In a stalemate between the people of Sri Lanka and the government, the health sector stands on the threshold of collapse as the country runs out of essential medicines.
The health crisis in Sri Lanka reached alarming levels this month due to an acute shortage of medicines and medical equipment in hospitals. Hospitals, doctors and unions have been putting out calls for donations on social media requesting help for essential medicines, without which several health services have already come to a halt.
Due to a shortage of anesthetic drugs, the Director-General of Health Services, Dr. Asela Gunawardena announced that all except emergency surgeries have been suspended. As of mid-April, nearly 124 medical items were out of stock, reported The Sunday Morning.
The shortage of medicines has led to hospitals being forced to re-use equipment or substitute drugs. Concerned doctors, medical officers and unions have been holding protests to demand action from the government.
Sometimes we make decisions only thinking about the immediate situation, while forgetting the repercussions they may have in the next 5-10 years. We think that it will all just work itself out. We tend to be optimistic at best, but the reality is that we are inconsistent. When it comes to the decision of an individual, the consequences of that decision rarely affects a considerable amount of people. However, when it comes to that of the government of a country, a single measure can change the lives of millions for generations to come.
Argentina is a country that knows what this means, especially when we talk about the economy. The South American country’s economic history has un-erasable footprints of Neoliberalism and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) associated policies.
THE security concerns of Russia arising from Ukraine’s intentions of joining NATO have been widely discussed in the media. But the IMF’s link with Ukraine which is a parallel issue has scarcely received much attention. The IMF, as is well-known, “opens up” economies around the world for the penetration of metropolitan capital by making them “investor-friendly” through the adoption of a host of anti-working class and anti-people (“austerity”) measures; and such “opening up” typically involves the taking over of natural resources of the countries and also their land areas by metropolitan capital. The mechanism that the IMF typically uses towards this end is the imposition of “conditionalities” for giving loans to countries that are in need of balance of payments support.
In addition, however, to this general role that the IMF plays, there are occasions when it plays a specific role, namely, that of supporting the US government’s cold war objectives. And in the case of Ukraine, it has played this specific role almost from the very beginning, apart from its general role of opening up the Ukrainian economy to metropolitan capital.
In the mid-1980s, Soviet officials saw a need to open up their economy in hope of achieving Western-style innovation and productivity. That was the decade in which Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan were sponsoring the neoliberal pro-financial policies that have polarised the U.S., British and other economies and loaded them down with rentier overhead.
The Soviet Union followed a privatization policy far more extreme than anything the social-democratic West would have tolerated. It agreed in December 1990 to adopt the neoliberal blueprint presented in Houston by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to transfer hitherto public property into private hands. The promise was that the privatisers would find their interest to lie in producing abundant new housing, consumer goods and prosperity.
The Soviet leaders believed that the neoliberal advice they received was about how to follow the path by which the advanced industrialised nations had developed and made their prosperity seem so attractive. But the advice actually turned out to be how to open up their economies and enable U.S. and other foreign investors to make money off the former Soviet republics, by creating client oligarchies of the sort that U.S. diplomacy had installed in Latin American and other puppet states. The Cold War’s isolation of the former Soviet Union gave way to turning its republics into prey for financial and natural-resource exploitation by U.S. and other Western banks and corporations.
There is much talk among ‘progressive’ economists that the IMF and the World Bank have turned over a new leaf. Gone are the days of supporting fiscal austerity, demanding that national governments get public debt levels down and insisting on conditions for countries borrowing IMF-WB funds that their governments privatise their state assets, deregulate markets and reduce labour rights.
Now after the experience of the unprecedented COVID pandemic slump, the old ‘Washington Consensus’ is over and has been replaced by a new ‘consensus’. Whereas the “Washington Consensus” for international economic policies of the 1990s saw government failures as the reason for poor growth performance and advised governments ‘to get out of the way’ of market forces, now the IMF, the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation’s chiefs call for more fiscal spending, more funds for lending, and measures to reduce inequality between nations and within nations through higher taxes on the rich.Read More »
The COVID-19 crisis has seen a very different response from the advanced countries compared with the Third World countries. The former have unrolled substantial fiscal packages for rescue and recovery while the latter have been trapped in fiscal austerity.
Among Third World countries, India’s fiscal package has been perhaps the most niggardly, amounting to no more than 1% of GDP; but even other Third World countries have not fared all that much better.Read More »
The enormous economic dislocation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique opportunity to fundamentally alter the structure of society, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if using the crisis to implement near-permanent austerity measures across the world.
76 of the 91 loans it has negotiated with 81 nations since the beginning of the worldwide pandemic in March have come attached with demands that countries adopt measures such as deep cuts to public services and pensions — measures that will undoubtedly entail privatization, wage freezes or cuts, or the firing of public sector workers like doctors, nurses, teachers and firefighters.Read More »