IMF and World Bank face criticism

World Bank Group President David Malpass speaks during an interview on Sunday. (AFP)
Updated 22 July 2019

IMF and World Bank face criticism

WASHINGTON: At the critical moment of a Hollywood movie starring A-lister Sandra Bullock, Bolivia’s newly elected president calls in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to bail out the poverty-stricken country, violating a campaign promise. The streets erupt in violent protest.

The movie, “Our Brand is Crisis,” is a fictionalized version of the 2002 Bolivian elections and it drastically simplified the situation. But the writers knew the IMF would be unquestionably accepted as the arch enemy of the people.
After 75 years putting out financial fires around the world, the IMF and World Bank face criticism for repeatedly failing to prevent crises and for making things worse for the people they were meant to help. That makes them easy scapegoats.
Even if the criticism is not always entirely fair — no one blames the doctor for prescribing a painful but life-saving treatment — the institutions have been trying to rebrand themselves in recent years, putting more emphasis publicly on protecting vulnerable members of society in their lending programs.
But they will need more than a better communications strategy as they contend with a wave of anti-globalization sentiment and technological transformation — while also helping Africa through a transition requiring massive investment in infrastructure and job creation just to keep up with population growth.
The challenges “are huge,” World Bank President David Malpass told AFP in an interview.
The IMF and World Bank were created July 22, 1944 in the shadow of World War II to help rebuild Europe and later Japan, and to try to head off the kind of economic strife that had led to the war.
“The original concept of reconstruction and development ... was clarified to include poverty alleviation as the bank grew,” Malpass said.

FASTFACT

• The IMF has been blamed for inflicting pain with its rigid demands and policy advice that often favored corporate interests in the rich countries over the poor nations in trouble.

• At the same time, extreme poverty has plummeted worldwide — falling by a billion people since 1990.

• The IMF and World Bank are now putting more emphasis on protecting vulnerable members of society in their lending programs.

On the surface, their record, especially for the IMF, seems dismal, with each of the prior three decades marked by a severe crisis: The Latin American debt crisis in the 1980s, the Asian and Russian crises in the 1990s and the global financial crisis in 2007, which begat the Great Recession that still looms over the world economy today.
In each case, the damage lasted for a decade or more and the IMF was blamed for inflicting even more pain with its rigid demands and policy advice that, according to the fund’s harshest critics, too often favored corporate interests in the rich countries over the poor nations in trouble.
But at the same time extreme poverty has plummeted worldwide — falling by a billion people since 1990.
“In the history of the world there has never been so much progress in improving people’s lives as we have seen in the last 75 years,” said Masood Ahmed, who worked alternately either at the IMF or World Bank for nearly half their existences.
But the institutions missed the problems growing beneath the surface.


Huawei's third-quarter revenue jumps 27% as smartphone sales surge

Updated 16 October 2019

Huawei's third-quarter revenue jumps 27% as smartphone sales surge

  • American companies, significantly disrupting its ability to source key parts
  • Huawei was all but banned by the United States in May from doing business with American companies

SHENZHEN, SHANGHAI: Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd’s third-quarter revenue jumped 27%, driven by a surge in shipments of smartphones launched before a trade blacklisting by the United States expected to hammer its business.
Huawei, the world’s biggest maker of telecom network equipment and the No. 2 manufacturer of smartphones, was all but banned by the United States in May from doing business with American companies, significantly disrupting its ability to source key parts.
The company has been granted a reprieve until November, meaning it will lose access to some technology next month. Huawei has so far mainly sold smartphones that were launched before the ban.
Its newest Mate 30 smartphone — which lacks access to a licensed version of Google’s Android operating system — started sales last month.
Huawei in August said the curbs would hurt less than initially feared, but could still push its smartphone unit’s revenue lower by about $10 billion this year.
The tech giant did not break down third-quarter figures but said on Wednesday revenue for the first three quarters of the year grew 24.4% to 610.8 billion yuan.
Revenue in the quarter ended Sept. 30 rose to 165.29 billion yuan ($23.28 billion) according to Reuters calculations based on previous statements from Huawei.
“Huawei’s overseas shipments bounced back quickly in the third quarter although they are yet to return to pre-US ban levels,” said Nicole Peng, vice president for mobility at consultancy Canalys.
“The Q3 result is truly impressive given the tremendous pressure the company is facing. But it is worth noting that strong shipments were driven by devices launched pre-US ban, and the long-term outlook is still dim,” she added.
The company said it has shipped 185 million smartphones so far this year. Based on the company’s previous statements and estimates from market research firm Strategy Analytics, that indicates a 29% surge in third-quarter smartphone shipments.
Still, growth in the third quarter slowed from the 39% increase the company reported in the first quarter. Huawei did not break out figures for the second quarter either, but has said revenue rose 23.2% in the first half of the year.
“Our continued strong performance in Q3 shows our customers’ trust in Huawei, our technology and services, despite the actions and unfounded allegations against us by some national governments,” Huawei spokesman Joe Kelly told Reuters.
The US government alleges Huawei is a national security risk as its equipment could be used by Beijing to spy. Huawei has repeatedly denied its products pose a security threat.
The company, which is now trying to reduce its reliance on foreign technology, said last month that it has started making 5G base stations without US components.
It is also developing its own mobile operating system as the curbs cut its access to Google’s Android operating system, though analysts are skeptical that Huawei’s Harmony system is yet a viable alternative.
Still, promotions and patriotic purchases have driven Huawei’s smartphone sales in China — surging by a nearly a third compared to a record high in the June quarter — helping it more than offset a shipments slump in the global market.