|Air Date: May 12, 1998||Program 9819|
(This text has been professionally transcribed, However, for timely
distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)
ENRIQUE CARRASCO: In many cases developing countries find it very difficult to deal with these very quick inflows and outflows of capital. And it's called "hot money," because it can really create severe economic problems for many of these countries. It happened in Mexico in 1994-95 and it's happening in the Asian financial crisis as well.
KEITH PORTER: This week on Common Ground, a new resource helps unlock the mysteries of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
KRISTEN BERG: We decided to go ahead and look at putting an e-book up on the Web. We want this to be accessible both to people who have the latest in technology and people who have you know, computers that were built in the '80s. We also want it to be useful for people who this might be the first time they've been on the World Wide Web and also people who are on there daily.
PORTER: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It's produced by the Stanley Foundation. I'm Keith Porter.
PORTER: [with sound of modem coming on-line and someone typing on a computer keyboard in the background] Computers, when used as communication tools, can spread vital information to people previously shut out of other information loops. A group of legal and financial researchers from The University of Iowa have taken their own extensive knowledge of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and used new communication technologies to share that information with the people who need it most.
CARRASCO: One of the important underlying philosophies of the e-book is to make this type of information accessible to communities around the world. It's all about access to information.
PORTER: Professor Enrique Carrasco from The University of Iowa College of Law led some of his students and research associates in creating an electronic, interactive book for the World Wide Web. The book is titled Global Money, the Good Life and You: Understanding the Local Impact of International Financial Institutions.
CARRASCO: Central bankers have easy access to the type of information that we convey in the e-book. Academics have fairly easy access to this type of information. Lawyers in sophisticated law firms have relatively easier access to this type of information. So we didn't want to target that audience. Of course they are more than welcome to look at the e-book and use it. But we really had in mind the lay person and particularly those readers in communities around the world, including the United States, who are interested—who may be interested—in learning more about how, for example, the international capital markets affect their daily lives.
PORTER: In a nutshell, what is the content of this book?
CARRASCO: The content focuses on a term called "development." It focuses on international finance and it also focuses on two institutions, at least currently, two international institutions, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. We hope to expand that in the future. For example to cover the regional development banks such as the Inter-American Development Bank and the Asian Development Bank and the African Development Bank. There are two very important interactive features of this e-book. One is the e-mail feature. The reader can at any time click on an icon—the icon is, it looks like a little letter coming out of an envelope—click on that icon and send us or ask us a question. Or send us a story regarding that person's, that person's life. And how it relates to themes of the e-book. And what I envision eventually is a clinical situation where students will be able to respond to questions from communities around the world, doing research, helping these communities. And it's a two-way street by the way. Very important point here. The students will learn from the feedback we received throughout the world. So in this way the e-book is a living document if you will. And we're very excited about that. So it's a two-way learning opportunity. And then the other very important feature here is the Web board that we've created where people around the world can post commentary regarding the issues in the e-book and anybody can look at it and we're hoping to generate a transnational discussion on issues relating to international finance and development. And our students will participate in that as well.
PORTER: You had a team of people working on this. Tell us about the team and the group that you used to put this together.
CARRASCO: A wonderful team of people. First of all this product is the result of a year-long seminar that I've held here at The University of Iowa College of Law. I've had seven students in the seminar and at the outset we discussed what type of written product the students would generate as a result of the seminar. And that's a requirement here. So we, after some discussion, we decided to ditch the typical student written product that would collect dust somewhere on the shelf and instead come up with this type of electronic product.
BERG: We want this to be accessible both to people who have the latest in technology and people who have you know, computers that were built in the '80s. We also want it to be useful for people who this might be the first time they've been on the World Wide Web and also people who are on there daily.
PORTER: Kristen Berg served as technical producer of the project.
BERG: So taking all those considerations informed my design elements.
PORTER: I know there are a lot of people in developing countries who if they have access to the Web and they do have access to computers it usually is older equipment.
PORTER: And it's slower access.
BERG: Right. Exactly.
PORTER: So you have to take their needs into account.
PORTER: What do you think were the biggest challenges that you faced? Perhaps maybe that a regular Web designer wouldn't have in a situation like this?
BERG: Two elements. I use the Web daily. I had to create this site to be very intuitive for people, I had to remember what it was like the first time, couple of times I was on the Web. How to make it obvious where things where. How to make it—I tried to keep in mind making it infinitely navigable, making sense to both new users and current users of the Web. And one way I did that is I have, know several people who are new to Web use and we sat down and went over a couple of different design elements.
PORTER: Is this a completely objective work? Or does it include personal opinion and personal analysis?
CARRASCO: That's a very good question
PORTER: Again, this is Professor Enrique Carrasco.
CARRASCO: I really don't like to use the word objective because from my perspective that's impossible. It's impossible for someone to have an objective opinion. All of what, everything we say is informed by our experiences and our outlooks. Instead, and I make this very clear in the preface to the e-book, we worked very hard to provide a balanced approach to the many controversial issues addressed in the e-book. So from the very outset I urged the students to take into account both sides of the argument and they did a very good job of doing that. We want to make sure that this e-book is useful and that people will use it. And one way of assuring wide access and wide use is to try to take a balanced approach. And I think we did that.
SAL ALJURF: I was responsible for the section on non-governmental organizations and their role in development. And another section dealing with the World Bank and IMF and their roles in combating corruption in developing countries.
PORTER: This is one of the books many authors, Sal Aljurf.
ALJURF: It was sort of an explanation of NGO roles in developing countries and how they're, the roles that they're playing now in environmental law, as far as developing policy as well as legislation in environmental matters. And as well as human rights. And I also went into a little bit of detail at the end on the role the NGOs are now playing as far as governance and the fact that they've grown so powerful that they've been able to exert their sorts of own roles in influencing governments. And the problems that they're having now just because a lot of people, a lot of experts and analysts, feel that they're overstepping their bounds by sort of interfering with governmental business.
PORTER: I think that, we've talked about it on this program in the past, the growing power of NGOs, and especially I think what's interesting is when you look at organizations like the World Bank or the IMF which are member-state organizations, your influence in the organization is largely tied to the amount of money that you give to the organization. How is it that an NGO has power in a situation like that?
ALJURF: I think the biggest thing about NGOs is their aggressive policy as far as lobbying tactics, as far as bringing information both to the press and the people. And so it's not so much that they've got influence as far as monetary influence, if you will, but for instance the World Bank has found that there's been a great incentive now to work with them just in order to polish up their image. Because the World Bank has been criticized severely in the past for not being attentive to people in the developing world, to environmental issues. And one of the things I talk about in the section on NGOs is the fact that NGOs have been providing this sort of avenue for the World Bank to participate in development with developing peoples, ensuring that they're not being displaced, or they're not being displaced unfairly, without just compensation.
PORTER: Professor Carrasco, anything you wanted to add on this topic?
CARRASCO: Well, I think Sal's description of his section illustrates the balanced approach we're trying to take in the e-book. His section on NGOs covers the advantages and disadvantages of NGO activity. And he's done so very nicely in that section. He's quite right that NGOs have provided a useful function of, relating to information. And disseminating information on behalf of communities and creating links between institutions like the World Bank and communities throughout the world. He also wrote a very interesting section on transparency and corruption, which as you know are two very hot themes in development today. And in fact they were, they've been very big themes in the Asian financial crisis.
ALJURF: When you say transparency you're basically looking for clear guidelines that government officials have to use in following procedures for taking required fees for businesses and things of that nature. A lot of this goes to the fact that developing countries don't have this type of transparency. That government officials have way too much power in setting their own fees and taking bribes, if you will, in order to justify—in order to entrench their power within the government.
PORTER: We're talking in this edition of Common Ground about a new resource on the World Wide Web, titled Global Money, the Good Life and You: Understanding the Local Impact of International Financial Institutions. Printed transcripts and audio cassettes of this program will be available. Listen at the end of the broadcast for details. Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a non-profit, non-partisan organization that conducts a wide range of programs meant to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs.
PORTER: Another author from this electronic book is Eric Dorkin.
ERIC DORKIN: I was dealing with the Mexican crisis in the 1990s; what led up to it in terms of recent Mexican history; the role of large institutional investors; and then the post-IMF response to the crisis.
PORTER: Is there anything in particular that you think will be helpful to the audience? I mean, when they read this section what are the lessons that they will learn from studying the Mexican crisis?
DORKIN: Well, I think there's a couple of things they can learn. One of the recent things that's just happened is the IMF has finished its annual meetings and if you read the communique acute; from the IMF they mention that one of the things that we really have to start paying attention to—and they're writing this in 1998—is private, large private capital flows in and out of countries. But you have to ask yourself, why is the IMF only now saying "We have to start paying attention to this?" when you read about the Mexican crisis when that was in large part, the driving force, is these large institutional investors off the Mexican shore, either in the United States or in Europe, bringing lots of money in when things look good and then quickly taking money out when things look not so good. That we have this sort of three year lag where nothing yet has been done or legislated in either the United States or any of these other countries where these institutional investors reside, to curb the speed of, given the computer age, these institutional investors.
PORTER: Professor Carrasco, anything on this topic you want to add?
CARRASCO: Well, the Mexican financial crisis is very important for a number of reasons, and Eric has outlined many of those reasons. In the e-book we have an extended discussion of the Mexican financial crisis and we've put that before the section on the Asian financial crisis so that the reader can draw comparisons. Developing countries find it very difficult to deal with these very quick inflows and outflows of capital. And it's called "hot money," because it can really create severe economic problems for many of these countries. It happened in Mexico in 1994-95 and it's happening in the Asian financial crisis as well. And this is something that the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank have to cope with. It's a new, it's a new development and policy makers around the world are wondering what, are asking "What do we do? What can the IMF and the World Bank do?" And there's an enormous debate surrounding this issue with some people arguing that the IMF and the World Bank are dinosaurs, creations of the 1940s, institutions that cannot possibly cope with these new forces. Others believe, however, that the IMF should take a strong leadership role in controlling these very significant flows of capital. In fact there are very important proposals they made as we speak regarding what the IMF can do to promote development and at the same time control and promote the development of the private capital markets, which many view to be the key engine for development over the next several decades.
DORKIN: After the Mexican crisis itself, one of the first things that the United States tried to do with the IMF was to get Mexico back into the private capital markets. So that there was the understanding that, yes, it may have been the engine for the disaster, but it's still the belief of these institutions that it's the engine for progress; that we had to get them back there if there was going to be a solution to this problem. Now that may or may not have been the right thing to do but that was the response that they took. And that does appear to be part, the dominant belief of a lot of people in policy positions right now.
PORTER: Yeah, right.
CARRASCO: And these themes, the Mexican financial crisis and the emerging role of institutional investors, all this ties, these themes tie into other sections of the e-book. For example, we've discussed transparency and anti-corruption efforts. The IMF is now pushing the so-called second generation of reforms. And those reforms focus on improving transparency in developing countries and ridding developing countries of corruption. Now this is very controversial. And we cover this in the e-book. Corruption is a very difficult term to define and in many cases the campaign to improve transparency and rid countries of corruption is really a campaign of rhetoric that in many cases paints developing countries and policy makers in developing countries, as corrupt and incompetent. And many view this campaign as a pretext for the interests of foreign investors. In other words, it's in the interests of foreign investors to make developing countries as transparent as possible for investment in the country. And that does not take into account the best interests of communities in developing countries. So the argument goes.
PORTER: We have another of the authors here with us, Roman Terrill. Roman, tell us about the part of the book you were responsible for.
ROMAN TERRILL: My portion of the book was confined, at least in part, to the Asian financial crisis, the most recent topic that has generated concern about the IMF and the World Bank. I remember from back in the day when the IMF was first starting to generate a plan for Russian, to convert it from a socialist economy to a capitalist economy. There was kind of a raging debate in the media between a man named Jeffrey Sachs, who was at Harvard, and a man named Stephen Cohen, who was at Boston University. And Jeffrey Sachs was advising the IMF on what they needed to do to create a capitalist economy in Russia. And he came up with a very typical IMF plan. "You need to privatize your industry, you need to have your banks regulated in such a manner." And Stephen Cohen, who is more of a Russia specialist when it comes to history, said, "That is not the Russia that I know. That is not the Russia that I have studied for 30 years, and I don't think it's going to work." Interestingly, now that I'm studying the Asian financial crisis, there is a debate between Jeffrey Sachs at Harvard and Paul Krugman who is at MIT, and Paul Krugman is saying the capitalist system that they had in Asia was just wrong. It was built on the wrong foundations; too much input into export industries, not enough attention to efficient capital allocation, and you know, this, the IMF approach to restructuring these economies is to create the correct free market. And Jeffrey Sachs, rather ironically, is saying, no, there are competing ways of having a free market system and the Asian development model is still a valid one and should not be completely destroyed in the wake of this crisis. And so it all fits together in a seamless web for me. And it was very interesting to research this and see kind of how people's opinions about the free market and the IMF's roles in developing it have changed. And it's changed my outlook on it. When I thought of the IMF, I thought of the IMF as this kind of distant institution that had the answer. It had the answer for everybody. And it was just a matter of political will for countries to take their advice and implement it and create the free market. Does the Asian-style capitalism, the Asian theory of economic development, is that still a valid, is that still an advisable course for developing countries to take? Or, is there only the IMF approach, which is very strict adherence to free market principles and their recipe for development.
CARRASCO: I think Roman has hit upon a very important theme in this debate and in the e-book itself. And that is the profound adjustments that are occurring today in the Asian economies and elsewhere. We're not talking about policies of the '70s and '80s, adjustment policies of the 1970s and '80s that focused narrowly on things like tightening the money supply and reducing the budget deficit. Today when we speak of adjustments in developing countries, in emerging economies, in the transitioning economies—that is the economies transitioning from a socialist-based system to market-based system—we're talking about profound adjustments in the economy. Profound adjustments in law and policy. And these changes are bound to have very, very deep impacts on the culture of these societies. We don't know where it's going to go but certainly we have to take into account what these changes will do to society's view of it's future as a culture. And there's again a raging debate regarding whether we should tolerate the global spread of U.S. culture via these adjustments or whether there should be some sort of resistance on the part of communities throughout the world. Resistance to the U.S. brand of development, of culture, of kind of life views themselves.
PORTER: Well, really my last question, and you've touched on it over the course of this, but in summary, what is the next step? What is the future of the project that you've been working on and where do you see it going from here?
CARRASCO: Well, we're very excited about the e-book and it's future. We have several plans that we would like to pursue over the next year or two. First, we would like to translate the e-book into other languages to make it more accessible. Second, we would like to find computer equipment—we're going to aggressively look for funding for this—to buy computer equipment and have it installed in appropriate places in communities throughout the world. And then have workshops to introduce communities to the e-book. And we would do this in conjunction with NGOs and educational institutions in various parts of the world. Then next year here at the College of Law I will offer this seminar again and I'm hoping to expand the e-book to cover areas such as micro-development, to cover the activities of the regional development banks, and there are many other topics that we can look at.
PORTER: If you'd like to find this book on the World Wide Web, please come to this
www.commongroundradio.org/globalmoney http://www.uiowa.edu/ifdebook. Make sure you type commongroundradio as one word
and globalmoney as one word. Special thanks to our guests, Enrique Carrasco, Professor of Law at
The University of Iowa. He, along with our other guests, Kristen Berg, Sal Aljurf, Eric Dorkin
and Roman Terrill, helped create this new on-line resource titled Global Money, the Good Life
and You: Understanding the Local Impact of International Financial Institutions. For Common Ground, I'm Keith Porter.
Cassettes and transcripts of this program will be available. The transcripts are free; cassettes cost $5.00. To place an order or to share your thoughts about the program, please write to us at: The Stanley Foundation, 216 Sycamore Street, Suite 500, Muscatine, Iowa 52761. Be sure to refer to Program No. 9819. That's program No. 9819. To order by credit card, you can call us at 319-264-1500. That's 319-264-1500. Transcripts are also made available on our Web site. Go to commongroundradio.org. Commongroundradio is all one word. Our e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. Again, cassettes are $5.00 and transcripts are free of charge.
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