Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, has a talent for communication that should stun us all. In one interview, lasting probably no longer than an hour, she has managed to encapsulate to a developed world audience the real role of the IMF in the world. A feat that, for decades, has eluded assorted socialists, NGO dissidents and apple cart capsizers.
Greece, as everyone knows, is subject to an IMF/EU/ECB austerity programme that has seen its economy shrink by a fifth, public sector salaries drop by 40 per cent, and private sector salaries by a quarter. Conditions, according to one observer, are so desperate they are not third world, but fourth world. Children in Athens schools are too dizzy to do PE because they don’t have enough food.
Lagarde, predicting that the debt crisis has yet to run its course, adds: "Do you know what? As far as Athens is concerned, I also think about all those people who are trying to escape tax all the time. All these people in Greece who are trying to escape tax." She says she thinks "equally" about Greeks deprived of public services and Greek citizens not paying their tax.
"I think they should also help themselves collectively." Asked how, she replies: "By all paying their tax."
Asked if she is essentially saying to the Greeks and others in Europe that they have had a nice time and it is now payback time, she responds: "That's right."
Thanks to Lagarde, it becomes unnecessary to point to the Cambridge/Yale University study of IMF intervention in former Soviet bloc countries and its finding of 100,000 extra deaths resulting from cuts to public health spending demanded by the IMF’s “strict economic conditions”.
Her “solution” to the crisis, which involves Greek citizens paying their tax, makes it redundant to highlight the good corporate “citizens” fleeing to Luxembourg to avoid paying anything to the state or the third of large companies who pay no corporate tax at all in Britain.
Lagarde’s helpful reference to the IMF’s role in Niger makes it superfluous to draw attention to the “degradation” of health services there, “crippled” in order to meet debt payments. Or the privatization that has put them beyond most people’s reach. Or the 19 % tax increases on flour, milk and sugar, later withdrawn after protests (now there is a lesson in self-help).
Christine Lagarde, you are doing a fantastic job. More interviews please.