Archive for the ‘IMF’ Category

The IMF has a sense of humour like you won’t believe…

I mean, I’m assuming this was intended as a lesson to the rest of us about how dry wit can actually be. Right?

Commodity prices part speculative

The strength of commodities prices, such as crude oil, this year is explained in a large part by speculative factors such as investors piling into the new asset class and the weakness of the US dollar, the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday.

The IMF said that the constellation of dollar depreciation and falling short-term real interest rates “has pushed up commodity prices through a number of channels, including by enhancing the attractiveness of commodities as an alternative asset.”

“Overall, these financial factors seem to explain a large part of the increase in crude oil prices so far in 2008, as well as the rising prices of other commodities,” it said.

Laugh? I nearly died. Next they’ll be telling us that the problem with fund management is that managers aren’t actually investors – they just get paid to buy and sell things. Maybe their directors will just give a succession of progressively more curmudgeonly interviews in which they reminisce about their day, when markets trading according to fundamentals. Then maybe they’ll apologise to Argentina.


Paul Wolfowitz cannot go back to Indonesia

Surely. Just reading in the Financial Times this evening that Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the Iraq War, isn’t done with his Project for the New American Century, just yet.

The White House appointee and former deputy defence secretary is leaving his post midway through his term after being forced from office over an ethics scandal.

He said he would be joining the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in Washington, as a visiting scholar, which would allow him to continue influencing public policy.

He appeared to encourage recent suggestions he was being linked to a future foreign policy role in Indonesia. “Twenty years ago I was American ambassador to Indonesia and I have to freely acknowledge, because it is pretty much an open secret, that I fell in love with that country,” he said.

It is this I’d like to revisit. Wolfowitz was ambassador to Indonesia from 1986 to 1989, prior to which he was Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs from 1982 to 1986.

Meanwhile, after overthrowing his predecessor, a fellow by the name of Suharto had taken control in Indonesia, a country in Melanesia and the Malay Archipelago. It has around 200m people, has the most muslim people of any country, and contains around 17,500 islands (around 6,000 inhabited).


It used to contain a bit more than that, actually. More on that in a moment.

Suharto enjoyed easy relations with the United States and Australia, as well as our aid and political cover – basically we propped up his dictatorship. During this dictatorship, and up until the massacre in Dili in 1991 when everyone else began to notice, he got away with the following.

  • In 1965, between 300,000 and one million Indonesians were killed in the mass-killings following the arrest of PKI members in Suharto’s cabinet. The CIA provided the Indonesian military with a list of 10,000 suspected communists, while also acknowledging it as one of the worst mass-murders of the 20th century.
  • Allegedly, Suharto was also the mastermind of the 1965 slaughter of millions of Chinese Indonesians, purportedly to eradicate the Communist Party of Indonesia.
  • Through means political and …otherwise, Suharto expropriated Western New Guinea (Irian Jaya on that map), East Timor and Aceh.
  • Only three parties were allowed to participate in elections: his own Golkar party; the Islamist United Development Party (PPP); and the Democratic Party of Indonesia (PDI). He was unopposed for reelection as president in 1973, 1978, 1983, 1988, 1993, and 1998.
  • Under the auspices of advice from American-educated economists (the Berkeley Mafia), Indonesia stabilised their economy, restructuring and securing high levels of economic growth – including the establishment of private banks owned by friends of Suharto in 1988. Suharto embezzled more money than any other world leader in history with the estimated US $15–35 billion embezzlement during his 32 years rule.

For example. In the end Suharto was too ill to be tried – though loads of his friends and family (including his son, Tommy) were, and convicted.

Even Christopher Hitchens agrees that the United States went terribly wrong somewhere (this was just prior to him losing his mind almost completely after 2001).

This was hardly done at the will of Wolfowitz, but he was an architect on the scene, and he isn’t remembered terribly fondly from the other end of the guns. The people wiped out in the purges, the people who suffered most from the collapse in 1997, people from East Timor, Aceh. Even Irian Jaya, the least developed, became a military operations zone (trans. military wiping out ‘insurgents’ – although they managed to vote for independence in a dodgy referendum back in 1969). Even Australia. When Reagan visited in 1985 on his ‘winds of freedom’ tour – welcoming Indonesia’s human rights improvements even as a violent crackdown had just occurred – Wolfowitz was criticised for missing the single greatest opportunity to discuss democracy, sticking to economic issues entirely. When Australian journalists were held in Bali and deported, Wolfowitz tried to downplay the resulting press coverage – earning a rebuke by then Prime Minister Bob Hawke.

In March of 2001, Tim Shorrock wrote in the Asia Times,

…apparently Cold War habits die hard. Wolfowitz’s efforts to whitewash the likes of Chun, Marcos, Suharto, and Wiranto illustrate the bankruptcy of US foreign policy from Reagan to Bush. Americans concerned about what is being done abroad in their names need to watch Wolfowitz’s every move, from Korea to Iraq to Colombia.

Meanwhile, on the islands of Indonesia

  • Much has happened since Wolfowitz left and everything has come out in the wash (also sounds familiar). East Timor is free – despite the efforts of both of our governments of the day(s),
  • Aceh is not, but has signed a peace accord with the government after the 2006 tsunami wiped out most of the Free Aceh Movement (I don’t know what’s become of the nasty oil concessions originally granted to US companies way back in the 70s).
  • Irian Jaya declared its own independence in 2000. At the moment its status is unclear (much less public international support for an island of tribesman – and our own records in Papua New Guinea are rather poor, to boot).
  • The Molluca Islands have hosted seperatist and religious violence for nearly a decade, while many have fled altogether.
  • West Kaliantan (Borneo) as well.

The several million ethnic Chinese will not welcome Wolfowitz’s return:

Under Suharto, Chinese were also forbidden from careers in state-sponsored academia, serving in the military, and the civil service. They were forced to carry identity cards and the use of Chinese characters and celebrations, such as the Chinese New Year, were banned.

During the violent upheavals that lead to Suharto’s downfall in May 1998, some 1,200 Chinese were believed killed. Thousands of businesses were looted, prompting tens of thousands of Chinese fled overseas. In addition, billions of dollars was transferred out of the country.

Nor will most of the 88% or so of Indonesians that are muslim – extremist or otherwise (and most Indonesians are otherwise). Islamic vs. other relgions tensions have not fared at all well since the onset of the war in Iraq. Our governments can blame whomever they like, but pissing off 200 million people in their own country won’t help diplomatic relations (assuming the Bush administration remembers what those are. Perhaps Dr. Rice can explain it while Cheney is having his 5th bypass operation one day).

I don’t know, really, what Wolfowitz will do – nothing requiring Senate confirmation, certainly. But it’s not as though either he or Bush have a record of even being aware, let along giving a shit, about the consequences of their actions. I wouldn’t be surprised if right now he was talking about democracy and reform in Indonesia and theatre missile defence in Asia, and meaning every word of it.