Forget IMF, Trevor, you are needed at home

2011-05-28 10:35

Pitiful. That’s what it is to see South Africa and other developing nations beg for a seat at the masters’ table.

That’s how it looks to us here in the global South as Europe thumbs its nose at efforts to make a leader from South ­Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, Singapore or India the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The IMF is tasked with providing balance-of- payment support to countries that get into trouble. In return for loans, it takes a stake in monetary and fiscal policy.

Its aim is to protect the ­global economy. While it has attempted reform for most of the past decade, for Africans the IMF is still associated with painful structural adjustment policies put in place by the fund’s mandarins.

While the jury is out on what percentage of the damage it caused the continent, there is ample ­research to show that it was, in part, responsible for the sorry state of African public health and education regression.

This has kept the continent back and it is only now with the latest growth spurt and the coming of the era of sustained democracy that Africa seems set on a different path.

Of course, our ­leaders who stole and made war must take the blame too, but Africa’s history at and with the IMF is not a happy one.

So, why do we want to send Planning Minister Trevor Manuel to the IMF?

He is regarded as a global leader and is in demand at global forums, so there’s no need to beg the IMF to give him a job. It would be a great pity if his work at the ­National Planning Commission was derailed now.

While it’s been quiet, back-room work, Manuel and his tiny team have made good progress as we will see in the final quarter of this year when it is first presented. The drawing up of a roadmap is sorely needed for South Africa to forge a sense of national cohesion.

While last week’s was a local poll, it revealed that we still lack a shared vision of what we want our country to be.

Manuel should stay and complete this work.

And if he still wants to go global thereafter, he could choose an organisation with a ­better track record in Africa like the UN or its ­environmental agency, where he would be excellently placed to determine a fairer energy future.

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