Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Let’s Make Money

I got the chance to view an advance copy of the DVD Let’s Make Money (available June 16) from Mongrel Media. It’s a documentary about the world’s financial system and how this system has failed some desperately poor countries.

I like to hear multiple opinions on important issues, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I buy everything I hear. One thing I look for is sensible detail. Accusing an organization of wrongdoing is more credible if the accusation includes details of how things were done and what the parties had to gain from their actions.

One interesting part was remarks from John Perkins, a self-described former “economic hit man”. Perkins claims to have helped U.S. companies obtain natural resources cheaply from countries with the following steps:

- Arrange a huge loan for the country from the World Bank.
- Divert the loan to U.S. companies to build infrastructure projects in the country.
- Choose projects that benefit a few rich and powerful people in the country (so that they will agree to the deal), but not necessarily benefit the general population.
- When the population is unable to repay the loan, get them to agree to deliver their natural resources, such as oil, cheaply.

Perkins says that this usually works, but that he failed to convince two world leaders to accept huge loans: Omar Torrijos of Panama and Jaime Roldós of Ecuador. Perkins claims that in both cases, “jackals” were later sent in to kill these leaders.

Whether all this is true is open for debate, but Perkins gives enough detail that it seems that either his account is mostly true or his story is a complete fabrication. One thing that argues in Perkins’ favour is that his recipe for extracting resources cheaply from a poor nation looks like it should work.

Another interesting part of the DVD is an account of how various tax havens protect the identities of people who hold money in trusts. It’s not hard to see why some governments are concerned about losing tax revenue to off-shore trusts.

Overall I found this DVD interesting and recommend it to those who have an interest in world finance and the plight of poor nations.

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