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Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank Bill 2017: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 953 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett] I would have thought it might have given it a little pause for thought when one looks at the sorry history of the IMF and the World Bank and what those institutions have done to developing world countries and debtor countries, which is effectively steal the natural resources, infrastructure and public services of poorer countries around the world; wreck the environment in many poorer countries; and undermine the position of working people and the less well-off in those countries. Why on earth we would want to participate in the creation of a new Asian version of the World Bank-IMF is beyond me. I suppose it is fairly typical of the pragmatic, as the Government would see it, approach to the way the world economy is organised that we just feel that this is the way it is so we must be part of it and we do not want to be left out of the party. That is more or less what the Minister of State said.

  On the other hand, the Minister of State said that not to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank would raise questions about Ireland's position on China's increasing integration in the global economy and international financial architecture. He said that such a decision could impair Ireland's growing bilateral relationship with China with potential adverse effects for Irish businesses. Would it be such a bad thing if we were critical of the Chinese regime? I often find it humorous when the Government talks about its commitment to human rights on the international stage but we then deal with dictatorships like the Chinese regime, because that is what it is. It is a brutal dictatorship in a country with no democracy that ruthlessly crushes all opposition in the most bloody way; routinely executes people for often relatively minor crimes, as the Chinese dictatorship would see them; has no respect for the human or civil rights of its own population; brutally represses people in Tibet; and brutally treats much of its rural population, which is where we get very close to the issue of the Asian Investment Bank. It has already been indicated that some of the investments of the Asian Investment Bank are in areas like hydro power and it has not ruled out coal.

  Even though it pays some lip service to the Paris climate change targets and environmentalism, the bank has carefully ensured the door remains open for financing coal-powered projects, which are doing immense damage to the global environment in China and causing huge pollution that impacts on the health of the Chinese population, or hydro power projects in China, which have had a very devastating effect on rivers and have driven people out of whole swathes of the countryside they previously inhabited because of the impact of dams to develop hydro power projects. These projects have a very serious and negative impact on millions of Chinese people about whom the Chinese state does not give a damn. The Chinese Communist party does not give a damn about these people but just drives ahead with what it dictates are in the interests of China Inc. We are very keen to get involved in that and get a slice of the cake regardless of the callous and brutal disregard of the Chinese regime for the rights of its own people or minorities within China or the often devastating environmental impact of some of the big infrastructure projects in which the Chinese regime has engaged.

  As a growing industrial and economic power, China wants to start to rival the other big blocs in the world in beginning to use its surplus of capital to start a form of economic colonialism much like the US and the western powers have used the IMF and the World Bank to embark on a new phase of economic colonialism. This is where they lend money to poorer countries like Bangladesh in order to do as the IMF and the World Bank have done, namely, to get those countries in hock, gain control of strategic influence over key infrastructure projects and natural resources, profiteer from them at the expense of those populations and draw those countries into the debt boomerang, as Susan George described it. The bank lends money to these countries in an apparently benign move to assist them but in reality, the bank gets them into debt and then exercises very significant control over how those projects are carried out, the conditions of employment of the workers, the need for privatisation as part of developing those infrastructure projects and crippling interest repayments which lock those countries into a debt cycle which cripples them. Susan George is one of the foremost international critics of what she calls the debt boomerang where someone throws something and it comes back and hits them in the face.

  That is what debt has done to the Third World. Investment that appears to be benign ends up being a mechanism to transfer massive amounts of wealth from the poorer countries to richer countries. In one of Susan George's seminal books, The Debt Boomerang, which was written in the early 1990s, she points out how this worked. It largely involved debt owed to the IMF and the World Bank. Between 1982 and 1990, the debtor countries, which are overwhelmingly very poor countries, paid back $1,300 billion to the creditor countries mostly through the IMF and the World Bank. This is an enormous amount of money for these countries. Did that reduce the debt burden of those countries or did it increase? Have a guess. Their debt actually increased in that period. After paying out $1,300 billion, they still owed more to the western countries that were the financiers and members of these global institutions like the World Bank than they owed when they took out the loans in the first place. These literally become mechanisms to suck out billions and as we move through the 21st century with inflation, we are talking trillions. When one looks at the fire-power of this Asian Investment Bank, they are talking about $4 trillion in investment per year and one can see that this becomes the mechanism to then suck out multiples of that over long periods of time from these poor countries, gain control of their infrastructure and resources, gain very significant influence over their governments and essentially blackmail the population of those countries.

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