Hungary kept on pursuing sensible moderate measures, instead of punishing the population. They imposed taxes on the hugely profitable sectors of retail, energy and telecoms, and took funds from private pensions to pay the deficit.
Stealing peoples’ pensions is “moderate” in HariLand.
So when in 2001 the IMF found out the Malawian government had built up large stockpiles of grain in case there was a crop failure, they ordered them to sell it off to private companies at once. They told Malawi to get their priorities straight by using the proceeds to pay off a loan from a large bank the IMF had told them to take out in the first place, at a 56 per cent annual rate of interest. The Malawian president protested and said this was dangerous. But he had little choice. The grain was sold. The banks were paid.
The next year, the crops failed. The Malawian government had almost nothing to hand out. The starving population was reduced to eating the bark off the trees, and any rats they could capture. The BBC described it as Malawi’s “worst ever famine.” There had been a much worse crop failure in 1991-2, but there was no famine because then the government had grain stocks to distribute. So at least a thousand innocent people starved to death.
At the height of the starvation, the IMF suspended $47m in aid, because the government had ‘slowed’ in implementing the marketeering ‘reforms’ that had led to the disaster. ActionAid, the leading provider of help on the ground, conducted an autopsy into the famine. They concluded that the IMF “bears responsibility for the disaster.”
Unfortunately the Action Aid report seems to be no longer on their site. However:
The worst famine in fifty years has resulted in several thousand deaths in Malawi in early 2002. An in-depth report by Action Aid Malawi places blame on a complex combination of technical failure and political mismanagement. The report calls a “fallacy” rumours that the IMF caused the famine by ordering the government to sell its grain reserves; both the Bank and the Fund had a hand, however, in the growing indebtedness of the agency responsible for the reserve, and recommendations to reduce the reserve which were based on inaccurate information on crop yields.
BTW, that 56% rate of interest?
That was the domestic rate of interest on Treasury Bills in Kwacha. And inflation was 57%. Thus the real rate of interest was -1%.
So, do we get to conclude that Johann Hari is a lying toerag?
I think we do, yes. Even the BBC disagrees with him.