Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Breathtaking—literally...



Look what happens when developed nations “help” those in less-developed nations, by providing International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans. The authors of the paper that provides the figure and conclusions, above, were careful to eliminate or minimize confounding factors from their analysis, and the results of their study could not be more stark: the peripheral damage of IMF lending practices kills people, kills the most vulnerable in those nations, kills them without mercy.

The IMF is famous for the “conditionalities” they impose on debtor nations, heavy on privatization (especially of utilities and various government functions), demanding strict austerity measures (including reduced social and healthcare spending), market “liberalization” (AKA: increasing exports at the expense of subsistence farming, thus increasing hunger among the poor), apparently with little thought given to just exactly what so much “austerity” does to a person who lives on less than $1000 per year.

Well here are the results for all to see. Desperate countries take desperate measures to obtain needed funds, and in the process, desperate people are killed.

The authors write:
“Both the duration and amount of IMF lending have an estimated dose-response relationship with tuberculosis mortality rates: each additional year of participation in an IMF program was associated with increases in tuberculosis mortality rates by 4.1%, and each 1% increase in IMF lending was associated with increases in tuberculosis mortality rates by 0.9%.”
And it is not merely that destitute countries have higher rates of TB, because they also note that countries that took on non-IMF debt slightly reduced their rates of TB mortality.

In case you think that TB is “just” a problem in poverty-stricken countries, and not an issue for our comfortable selves, be assured that aside from the moral aspects of treating poor people so shabbily, TB will prove to be a public health menace everywhere, as we “incubate” more and more deadly and drug-resistant strains in populations of destitute people. Even if we were to view this in entirely selfish terms, no good can come of policies that lead to increased rates of TB morbidity and mortality: this will surely arrive on our shores too. Here too, though, the poor will be disproportionately affected, so who cares?

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