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Bond, Patrick and Sharife, Khadija (2012) Economic advice that can hurt the poor. The Mercury Eye on Society column : -.

Until 27 year-old fruit seller Mohamed Bouazizi – honoured by the London Times as 2011’s ‘person of the year’ – committed suicide by immolation in the provincial town of Sidi Bouzid, Tunisia was packaged as a success story.

In 2008, dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was embraced by International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn: ‘Economic policy adopted here is a sound policy and is the best model for many emerging countries.’

Ben Ali’s regime was ‘best model’ for two other Washington institutions: the State Department just a few blocks from the IMF headquarters, and the Pentagon. From within Hillary Clinton’s lair, as WikiLeaks revealed in 2010, ‘The United States and Tunisia have an active schedule of joint military exercises. US security assistance historically has played an important role in cementing relations.’

(Clinton is a leading candidate for World Bank president, to be chosen in mid-2012.)

Also in 2010, the IMF celebrated Ben Ali’s commitment ‘to reduce tax rates on businesses and to offset those reductions by increasing the standard Value Added Tax (VAT) rate,’ which hurts poor people most. The IMF advised the tyrant to ‘contain subsidies of food and fuel products.’

While squeezing the poor, the IMF diplomatically turned a blind eye to widespread corruption by Ben Ali and his wife’s notorious Trabelsi family, the two families’ extreme level of business concentration, the regime’s reliance upon murderous security forces to defend Tunisian crony capitalism, and the hedonistic lifestyle for which Ben Ali’s clan had become famous.

The informal sector is vibrant in Tunisia, about half the size of the formal Gross Domestic Product, but doesn’t contribute to the 18 percent VAT rate. So like in South Africa where SARS has just announced a record four million taxpayers, the pressure is intense to bring survivalist home-production businesses into the net.

Bouazizi killed himself when during a police attack, his fruit cart was overturned and his goods confiscated. He had borrowed $200 the night before to buy the produce, and he supported a family of four. He died of the burn wounds last January 4.

Before long, another self-immolation occurred, politically, when the notorious sex pest Strauss-Kahn allegedly raped a 32-year old Guinean maid, Nafissatou Diallo, who fought back with a charge that, ultimately, could not be prosecuted.

But the legacies represented by both immolations continue: high-risk pro-dictatorial neoliberalism and courageous popular resistance. A month ago, Strauss-Kahn’s successor Christine Lagarde, also a former French finance minister, visited Abuja to offer neoliberal advice to Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan on fuel subsidy cuts.

Lagarde was effusive about Jonathan. ‘I was extremely impressed’, she said, ‘with the energy and pace at which he wants to transform the economy.’

However, as for Nigeria’s very low fuel price, as the BBC reported, ‘The IMF has long urged Nigeria’s government to remove the subsidy, which costs a reported $8 billion a year.‘ Lagarde also emphasized this ‘reform’, and the result was nearly Tunisian in scale: a national popular struggle, Occupy Nigeria, that shook the country to the point of Jonathan’s overthrow before civilized society – the trade unions – called off protests, agreeing to a government fuel price concession.

The preceding paragraphs are based upon leftist ideological argumentation, but this is not the only narrative about Tunisia. The Third World’s most celebrated neoliberal – more so than even Trevor Manuel – is Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto. He blames the series of revolutionary uprisings in North Africa on limited access to capital.

In an interview last year, de Soto told us, ‘Bouazizi immolated himself in a terrible suicide because he never got a right to the land his house was built on, which could have been used for credit to develop his business, for example, to buy a truck. He was never able to get an official right to put a stall in a public place and so, he never had a property right to it. The only way to get the police to accept it was to pay off a bribe of several dinars every day. When they take that away from him, the space, he knows he does not have much of a future anymore.’

De Soto also blames Islam for the inability of Bouazizi’s mother to benefit from belated municipal recognition of his house: ‘When he died, she wasn't able to pass the title from his name to her name, because the paper that recognises the property is hard to transfer and in the process, someone could do very dirty tricks. Should she wish to sell it, to rent it, to use it as a guarantee to get capital for credit, she's got a problem. The kind of papers that the Municipality dishes out are not good enough for the bank. So women are not protected because of Shariah laws of the country, where property would go to the eldest son, even if the son is not able to benefit from the asset.’

But one fatal flaw in his argument, as shenanigans at Muhammed Yunus’ Grameen Bank and recent suicides by 250,000 over-indebted Andra Pradesh farmers suggest, is that microcredit can just as easily add to the woes of ordinary people, amplifying the deeper economic contradictions.

Moreover, Tunisia’s system was structured to diminish the power of citizens in order to sustain a dictatorship, with an estimated 17 percent of one major Tunisian bank in the hands of Ben Ali’s son.

Thus, the poverty innate to the IMF’s best model, Tunisia, cannot be solved by paper rights aiming to integrate poor people into a rotting ‘formal’ economy locked up by political and military elites. The same is true in Egypt, where repression by the post-Mubarak military against progressive democrats has worsened this month. The majority of parliament represented by Islamic parties is not yet sufficiently powerful to support the democrats – if that is their wont.

At the UKZN Centre for Civil Society tomorrow, we address this dilemma when one of Tunisia’s main political strategists and progressive Muslim leaders, Said Ferjani, presents a seminar at 12:30pm at the top of Memorial Tower Building at Howard College. (All are welcome – send a ‘Please call me’ to 083 425 1401 if you want more information.)

Ferjani is advisor to Tunisian prime minister Hamadi Jebali and spokesperson for the Al-Nahda party. He was arrested and tortured 25 years ago, spent time in exile, and is visiting South Africa courtesy of the Afro-Middle East Centre in Johannesburg.

The re-emergence of political Islam in the Middle East and North Africa requires new narratives given the revolutionary alliance in several countries with democratic civil society, against Washington-backed dictators.

If the likes of Lagarde continue their visits to African capitals – including Pretoria earlier this month when who knows what advice she chummily proffered to Pravin Gordhan – then we need to hear more from Tunisians, Egyptians, Nigerians and so many others about how underlying causes of revolt, especially inequality and neoliberalism, can fuse opposition from diverse traditions.

After all, no country exemplifies neoliberalism, inequality and multifaceted protest – and resulting political confusion – as acutely as ours.

Patrick Bond and Khadija Sharife are researchers at the UKZN Centre for Civil Society.

Ukwelulekwa ngezomnotho okungalimaza abampofu
NguPatrick Bond no Khadija Sharife Yahunyushwa nguFaith ka-Manzi (The Mercury)
31 January 2011

ITunisia ibiyaziwa njengezwe eliyimpumelelo, kodwa lokho kuvele
kwanyamalala ngenkathi uMohammed Bouazizi oneminyaka 27 odayisa
izithelo - futhi osanda kuhlonishwa iphephandaba iLondon Times ‘
njengomuntu ovelele wonyaka’ ngo2011- ezibulala njengomnikelo
wokushiswa edolobheni lesifundazwe iSidi Bouzid.

Ngo 2008, umbusi oyindlovukayiphikiswa uZine El Abidine Ben Ali
wayesingethwe ngumqondisi jikelele weInternational Monetary Fund (IMF)
uDominique Strauss-Kahn: ‘Umgomo wezomnotho othathwe lapha ungumgomo onesisindo futhi uyisibonelo esihle kakhulu emazweni asafufusa.’ Umbuso kaBen Ali ‘wawuyisibonelo esihle kakhuluregime’ kwezinye izizinda ezimbili zaseWashington: uMnyango Wezwe (State Department)oyibangana uma usuka kwekomkhulu lweIMF, kanye nePentagon. Lapho ngaphakathi kuyidleke sikaHilary Clinton, njengoba iWikileaks yaveza ngo2010, ‘IMelika kanye neTunisa banohlelo olumatasatasa lokuhlanganyela lezokuviliyela kwezombutho. Usizo lokuqapha lwaseMelika ngokomlando linendima ebalulekile eliyidlalile ukuqinisa ubudlelwane.’

(UClinton uhamba phambili emkhankasweni wokuba umongameli weBhange
Lomhlaba (World Bank), ozokhethwa phakathi nonyaka ka2012.)
Futhi ngo2012, iIMF yajabulela ukuzinikelela kukaBen Ali ‘ukwehlisa
inani lentela kumahwebi futhi wenza lokho kwehlisa ngokwenyusa inani
lentengo ekhokhwa ngumphakathi (Value Added Tax – VAT),’ okulimaza
kakhulu abantu abampofu. I-IMF inxusa ikhuthaza londlovukayiphikiswa
ukuthi ‘ahlale elawula njalo izimali ezingaxhasa imikhiqizo yokudla
kanye namafutha.’

Ngenkathi ekhama abampofu, iIMF yona ibibheka ngakwelinye uhlangothi
izibe inkohlakalo esabalele eyenziwz nguBen Ali kanye neyomndeni
wakwaTrabelsi kankosikazi wakhe odume kabi kakhulu, lemindeni yomibili
iyona ehweba kakhulu, futhi lombuso uzimelele kubaqaphi abangababulali
bezombutho abavikela ubungxiwankulu bobubhululu baseTunisia, kanye
nempilo yokuzibhekelela luzanelise wona uzalo lwakaBen Ali eselidume
ngakho kakhulu.

Abadayisi abazimele abaphantayo bakhuthele kakhulu eTunisia, futhi
ingxenye yemali eholwa izwe lonke, kodwa abangayiyisi kumaphesenti
angu-18 wenani leVAT. Ngakho-ke njengaseNingizimu Afrika lapho iSARS
isanda kubika ukuthi kunabakhokhi bentela abayizigidi ezine,
ingcindezi inkulu ukuthi kulethwa imikhiqizo yasekhaya yokuziphilisa
imbandakanywe nokuhweba okujwayelekile.

UBouazizi wazibulala kuketulwa inqola yakhe yezithelo nezimpahla zakhe
zithathwa ngenkathi kuhlasela amaphoyisa. Wayeboleke u$200(amadola)
ebusukwini bangayizolo ukuze athenge lempahla, futhi wayondla umndeni
wabantu abane. Washona ngenxa yezilonda zokusha ngoJanuwari 4

Singakakdluli nje isikhathi eside, nomuye futhi wazibulala
njengomnikelo wokushiswa, ngokwezombusazwe, ngenkathi isikhohlakali
esidume kabi sezocansi uStrauss-Kahn kuthiwa udlwengule isisebenzi
sasendlini saseGunie esineminyaka engu-32, uNafissatou Diallo, futhi
owalwa ngokuthi naye abeke umangali icala, okwathi ekugcineni,

Kodwa umlando wolokhukuzibulala okubili kuyaqhubeka: ubungxiwankulu
obunengozi obuxhasa umbuso wobundlovuyangena kanye nesibindi sabaningi
ababhikishayo bemelene nokucindezelwa. Ngenyanga edlule, othathe
indawo kaStrauss-Kahn uChristine Lagarde, naye futhi
owayengungqongqoshe wezezimali eFrance, wavakashela eAbuja ukuyonkize
iseluleko sokubusa ngobungxiwankulu kumongameli waseNingeria uGoodluck
Jonathan mayelana nokwehlisa imali exhasa ukukhiqizwa kwamafutha.
ULagarde wayejabule kakhulu ngoJonathan. ‘Ngithakase kakhulu’, esho,
‘ngomfutho kanye negxathu afuna ngalo ukushintsha ezomnotho.’
Kodwa-ke, njengoba amanani amafutha ephansi kakhulu eNigeria,
njengoba kwakubika iBBC, “I-IMF kudala inxenxa ukuthi uhulumeni
waseNigeria uyisuse imali yokuxhasa, okubiza u$8 wezigidigidi
ngonyaka.‘ ULagarde futhi wagcizelela ukuthi ‘lolushintsho’, kanye
nomphumela wawuthi awufane neTunia ngokulingana: njengoba
sekunomzabalazo onedumela kazwelonke, wokuthatha iNigeria(Occupy
Nigeria), owanyakazisa izwe kangangoba kwaze kwacishwe kwaketulwa
umbuso kaJonathana ngaphambi kokuba imiphakathi – izinhlangano
zabasebenzi – zathi awuyekwe lombhikisho, kwavunyelwana nohulumeni
ngokuthi kungaqedwa ukwehliswa kwamanani amafutha.

Lezizindima ezingaphambili zizimelele enkulumeni mpikiswano
yemakhomanisi, kodwa lolu akulona udaba olukhona kuphela ngeTunisia.
Ungxiwankulu othandwa kakhulu Emazweni aseNingizimu (Third World) –
ngaphezu kukaTrevor Manuel – umhlaziyi wezomnotho wasePeru uHernando
de Soto. Ugxeka ukuvukelwa kwemibuso eNyakatho Afrika athi kudalwa
ukungatholakali ngokwanele kwezimali.
Kukhulunywa naye ngonyaka odlule, ude Soto wasitshela ukuthi,

‘UBouazizi wazinikela njengomnikelo wokushiswa ezibulala kabuhlungu
ngoba engazange alithole ilungelo kumhlaba ayakhe khona umuzi wakhe,
owawungasetshenziswa njengesibambiso sesikweletu ukkuthuthukisa
ibhizinisi lakhe, njengesiboniso-nje, ukuthi athenge itrucki. Akazange
athole ilingelo elisemthethweni ukuthi azakhele ixhokovana lokudayisa
endaweni esemphakathini ngakho-ke, akazange abe nelungelo londawo.
Okuyiyona ndlela eyodwa yokwenza ukuthi amaphoyisa amamukele
ukuwathenga ngamadinars ambalwa zonke izinsuku. Uma sebemphuca lokho,
indawo, uyazi ukuthi akanalutho ngekusasa.’

UDe Soto futhi ugxeka inkolo yamaSulumane ngokuhluleka ukuthi umama
kaBouazizi atholwe ukwaziwa ngumasipala ngendlu yendodana yakhe:
‘Ngenkathi eshona , akakwazanga ukudlulisa ubunikazi bomuzi ebususela
egameni lendodana yakhe eliyisa kwelakhe, ngoba iphepha elibhekelela
indawo kunzima ukulidlulisela ngakho-ke, kukhona ongenza inkohlakalo.
Umangase afise ukuyidayisa, noma ukuyirentisa, noma ukuyisebenzisa
njengesiqinisekiso ukuthi athole imali yokubolekisa, unenkinga.
Izinhlobo zamaphepha uMasipala awanikezayo awalilungele neze ibhange.
Ngakho-ke abesifazane ngoba imithetho yeShariah yezwe, lapho indawo
iya kwinkosana, nmangabe inkosana ingeke ikwazi ukuzuza kuleyondawo.’
Kodwa manje iphutha elikhulu kulenkulumo yakhe, njengabakhohlisi
ebhange iGrameen likaMuhammed Yunus kanye nokuzibulala okusanda
kwenzeka kwabalimi abangu250 000 ababekweleta kakhulu baseAndra
Pradesh kukhombisa, ukuqhubeka uboleke abantu imali abampofu
abangakwazi ukuthola imali ebolekisayo emabhange kwandisa izinhlupheko
zabantukazana, futhi kwenze kugqame kakhulu ukwahlukana ngezomnotho.
Futhi-ke, indlela yaseTunisia yenziwa ngendlela enciphisa amandla
ezakhamizi ukuze kuqhubeke umbuso wobundlovuyangena, lapho kuqagelwa
ukuthi u17 wamaphesenti webhange elikhulu laseTunisia lisezandleni
zendodana kaBen Ali.

Ngakho-ke, ubuphofu obadalwa indlela yeIMF enconywayo, iTunisia,
ngeke ixazululeke ngamalingelo amaphepha abhekelele ukuhlanganisa
abampofu kwezomnotho ezibolayo ezivikelwe ngabezombusazwe kanye
nabezombusazwe. Lokhu futhi kuyiqiniso eGibhithe, lapho ingcindezelo
emva kombuso kaMubarak wezombutho omelene nabafuna ukuthuthukisa
ngentando yeningi isimi siya siba muncu kakhulu kulenyanga. Iningi
lasephalamende elimelwe amaqembu amaSulumane abakakabu namandla
ngokwanele ukuxhasa abafuna ukubuswa ngentando yeningi – umangabe
kuyisifiso sabo.

Kusasa eUKZN eCentre for Civil Society sizobe sibhekene
nalenkilayitheka lapho ongomunye wabahleli ohamba phambili
kwezombusazwe futhi ohambisana nentuthuko ongumholi wamaSulumane,
uSaid Ferjani, ezoba ekhuluma ngo12:30 emini phezulu eMemorial Tower
Building eHoward College. (Wonke umuntu umenyiwe – thumela i‘Please
call me’ to 083 425 1401 mawudinga eminye imininingwane.)

Ferjani ungumbonisi kandunakulu waseTunisia uHamadi Jebali ubuye
akhulumele iqembu iAl-Nahda. Waboshwa wahlukunyezwa eminyekeni
engamashumi amabili nesihlanu edlule, futhi uvakashele eNingizimu
Afrika ngokuxhaswa iAfro-Middle East Centre eseGoli.

Ibuya lezombusazwe kwamasulumane eMiddle East kanye naseNyakatho
Afrika kudinga izingxoxo ezintsha njengoba kukhona ubungani phakathi
kwezishoshovu emzaeni ambalwa anemiphakathi ebuswa ngentando yeningi,
emelene nondlovukayiphikiswa abaxhaswe yiWashington.
Umangabe abanjengoLagarde beqhubeka nokuvakashela ekomkhulu lamazwe
aseAfrika – okuhlanganisa nePitoli iosaqala-nje lenyanga ngenkathi
singazi ukuthi ukubonisa akunika u Pravin Gordhan – ngakho-ke sidinga
ukuzwa kakhulu ngabezizwe baseTunisia, baseGibhithe, baseNigeria kanye
nabanye abaningi ukuthi izimpande eziba imithelela yokuvukela imibuso,
ikakhulukazi ukungalingani kanye nobungxiwankulu, kungahlanganisa
abaphikisayo abaqhamuka kumasiko ahlukahlukene.

Ekugcineni phela, alikho izwe elikhombisa kakhulu ubungxiwankulu,
ukungalingani kanye nezinhlobonhlobo zomibhisho – okuholela
ekudidekeni ngezombusazwe – elidlula elethu.

UPatrick Bond no Khadija Sharife bangabacwaningi eUKZN eCentre for
Civil Society.

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