Tuesday, November 20, 2007

World Bank's Wavering Wisdom (?)

A US$ 232 million loan from World Bank to the Philippines was "deferred" by the bank's authorities, citing "irregularities" in the bid process, and "excessive pricing" of the 3 road network projects the supposed loan was for.

Philippine Government spokesperson Cerge Remonde shot back at the World Bank saying the deferment was a result of an "internal row" at the Bank, and the loan approval delay is a "collateral damage" resulting from this intramural dispute.

The fact is, both parties speak with concealed tongues. The World Bank is suddenly conscience stricken at "excessive pricing" when no mention of this was ever made during the Marcos era when the loans from the Bank ballooned. The kleptocrat Marcos stashed away US$ 6-12 billion in hidden bank accounts. Even the former WB President was not wary of corrupting the Bank, opting to give his girlfriend US $ 80,000 increase in salary. Remember Paul Wolfowitz and his gal Shaha Riza?

The current Administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is no fan of transparency either. She has bribed all she can, coerced all she must, and coaxed all she needs, to keep herself in power. She has no compunction about violating or challenging statutes as long as there's a chance she can get away with it.

The issue here is not corruption nor internal dispute. Both parties can defend these allegations with "plausible deniability". The real issue is infrastructure projects being given to China, among other things. China bagged the huge North Rail and South Rail projects, the National Broadband Network (momentarily scrapped but will re-appear as a regional initiative, I'm sure), and other government projects earmarked as development corridors. The reason China gets these is that it accepts the price, corrupt or otherwise, but guarantees that the amount is repaid handsomely with tight commitments. The World Bank ties so many political/commercial concessions to the loan (a trademark American method) in addition to the corruption and interest payments. Now, these US contractors and consultants are complaining of not making profits due to absence of projects.

The Americans tried to expose the NBN deal, which their bet Amsterdam Holdings Inc., lost to China's ZTE. That did not shake anything, so now they defer the loan and cite CORRUPTION. On cue to bark at the GMA Administration and to speak of dire consequences are the American lapdogs: Senator Pimentel and Senator Mar Roxas (Sen Roxas' ancestry have been America's sweethearts since the 1930's). The Bank is clutching desperately at methods it can use to reverse the Chinese influence. The wisdom of its tactics at throwing mud may backfire since its fair haired boys in the Philippines are of doubtful integrity.

Obviously, GMA is no longer the darling of the murderous Bush Administration. The dogs of America are being unleashed on the Philippine President. This will be an interesting battle. It would be nice to see if the GMA luck will hold out versus Bush. Unfortunately for Bush, next year is an election year in America and the deferment could be used as an issue versus Republicans. With Hillary looming in the background backed up by GMA's classmate Bill Clinton, she could be in for a better ride through 2012. Tough luck for the World Bank, rotten luck for the Filipinos.

This whole affair stinks! Only the gluttons of greed will benefit from it.


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