Will IMF Austerity Policies Lead to More Deaths in Africa? The Answer is Obvious.

African nations must have infrastructure to develop industrialized economies .
October 16, 2020

An October 12, 2020, Oxfam International press release, IMF Paves Way for New Era of Austerity Post-Covid-19, exposes the danger of African nations following the dictates of the International Monetary Fund. A major reason that African nations have fragile healthcare systems is the IMF insistence on countries servicing their yearly debt service at the cost of under funding healthcare. Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, emphasized the cost service service early this year: “In 2019, 64 countries, nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, spent more on servicing external debt than on health. Ethiopia spends twice as much on paying off external debt as on health. We spend 47 percent of our merchandise export revenue on debt servicing…” Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed: Debt Cancellation for the World to Survive. Read my post: IMF Conditionalities Contribute to Shortage of Health Workers: Africa Suffers.

Africa has the highest number of people working in the informal economy. In some countries-over 80% of its people have to live hand to mouth each day to provide for their families. Millions are struggling every day just to survive, with no health and unemployment insurance safety-net. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven more Africans into poverty, and hunger is increasing across the continent. It is criminal and immoral for the IMF to to insist that nations implement austerity, when hundreds of millions are already suffering from lack of income, lack of food, and lack of healthcare. In fact, IMF policies have never helped nations develop their economies. African nations have yet to recover from the infamous IMF dictated “Structural Adjust Program” (SAPs) that destroyed their economies in the 1980s and 1990s. It may be difficult for people to hear, but the truth is; IMF’s Insistence on maintaining debt service and IMF conditionalities are killing Africans. Read my post: Africa Needs Real Economic Growth, Not IMF Accountants

In the history of modern economy, austerity measures have never led to economic growth. All honest economists, and even the IMF and World Bank, know this. The only solution is the creation of a New Bretton Woods system that must include: 1) suspension of debt service, 2) a new financial mechanism to issue credit for economic development 3) upgrading of healthcare infrastructure, 4)  massive investments in hard physical infrastructure of roads, energy, and railroads.

Excerpts from Oxfam:

“84 percent of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) COVID-19 loans encourage, and in some cases require, poor countries hard hit by the economic fallout from the pandemic to adopt more tough austerity measures in the aftermath of the health crisis, warned Oxfam today.

New analysis by Oxfam finds that 76 out of the 91 IMF loans negotiated with 81 countries since March 2020 – when the pandemic was declared – push for belt-tightening that could result in deep cuts to public healthcare systems and pension schemes, wage freezes and cuts for public sector workers such as doctors, nurses and teachers, and unemployment benefits, like sick pay.

“The IMF has sounded the alarm about a massive spike in inequality in the wake of the pandemic. Yet it is steering countries to pay for pandemic spending by making austerity cuts that will fuel poverty and inequality. These measures could leave millions of people without access to healthcare or income support while they search for work, and could thwart any hope of sustainable recovery. In taking this approach, the IMF is doing an injustice to its own research. Its head needs to start speaking to its hands,” said Chema Vera, Oxfam International’s Interim Executive Director…

“Nine countries including Angola and Nigeria are likely to introduce or increase the collection of value-added taxes (VAT), which apply to everyday products like food, clothing and households supplies, and fall disproportionately on poor people. Unemployment in Nigeria has surged to 27 percent, the highest in at least a decade…

“The IMF has contributed to these failures by consistently pushing a policy agenda that seeks to balance national budgets through cuts to public services, increases in taxes paid by the poorest, and moves to undermine labor rights and protections..

“The IMF’s austerity drive will hurt the countries it claims to help.” (emphasis added)

IMF Conditionalities Contribute to Shortage of Health Workers: Africa Suffers

Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed: Debt Cancellation for the World to Survive

IMF Paves Way for New Era of Austerity Post-Covid-19

Africa Needs Real Economic Growth, Not IMF Accountants

IMF Conditionalities Contribute to Shortage of Health Workers: Africa Suffers

A nurse in Uganda is giving a woman an injection

July 14, 2020

IMF Conditionalities Contribute to Shortage of Health Workers

Lawrence Freeman

As I have told my friends for many years, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is incapable of helping nations grow their economies. I do not believe the IMF can point to any success story, where its policies led to improving the standard of living of the population. Their macro-monetarist ideology fails to understand the essential driver of real (not monetary) growth. Following IMF prescriptions usually results in more suffering for the victim nation.  For a more in depth analysis read my article from last year: Africa Needs Real Economic Growth, Not IMF Accountants.

The report cited by the ActionAid and Public Service International highlights the failure of the IMF:  IMF Told Countries Facing Critical Health Worker Shortages to Cut Public Sector Wages The statistics are revealing, but should not be shocking to those of us who study physical economics. Throughout its history we have seen the IMF insist on cuts to meet to macro-economic goal at the expense of the population. This report clearly pinpoints the effects of tying loans to cuts back in healthcare. Africa was suffering from an acute shortage of healthcare workers before the COVID-19 pandemic. Sub-Saharan Africa has the fewest physicians per 1,000 population and the lowest number of hospital beds per 1,000 population.

It was pointed out by Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, earlier this year, that   payments of debt service equaled or surpassed the amount of money nations spent on healthcare.  He wrote “In 2019, 64 countries, nearly half of them in sub-Saharan Africa, spent more on servicing external debt than on health. Ethiopia spends twice as much on paying off external debt as on health.

African nations, or any country for that matter, should not be subjected to this kind of treatment. Human life is real and precious. Debt is merely a financial accounting mechanism. There is no equivalence.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the failure of the world globalized financial system, which has been become decoupled from the real economy. Genuine economic growth uses credit to promote human life. President Franklin Roosevelt’s Bretton Woods system, in its perverted form, came to an end on August 15, 1971. For the last fifty years, the City of London-Wall Street centered financial system has become more corrupt each decade, serving the interest of a tiny few. Now is the time to launch a New Bretton Woods, dedicated to improve the conditions of life for all people of all nations. I will be writing more on this subject in the future.

Below are excerpts from the cited report:

“New analysis by ActionAid and Public Services International (PSI) reveals how International Monetary Fund (IMF) austerity policies restricted critical public employment in the lead up to the Covid-19 crisis. (emphassis added)

“The analysis, released to mark UN Public Service Day (23 June), shows that every single low income country which received IMF advice to cut or freeze public employment in the past three years had already been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as facing a critical health worker shortage.

“Key findings include:

  • Of the 57 countries last identified by the WHO as facing critical health worker shortages, 24 received advice from the IMF to cut or freeze public sector wages.
  • When countries are told to contain wage bills – it means fewer doctors, nurses and frontline workers in countries already desperately short of medics.
  • All but one of the 18 low-income countries advised by the IMF to cut or freeze public sector employment funding, are currently below the WHO’s recommended nurse-to-population threshold of 30 per 10,000.
  • The WHO predicts that these countries will experience a collective shortage of at least 695,000 nurses by 2030.

“ActionAid’s 2020 report Who Cares for the Future: Finance Gender-responsive Public Services exposed the detrimental IMF loan conditions and austerity measures which have pushed 78% of low-income countries to plan for zero increase in public sector wages.

“When countries are told to contain wage bills it means fewer doctors, nurses and front line health workers in countries already desperately short of medics. This was a dangerous practice even before the Covid-19 pandemic and is unthinkable now.”

Read the full report: IMF Told Countries Facing Critical Health Worker Shortages to Cut Public Sector Wages

Read my earlier posts: 

VIDEO: Africa’s Healthcare Infrastructure Requires a New Bretton Woods

World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19

New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com