Masters of Illusion

Catherine Caufield, Author Henry Holt & Company $27.5 (384p) ISBN 978-0-8050-2875-1
Though the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, or World Bank, professes that its chief objective is fighting global poverty, most of its projects help the rich get richer while shortchanging the poor, charges Caufield. World Bank-funded proposals, she observes, have displaced millions of people, pushing them into destitution; for example, the Narmada Valley dams in India, which submerged several hundred villages. Instead of focusing on human services in developing nations, the bank promotes high-tech energy and transportation projects and Western-style, capital-intensive agriculture-development schemes that often enrich heads of state, contractors, exporters, middlemen, landholding elites and multinational corporations. Moreover, she adds, the bank pressures borrowers to amend or repeal countless local laws to qualify for loans, thereby weakening labor protections, trade unions, communal land holdings and maternity benefits. Ordinary taxpayers in donor nations ultimately finance this reallocation of funds to the relatively well-off in underdeveloped nations, she asserts. Caufield, a former environment correspondent for Britain's New Scientist, has written a scathing, well-researched critique that is likely to generate controversy in financial circles and among policy-makers. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 12/30/1996
Release date: 01/01/1997
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