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Nilufar Ahmad

M.A., Ph.D, Boston University;

Senior social scientist,
The World Bank,
2001 -



An independent consultant
based in Dhaka, Bangladesh,
specializes in environment and
women in development issues.

University professor in Bangladesh 1992.


Excerpts from
Battling the World Bank
An interview with Nilufar Ahmad

Trained as a statistician and an economist, Nilufar Ahmad is a university professor in Bangladesh and works with grassroots organizations of rural women. ... She first came face-to-face with hunger as a university student working with rural women during Bangladesh  1974 famine. "At that time," she says, "I made up my mind to work with rural people, especially rural women, because they are at the bottom of the pit." My associates and I mobilize rural women, help them form their own organizations. ... These people are illiterate. They have no information. They do not know their rights as citizens. ...we make credit available to them, so they can set up small businesses .

The World Bank somehow convinced all donor countries that Bangladesh would not be able to manage all this money coming into the country; ...The World Bank became the coordinator of a consortium of donor groups. Now the World Bank ....allocates all the money to different sectors. We are totally beholden to the World Bank. Whatever the World Bank says, we have to say yes. For example, the World Bank and Western states all say that population is Bangladesh is biggest problem. .... So the first priority of foreign lenders is population control. Of all the money that goes into Bangladesh, 55 percent goes into population control. ... If we do not satisfy the target, they can keep the money in the pipeline and not give it to other sectors. They [currently] give only 2 percent to education and only .4 percent to women's health. ...The World Bank is trying to liberalize Bangladesh's trade laws and promote export-oriented policies. It has cut off all of the money for the social sector, so there is more and more poverty in Bangladesh.

  Let me tell you a story: In 1988, we had a big flood in Bangladesh. Fifty percent of the land was flooded. Even Dhaka, the capital city, was totally under water. ... And the whole world was really concerned when the flood was shown on international television. The donor countries really wanted to help Bangladesh;.. The World Bank again got into the act and became the coordinator of the relief effort. It came up with a strategy called the flood action plan. The proposal was to build embankments beside the main rivers. .......We already have 7,000 kilometers of embankments, and still every year we are flooded. But the World Bank is going ahead with the plan.

At the time, we had a corrupt, autocratic ruler and he was very happy to implement this plan. Ten billion dollars will be spent just to make the embankments, and $600 million will be needed every year to maintain them. We are going to borrow $10 billion from the whole world. How is it going to be repaid? It is all loans, not aid. Meanwhile, the World Bank has already spent $150 million just on the 26 studies it has done for the flood action plan. .... Each consultant that comes to Bangladesh gets paid something like $800 per day - while the average per capita income in Bangladesh is $160 per year.  ... it actually takes two parties to do it. Our government is complicit. The World Bank could not force all these policies on us if our government did not agree to them. The government consents because government officials do not have enough political will and because they want to line their own pockets.


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