfortunately, not only do
the key actors in the global community continue on their unsustainable path, they also continue
to sell the dream of an unsustainable economy to others to
facilitate the process of economic colonization. It is the
great irony of the international
development agencies. They talk
one thing and practice quite another. We in Malaysia must
chart our own course.


Bishan Singh is Executive Director
of MINSOC, 2441 Jalan Merpati,
1st Floor, 25300 Kuantan, Pahang
Darul Makmur, Malaysia, Fax (60-9) 514-982, a columnist for The Sun
in Malaysia, and a contributing editor of the People-Centered Development Forum. This column was prepared and distributed by the

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