of Structural Adjustment Programs
Sonoma County Peace Press, June / July 2000
Global Resistance of Structural Adjustment Programs
Sonoma County Peace Press, June / July 2000
In the dozens of countries where the International Monetary
Fund (IMF) and World Bank have imposed structural adjustment programs
(SAPs), the people who have seen deterioration in their standards
of living, reduced access to public services, devastated environments,
and plummeting employment prospects have not been passive. The
pages of newspapers, magazines, and academic journals (those that
can survive in depressed economies) have been filled with damning
analysis of structural adjustment. More important, people have
been organizing to combat the pillaging of their lands and livelihoods.
This organizing has resulted in mass movements and protests on
every continent, but they are not often reported on in the mainstream
General strike called by labor unions, with the support of many
agricultural workers, against government's sharp increase in food
and gasoline prices as part of its IMF-designed SAP. Troops and
riot police called out. Unions accept government's offer to increase
basic minimum wage by more than four-fold along with other wage
Six dead, 175 injured including two children blinded after the
military fired tear gas, then bullets, at demonstrators opposing
the 35% hike in water prices imposed on the city of Cochabamba
by the new owners of the water system, International Waters Limited
(IWL), a British subsidiary of San Francisco based Bechtel. The
IMF, World Bank and Interamerican Bank have written sell-offs
into what they term, national "master plans," (another
term for SAPs). Consortia such as IWF were formed to capture these
cast-off public assets. Cochabamba's protest organizers knew that
just across the border in Buenos Aires, the region's first privatization
consortium eliminated 7,500 workers, the system bled from lack
of maintenance and prices jumped, repeating the story of virtually
every water privatization around the world.
About twenty students and bystanders at Ahmadu Bello University
(ABU) in Zaria were massacred by security forces after staging
peaceful protests over impending introduction of SAPs.
Students demonstrate at 33 universities against fuel price increase
demanded by IMF-inspired SAP. May-June 1989
Dozens of people killed and hundreds arrested in riots and strikes
against SAPs in Lagos, Benin City and Port Harcourt. Government
forced to offer a welfare program called "SAP Relief Package,"
the establishment of a mass transit scheme, a "People's Bank"
and a review of the minimum wage.
Students and faculty on campuses nationwide protest government's
decision to accept a $150 million University restructuring loan
from the World Bank, especially conditions requiring closure of
many departments and programs. Military government stages armed
assaults and hundreds of arrests, with hundreds more expelled
from university system. May 1992
Students at Universities of Ibadan and Lagos protest against implementation
of Structural Adjustment Program, which they accused of being
responsible for the deterioration of campus facilities and education
programs as well as doubling of transport prices. Police respond
by shooting at the demonstrators, wounding at least five students.
Battles between young anti-government demonstrators and riot police
in Lagos leave at least three dead and hundreds injured. The IMF
and World Bank made the removal of subsidies and probable increase
of the price of gasoline the main imperative in its negotiations
with the Nigerian government.
Food price riots in the northern copper mining district in response
to a SAP announced in December 1986 eventually led to program's
Scores of anti-IMF protesters dispersed by armed riot police in
Zambia's capital Lusaka after they attempted to picket outside
a hotel where IMF and Zambian officials were meeting. "IMF
policies are killing us, especially women and children,"
said a representative of one of the many women's groups that organized
Steep currency devaluation and price hikes resulting from arrangements
with both the IMF and World Bank lead to demonstrations by about
15,000 in Khartoum to denounce IMF. Students at University of
Khartoum occupy buildings, leading to eventual closure of the
University of Cotonou students strike, paralyzing the institution
for six months, in protest of non-payment of grants for several
months and the government's intention to stop paying them altogether
in 1989 as part of SAP reforms. Teachers' strike begins in April,
with demands for payment of four months' salary arrears, the withdrawal
of the 50% reduction in their salaries (part of IMF mandates),
the unconditional liberation of all teachers, pupils, and students
held during the strike and the reintegration of 401 teachers dismissed
in March for striking.
About 600 people killed and more than 1000 wounded in rioting
over economic measures, including sharp increases in fuel and
public transport prices, imposed to satisfy the IMF and World
Bank. President Perez, as one of his first acts in office, signed
a letter of intent with the IMF putting into place a SAP.
Coup attempt by middle-level military officers, widely supported
by the population, fails. The economic goal of the coup's protagonists
was the end of Venezuela's SAP.
Riots over increased food prices erupt throughout southern Jordan
shortly after announcement of SAP agreed to with IMF. At least
five protesters killed by police.
Riots break out in Karak and other southern cities after IMF demands
removal of subsidies, resulting in tripling of price of bread.
King suspends Parliament when it refuses to support price hikes.
Protesters also target Ministry of Education because of hike in
school fees connected with IMF program.
Students at Makerere University protest cutting of stationery
and travel allowances arising from a World Bank-imposed SAP. Police
fire into a crowd of protesting students, killing two.
A broad coalition of civil society organizations, led by indigenous
peasants, rise up to demand the curtailment of austerity measures
imposed after the IMF's emergency interventions in the wake of
weather catastrophes (La Ninia/El Ninio), further de-stabilizing
Indigenous people march on Quito to demand an end to austerity
programs and more responsive government. After taking over the
parliament building and allying with key members of the military,
the indigenous organizations succeed in forcing the resignation
of President Jamil Mahuad. Betrayal by the head of the armed forces
leads to the vice-president taking over leadership rather than
a government of national reconciliation.
[This article was excerpted from the 50 Years is Enough website
and is based on the work of George Caffentzis and Silvia Federici
of the Committee for Academic Freedom in Africa (CAFA).]
For more information see 50 Years Is Enough: U.S. Network
for Global Economic Justice website www.50years.org.
Structural Adjustment page