IMF: Protesters' Momentum Weakens as Crowd Thins
Market Report

Downtown Washington bristled with police for a second day Saturday, but the thousands of protesters they had geared up for failed to materialize, the Washington Post reports.

Activists had timed their actions to this weekend's annual meetings of the IMF and the World Bank and had said they would try to prevent delegates from leaving the meetings, but they abandoned that plan in the face of heavy police presence. On Friday, another set of street actions intended to shut down the city never gained enough momentum and were quickly put down by police.

Some protesters said their numbers, which police placed at 3,000 to 5,000, was disappointing. They said it suggested that the anti-globalization movement has suffered from a shift in activist priorities since Sept. 11, 2001, and that it embraces issues that don't provide easy rallying points. "It seems to be a little small. It would be greater if the issues were more visible," said Cathal Healey-Singh, a civil engineer who works in Barbados and came to march yesterday.

But organizers with the Mobilization for Global Justice, the D.C.-based group that helped coordinate the protests, gamely applauded this weekend's turnout and estimated that it far exceeded police counts, despite visual evidence that the crowd was far smaller than 2000.

Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey didn't necessarily see the turnout as the end of the movement. He said that the preparations of police, who were expecting as many as 20,000 demonstrators, were based on monitoring previous protests elsewhere. This weekend's turnout, he said, left open future protest preparations, but he said other protests will dictate his preparations.

It took about 15 minutes for the parade of activists to march by. "That was it?" said Joseph Trimpert, 28, a computer technician and former Marine from Arlington. He held US and Israeli flags as he watched, saying he wanted to show support for the US war on terrorism.

The issues on the list of activists' grievances is varied: military action against Iraq, big oil companies, Third World debt, environmental abuses, racism and the government's AIDS policy.

The anti-globalization movement has always been one with a broad range of issues, notes BBC Online. Pacifist anti-war messages have always been a part of the demonstrations, but this year with the expectation of US military action against Iraq, they played a much more central role in the protests, the piece notes

Four anti-globalization protesters were arrested on weapons charges late Saturday after police said they were found to be in possession of homemade bombs, AFP adds news reports in Washington said. Police said the protesters, two men and two women were spotted in a downtown Washington alley behaving suspiciously.

"They were putting together weapons and other things that they could throw and when we approached them they took off running," Commander Cathy Lanier, a commander with the Metropolitan Washington Police Department told a local NBC television station in Washington.

Police confiscated several coffee cans that had been crammed with nails and smoke bombs, US media reported. Each of the cans contained five three-inch nails that had been glued together, according to reports. Authorities speculated that the protesters may have planned to throw the devices into the street to puncture the tires of police cruisers.

This weekend, anti-globalization critics in Washington have argued that if you consider each developing country something of a natural experiment over the past 20 years, the majority of cases showed no economic growth plus increases in poverty, widening the gap between the have and have-not countries, notes the Washington Post meanwhile.

Poverty experts at the World Bank, led by Martin Ravallion, argue that what counts isn't countries but people. Using household surveys around the world, they have found that the poverty rate in developing countries -- those living on less than $1 a day -- has fallen from about one-third to one-quarter while the income gap between rich and poor has remained about the same.

Now come two independent researchers -- Xavier Sala-i-Martin of Columbia University and Surjit Bhalla for the Institute of International Economics -- who argue it's better to use data from national gross-domestic-product accounts than household surveys, and then make various adjustments for purchasing power and education. And when they do, they find that the global poverty rate has fallen below 15 percent while the income gap between the global rich and poor has decreased, the piece says.

Commenting in the Washington Times, Thomas R. DeGregori of the University of Houston notes that recently we have witnessed the rapid rise of "civil society" in the form of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) - groups that claim to be the voice of the poor and powerless. From the demonstrations in Seattle to the streets of Genoa, where the cry was "You are the G-8, we are 6 billion," organizations dominated by wealthy, white, male Northern Europeans and North Americans have carried the twin banners of the poor and the environment of planet Earth in battle against the evils of globalization, multinational corporations and modern technology and biotechnology. More often than not, however, such groups are not helping the poor but, in fact, hurting them, DeGregori says.

For instance, one African country now faces opposition to its efforts to build a dam to provide electric power, and that's a state in which only 4 percent of the population has access to the grid. European and North American NGOs have thus far been able to use their propaganda machines to hold up the World Bank and other international funding for the dam. They claim to be operating on behalf of local NGOs and the local people. As an editor put it, the "local" opponents are "less than 10" and all are on the payroll of Northern NGOs. A reporter chimed in that the "less than" was correct but the "10" was generous.

Like the multinationals that they criticize, the Green, anti-globalization, and environmental NGOs are revenue-maximizing organizations. They make their money by marketing fear - no matter the human cost, DeGregori says. Fear and fund raising are their full-time jobs. We must not confuse NGO ventriloquism with the authentic voices of Third World concerns. The NGO people are no less unbiased or representative of their country than would be the local hires of an American based multinational corporation, and they should not be treated differently.


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