Monday, July 17

Re-Ups, the World Stash and Meles Inc.

When a drug dealer has sold all of his product, he needs a 'Re-Up', which is simply an urban drug culture term for re-stocking. In the same vernacular the 'stash' is where the drugs are hidden and guarded. Don't try to read too much into our vocabulary though - we just like to watch 'The Wire' and the occasional rap video.

You already know what 'Meles Inc.' means, it is Ethiopia's own, bloody dictatorship, sole national feudal landlord, kleptocratic crony monopolist business empire, ruling party aristocracy and constitutionally sanctioned ongoing criminal enterprise.

Al Capone was satisfied with Chicago and Pablo Escobar never dreamed of having a seat at the U.N. - but with a little help from the World Bank, Meles Inc. is set to go much further.

Here are some choice comments from The World Bank via Reuters and Ethiomedia. Accepting any premise that these statements is based upon requires a suspension of disbelief far beyond what it takes to sit through the Superman or the X-Men movies.

In other words welcome to the Twilight Zone of international politics and government finance ...
The World Bank and other donors cut off direct aid to Ethiopia last year in response to a crackdown on dissidents and a treason trial against opposition leaders criticised by the West as politically motivated.
Well, this statement is fairly accurate - although we can all be certain that any part of Meles Inc. never missed a meal or lost a numbered Swiss Bank deposit slip. The regime pretended to be a democracy for the sake of more money - precisely because their brand of rule generates eternal poverty.

The donors were willing to go along for good vibes all around and to justify the expenses to their legislators and taxpayers. That is until the democracy show got out of hand and was really revealed to be a re-run of the same old dictatorship show.

So donors kept pretending but only after being "shocked, shocked to find out" there was dictatorship going on in Ethiopia - so they acted slightly annoyed about it. When Meles convinced them that he was willing to stay in power until the last drop of Ethiopian blood - the protection racket that defined the regime's relationship with its development partners was reinstated in full.
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz on Wednesday called the bank's resumption of aid to Ethiopia a sign of improved confidence in the country since donors cut direct support over political turmoil last year.
'Renewed confidence' is code for Somalia is being taken over by radical Islamists and no one in Washington ever expected Meles to be a democrat anyhow. Literally nothing has changed for the better in Ethiopia with the exception that already low standards for the regime's behavior have been lowered further.
But Wolfowitz, on a seven-nation African tour, said the World Bank's re-engagement in Ethiopia under a new aid initiative must be followed by government action to correct the problems that sparked deadly election violence.

"I think there is more reason to feel confident that people are learning the right lessons from the experiences of last year," Wolfowitz said.

The World Bank "can only go so far in creating confidence by talking confidently. If the underlying situation doesn't support that then at some point you not only lose credibility but you accomplish nothing," he added.
If the horrible behavior of the regime which has to be begged and threatened, usually with no result, to treat its own people decently is met with new handouts of cash what possible reason is there to expect different behavior in the future?

The right lesson to be learned is that no matter what the Ethiopian dictatorship does to Ethiopians - the donor community represented by the World Bank will continue to finance that repression.

The World Bank is literally doing the same thing over and over somehow expecting a different result - well, at least rhetorically. Actually this is all about the fact that the Bank has absolutely no confidence in Meles and Ethiopians in general.

That suits Meles just fine. The worst anyone, especially Ethiopians think of Ethiopians, the less is expected from him in terms of civilized behavior and the longer he collects souls and gold.

The Bank is doing the same thing over and over because this is simply the best that can be expected of and from Ethiopians. This is about an unpleasant mixture of highly refined contempt and realpolitik.
Private sector representatives he met said they were more confident in Ethiopia's prospects since a crackdown on opposition supporters after May 2005 polls, and urged more help from the bank -- the country's largest investor.
What 'private sector representatives' could that be? They aren't international since Ethiopia is one of the least favorite places on planet Earth for foreign investment.

If they are national one must wonder if the obvious truth that the Ethiopian economy at every level is dominated or outright owned by Meles Inc. is known. Actually, the folks at the World Bank know this all very well.
"My impression is that in the last few months there have been compromises made by both the government and the opposition and I would encourage people to continue to do that," he added.
After winning election and not playing along with the regime's game plan and donor insistence that they just go along for the ride, the opposition is in jail on charges of treason and genocide under horrible conditions.

Tens of thousands are in detention camps under far worse conditions, millions more are facing collective punishment for how they voted, all freedom of speech and expression has been shut down, no one knows how many have died where Western reporters weren't present ... but the World Bank sees encouraging comprimises.

Perhaps they are talking about the pet opposition in the rubber stamp parliament that operates under the name of the imprisoned leadership. When the regime felt heat from the Ethiopian Teachers Association in the past they just repressed the leadership brutally and created their own pet ETA.

Back when Meles Inc. first took power they created their own opposition to discredit the concept and to justify repression ... and on and on.

No one in the West believes a word that the regime has to say and they expect so little that they just play along with it hoping that Meles Inc. won't force their hand by tearing Ethiopia apart any time soon or that he won't kill too many of his own people where donor citizens have to notice.

What this is all about is, as we have said so many times, is the regime's civil contract that excludes Ethiopians in favor of foreigners. The only constituency that Meles has is Western donors and Ethiopians that he has bought or terrified.

The West knows this and just wishes he had managed the fake election better so that they would not have to beg and threaten on behalf of Ethiopians while they pay Meles protection money not to kill too many of them.

Foreign aid and actual budget support doesn't work and hurts growth and democracy. Everyone concerned knows this as well. Yet it goes on because subsistence welfare is easier to justify than insisting on economic systems that actually create wealth just the way so many others have.

If the aim is a path to escape from poverty for tens of millions, Meles Inc. is doing everything wrong. If the aim is power and wealth for a few, they are doing everything right. Again, this is no secret in Washington or Brussels or anywhere else but nice words have to cover up ugly reality.

The World Bank describes itself as
a vital source of financial and technical assistance to developing countries around the world. We are not a bank in the common sense.
International Development Association (IDA) ... focuses on the poorest countries in the world. Together we provide low-interest loans, interest-free credit and grants to developing countries for education, health, infrastructure, communications and many other purposes.
Sounds great right? Too bad part of the unwritten purpose is to keep dictators in business, that loans to such dictatorships are not paid back and that loans, credits & grants end up feeding the voracious appetites of the local strongmen more than anything else.

At least that is the World Bank - Ethiopian experience in a nutshell. For the privilege of access to Ethiopians the World Bank basically forgets their interests in catering to their government.

Countries that have become rich or that are no longer poor or who are in anyway on the move in the right direction don't have governments / ruling parties that own all of the land to use as a source of wealth and a weapon of control, that are the most structurally corrupt governments on earth, the most brutal, the most afraid of the free flow of information, the most ...

The list goes on and on. You know it as well as we do and so does the donor community. The World Bank with its altruistic mission statement is really serving the policy interests of Europe and America.

The Europeans indirectly because they have Uncle Sam to take care of life and death issues for them so they can afford to speak more about right and wrong - unless there is oil or trade in it for them. They would prefer for Ethiopia to be silent enough that they don't have to bother because they won't ever be bothered enough to do much anyway.

Europeans also recognize that they share American interests in the War on Terror where purposeful Meles Inc. destabilization of the Horn or non-cooperation in Somalia would create headaches for them as well.

The Americans directly because the unpleasant, though noble, task of keeping the lid on the planet's potential for barbarism has become an American responsibility by default.

While Congress is affirming American revulsion with the Ethiopian regime and the EU Parliament has done the same it was just better politics all around for the World Bank to hand out Western protection money to Meles Inc. than doing it directly which may have seemed to be in bad taste.

Equally absurdly, in turn the World Bank in the past indicated that it would send money to lower levels of government rather than the top reaches of the regime as a form of punishment or expression of displeasure.

So ... having disappointed every decent expectation ever placed in it by Ethiopians or anyone else, the regime is being rewarded with yet more billions in unaccountable cash and pats on the back for its atrocities.

The World Bank is the World Stash and Meles Inc. has just re-upped itself into planting its boot ever more firmly on the collective Ethiopian neck. Castro in Cuba has sexual tourism, Kim Jong Il in North Korea has nuclear blackmail and the Ayatollahs in Iran have oil.

What Meles has is his widely acknowledged willingness to make Ethiopians suffer. He then capitalizes on the suffering he has caused to beg for money in the name of his victims.

As the New Economics Foundation reports (again via Ethiomedia) during the past year when the World Bank was experiencing so much confidence in Ethiopian government,
Money flowing into UK bank accounts from developing countries has surged in the past few years ...

The scale of the exodus of capital from countries with major social problems will raise fears of massive corruption and money laundering that will hurt the welfare of the world's most vulnerable people.

The New Economics Foundation said deposits had risen noticeably over the past five years, with inflows from ... Ethiopia rising 103 per cent.
Remember, this is the little that one organization knows about.

By the end of next year, this newest World Bank re-up will join much of the previous ones after having been stolen, laundered and ultimately invested back in societies that actually allow for secure growth, wealth and property ... while financing the very opposite abroad.

Other 'grants and loans' will make a more circuitous route home having passed through the hands of arms dealers on every continent and the Washington lobbying firms that do the bidding of Meles Inc.

One of the most tragic bits of all of this is that without even the most cynical interest of the West that Meles Inc. would think nothing of cutting out the hearts of the real oppositon leaders in Meskel Square while selling Ethiopian slaves abroad to make a few dollars and stay in power another day.

At the end of the day, Ethiopians don't want to be taken care of or to be anyone's responsibility - they just want a chance to take care of their own interests in that very successful liberal democratic free market way that seems to have worked for so much of the rest of humanity.

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