Multilateral Development Organizations like the World Bank Group over the past decades have defined mainly how the language and direction of development have shaped globally. In India, the experience has been no different. From the very unidimensional understanding of development promoting free-market economic policies such as deregulation, privatisation and trade liberalisation, as well as targeting unlimited economic growth, implemented primarily through Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs); these institutions have kept the people /communities at the periphery in this discourse.
Over the past decades, people and people’s movements across the globe have raised their voice against the development projects as well as the structural adjustments policies that these institutions have pushed on them in the most non-democratic ways. In India, the Narmada struggle has defined the resistance against the World Bank and its anti-people agenda. The people’s struggle ensured that the Bank had to withdraw from the Narmada Valley. However, these institutions have a weak ability to learn from their past mistakes, or one would rather say they are smart enough to redefine themselves to ensure new ways to keep themselves relevant while keeping the agenda of promoting free-market and neo-liberal policies intact.
In the past few decades, multilateral development banks have used the disaster capitalism to redefine their relevance using every opportunity to support a change of economic policies that benefit private sector interests at the expense of marginalised communities. Development Policy Loans have become the new Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), mega infrastructures like smart cities, industrial corridors are being supported with no consideration for the impacts on communities, climate or livelihoods. In the past two decades, we have witnessed many cases where communities have approached these institutions to avail their accountability mechanisms like in the case of the IFC. IFC & Asian Development Bank supported Tata Mundra Ultra Mega Power Project, IFC supported GMR Kamalang Power Project and Tata Tea Project, World Bank supported Vishnugad Pipalkoti Hydropower project, Amaravati Capital city Project and many others as these projects have been marred by environmental and social concerns from their very inception. But, these institutions have not learnt their lessons nor have they acknowledged their failures and the destruction they have caused to the people or environment.
Today in India we are witnessing a systemic assault on the very foundation of the democratic structures through the majoritarian government which is leaving no stone unturned to establish systems, structures and policies which provide little or no space for the aspirations of the marginalised. At such a time, institutions like the World Bank are further aiding these processes through their investments and knowledge function. The Bank’s Ease of Doing Business has pushed countries like India to push for deregulation, which has eroded environmental protection and attempted to introduce labour and land laws that aid corporations.
It is rather unfortunate that even disaster is being used as an opportunity to further the agenda of promoting capitalism. The COVID-19 pandemic should have warranted of these institutions to provide social unconditionally and health security with no hidden agendas of privatisation and policy changes. What we are seeing is that COVID-19 is being used as an opportunity to push for policy changes and redefining social sector, health sector as well as an opportunity to bring changes to the MSME sector. With the fast tracked platform that this pandemic has provided for MDBs to push their agenda, it is critical to evaluate the impact of these investments both on economies and communities.
This booklet is an attempt to look into the funds which are approved by the multilateral development banks during and in the name of Covid pandemic. It tries to look deep into the project documents to understand the real intent and agenda of these institutions, while lending in the name of a pandemic.