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Monday, Jul 08, 2002

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What price, globalisation?

GLOBAL ills are a direct offshoot of globalisation: This has been the thrust of thousands of young persons who, for the past five years, starting with the Battle for Seattle, have been demonstrating with fierce determination at all the venues of meetings of the World Bank, the IMF, the G-8, Organisation of American States or whatever. Many thought that putting the blame, as these young folks were doing, for a whole litany of woes — poverty, pollution, exploitation of the poor by the rich, denudation of the world's resources and all that was going wrong — exclusively or even predominantly on the inequities of globalisation was pushing things too far.

Although there was no mistaking the sincerity and conviction of the young protesters, they seemed to be carried away by their own pungent slogans based on visceral feeling, instead of substantiating their fears by reasoned arguments. This tended to dilute their impact somewhat, most people and governments viewing them as a nuisance.

However, by simply being consistent and persistent and unfailingly putting in their appearance in their tens of thousands wherever the world's high-and-mighty foregathered, they have managed to draw attention to the reverse and, to them, adverse, side of the coin.

The result is nowadays, every communique or report of every international institution, including the impregnable World Bank and the IMF, and every meeting of the G-8, devote a paragraph or two to the need to guard against globalisation ending up as a means of making the rich richer and the poor poorer. This is a triumph of the freshness of youth over the smugness of the vested interests.

Now the angry young men and women have secured fully documented support from an unexpected and unimpeachable source for what they had believed all along to be true. Indeed, they could not have asked for a more powerful ally than Dr Joseph Stiglitz, who recently retired as the Chief Economist in the World Bank. A Pulitzer Prize winner, the chairperson of the former US President, Mr Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisers and a Nobel Laureate, Dr Stiglitz was at loggerheads with entrenched "market fundamentalists" in the World Bank and the IMF even while in service.

Using his new-found academic freedom, he has now come up with a seminal volume titled Globalisation and Its Discontents which is a penetrating critique of the "neo-imperialist force" that globalisation had become, leaving "hundreds of millions of people worse off in 2000 than they were in 1990".

He casts a lurid light on the "wrenching reforms" prescribed by callow and callous cretins of the Bretton Woods duo for ailing economies which predictably led to financial bubbles and collapses.

In short, the book, snidely called a "prosecutor's brief" by uncharitable reviewers, is a scathing commentary on the mindless, headlong rush towards unbridled globalisation and a strong vindication of what the peripatetic protesters have been agitating against all these years.

B. S. Raghavan

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