Participants in a roundtable discussion organised by the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) in connection with its national conference here on Tuesday stressed the need for better scrutiny and parliamentary accountability of projects funded by international and Indian financial institutions.
Speakers representing NGOs, people’s movements and social action, policy research and advocacy groups said many of the projects funded by international agencies like the World Bank and Asian Development Bank and nationalised banks and insurance companies in India, were sanctioned without considering their heavy social and environmental impact.
Social commitment and adherence to environmental safeguards have been given the go bye in the absence of parliamentary accountability, they alleged.
Benny Kuruvila, coordinator, research wing, Focus on the Global South, said the growth trajectory of countries like India and China was determined by international financial capital. He said the harmonisation of Indian financial capital with global capital had led to funding for massive infrastructure projects, inviting stiff public resistance. “Projects that impact the livelihood of thousands have been sanctioned in haste”. He said Parliament had to scrutinise spending by state- run banks.
Joe Athialy, South Asia director of the Bank Information Centre said the growing influence of India and China on the global arena was dictated by international funding agencies. “Last year alone, the World Bank funded rs.45000 cr worth of projects in India, mainly privatisation of health and education and administrative reform programmes”.
He said the World Bank recommendation to scrap the public distribution system and opt for cash distribution was reflected in the five year Plan documents. “The World Bank plays the role of lender, knowledge broker and gatekeeper of development finance. Along with ADB, it creates investment trends and determines the growth trajectory, setting standards for Indian financial institutions to follow unquestionably. Last year, LIC invested Rs.1,90,000 crore and SBI lent Rs.50,000 cr for infrastructure projects”.
Mr.Athialy said the World Bank mechanism of lending was undemocratic and shrouded in secrecy. “It involves the use of public money to enhance private capital. In the process of promoting a neo liberal economy, it pushes developing countries like India into a debt trap”.
Vijayan M.J of the Delhi Forum said the quantum of funds spent by international funding agencies like the World Bank and ADB was disproportionate to the influence they wielded on economic policies in a country like India. He said the failure to scrutinise investments had led to the denial of information,a key democratic value. “The environmental impact assessment report of sanctioned projects is classified information for many Indian banks. Massive funding involving thousands of crores has been sanctioned for the private sector within 24 hours without even moving a proposal before the government. Using taxpayer’s money to fund private projects is unacceptable”.
Maglene Peter, state committee member of the Kerala Swathatra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (KSMTF) also spoke.