Marshall Aid for Balkans, Africa

J. Barkley Rosser, Jr. rosserjb at
Mon Apr 26 14:56:01 PDT 1999


Well, a quick check of stuff in my office turned up no source for a time series on issuance of SDRs. But let me address the broader question. SDRs are in a sense "funny money." They don't exist. There are no SDRs. They are a pure unit of account whose value is a weighted average of the currencies backing it.

Of course that is not quite right. SDRs do exist as a unit of account that is fully backed up by the contributions of the members of the IMF according to a formula. Thus, SDRs are actually the currencies of the IMF members. If a country gets a loan from the IMF it actually receives real currencies from that equal some value of SDRs and it can pay the loan back in any currencies it wants to as long as they equal that amount of SDRs.

At the time of the oil shocks there was no major increase in SDRs (sorry that I can't document that, but I presume somebody will) because the major IMF members were all suffering from the oil price shock and were in no position to increase their contributions to the IMF, what was needed for it to "issue more SDRs." Now there was an exception to that. In 1981 and 1982, Saudi Arabia loaned the IMF about $4 billion (_OPEC' Investments & the International Financial System_ Richard P. Mattione, 1985, Brookings Institution, pp. 80-100). This involved a restructuring of the leadership of the IMF with the Saudis becoming a heavy player and with international political consequences.

However, aside from a loan to Britain dating from the early 1970s, I believe, the IMF did not make loans to leading nations suffering from oil price shocks. I stand to be corrected if someone can come up with the SDR time series.

Chris, I did not mean to play one-upmanship games with you professionally. Heck, I'm just as mean to my fellow economists when I think that they are making errors, :-).

BTW, I repeat that the obvious currency to back any major program of aid to the Balkans will be the euro, not the SDR, whatever the time series of SDRs in the 1970s and the 1980s, just as the US $ was what was used for the Marshall Plan. Barkley Rosser -----Original Message----- From: Chris Burford <cburford at> To: lbo-talk at <lbo-talk at> Date: Monday, April 26, 1999 3:23 AM Subject: Marshall Aid for Balkans, Africa

>Barkley Rosser asked me to come back on the question of SDR's and Marshall
>There are several aspects to this question which I would like to clarify.
>1) I copied an Albanian call for a Marshall Aid plan for the Balkans to
>this list. It was greeted with ridicule by the great and the good, which
>they have not been able to sustain.
>Within the last few days the term has been used a number of times in the
>context of the NATO discussions, including by the Brits and particularly
>the Germans. The most recent context has been about the importance of a
>development plan including Bulgaria and Romania. This clearly is the price
>they are asking for giving territorial support to NATO perhaps in
>connection with over-flight facilities, or even the stationing of troops on
>the border with Serbia. Most importantly there will be a deal in formation
>and confirmation about how they will impede the transport of Russian oil up
>the Danube, multiplying the reasons why Russia for all the anti-NATO
>feeling there, will not find itself practically able to help the Serbians.
>Now whether this will all amount to a Marshall Aid plan will have to be
>analysed. One parameter is the quantity of the inflowing capital. Perhaps
>people can do calculations about the relative contribution to the GDP's of
>the recipient countries of the original Marshall Aid plan to western
>Europe. No doubt the west will not wish to transfer more real capital than
>necessary to win the alliance of these relatively dependent countries.
>Another parameter is whether all these bits of aid are grouped together
>conceptually in a total development plan for the Balkans. Highly likely.
>One, it looks bigger and better that way. If charity is to be given let it
>be publicised as loudly as possible. Secondly it is absolutely consistent
>with the economics and the ideology of late captalism that development
>*must* be on a supra-national basis. The whole aim is to promote trade
>across the region and especially with the EU.
>I would like to emphasise that from the point of view of Albania, one of
>the poorest regions of Europe (partly from its incorrect socialist policy
>of virtual autarky but also because of capitalist encirclement) the request
>for major aid is a just and reasonable request. Those who ridiculed it as
>absurd, should I suggest, examine their reflex leftist cynicism and ask why
>they did so.
>2) Will SDR's be part of a regional aid plan?
>On this point Barkley challenged my assertion that the West had had no
>conceptual or practical problem in printing itself lots of IMF special
>drawing rights to cushion the effect of the oil price rises of the 1970's
>by dispersing the cost throughout the international financial system. In a
>cross disciplinary list like this, which includes self-taught people (like
>myself in economics) it may be irritating to experts in a subject to have
>to correct half-baked ideas. But it is a necessary part of the democratic
>strengths of such a forum, and correctly done, the process accelerates
>learning for all. The lay person's question or proposition, even if
>incorrect, may challenge an aspect of the received wisdom of the
>discipline, and the bourgeois constraints of the study at the time.
>But to do so dismissively may also play into a sort of tribal pecking order
>culture in which certain correspondents are thought to be ridiculous and
>others not. This merges with the received wisdom of unanalysed leftist
>prejudices, and can lead to individuals getting scape-goated and suspended
>on other lists, if not this one. Carrol's peevish and insulting
>irritability is particularly culpable in this respect because it gives
>cover for certain moderators to foreclose debate around a small group of
>people who at the end of the day are a friendship circle.
>It is quite normal that all of us select which correspondents we find most
>interesting. Carrol's proclamations of whom he deletes, when he has to
>delete 90% anyway as he has no organised facility for retaining and
>scanning mail retrospectively, are intellectually primitive for all his
>references to Plato and Aristotle, and could be met with other retorts. I
>suggest it is not the best way to grow intellectually old gracefully.
>On SDR's then I must ask Barkley or anyone else if he can verify his
>assertion that none, or none to mention, were issued around the time of the
>oil price rises. I am surprised my memory should be at such fault here. Not
>impossible, but I have never been challenged on this aspect before. I
>suggest a solution is if someone can print a list of the volume of IMF
>SDR's authorised year by year since their commencement.
>3) Financial credit. Doug's challenge that SDR's are somehow funny money,
>whereas greenbacks are not, does not bear examination certainly on marxist
>grounds, I venture to suggest. On marxism-thaxis I have defended Doug from
>the charge of empiricism and challenged his critics to substantiate it.
>They have not. "Wall Street" has frequent reference to theory, both marxist
>and non-marxist. However it is an emprical study if not an empricist one,
>and it specialises in Wall Street. What I am focussing on in this question
>is the process by which states underwrite credit.
>From this point of view I do not see what is different from other rules
>they set about the issuance of money. The rules for the Swiss Banks have
>just been changed so that they no longer have to hold gold deposits to the
>value of 40% of circulating Swiss coins and notes. The main effect of this
>further step in the global demonetisation of gold is to put downward
>pressure on the gold price, as a raw material. I have missed the fine print
>of the decision but it is probably that the same total of reserves can be
>held in the form of other currecies, and quite possibly SDR's. (If not, it
>means that the Swiss can print more francs, thereby debasing the value of
>the franc, and that has not been commented on).
>So what are we arguing about? SDR's do exist. They are recognised by the
>capitalists states as a valid form of reserves alongside dollars, marks,
>etc, and they permit the issuance of money which buys use values. They are
>a sort of global deficit financing, but because of the still prevailing
>neo-liberalism, are treated with great caution.
>Whatever figures Barkley produces on SDR's, what is so controversial about
>the idea that the IMF might be asked kindly to consider throwing a few
>billion into the Balkans. If the US can run a war its way without United
>Nations approval, what is to stop it leaning ever so nicely on the IMF?
>The other objection was that there was no political or economic reason why
>it would be in the west's interests to arrange a Marshall Aid plan for the
>Balkans, because Communism has been defeated. Absolutely the reverse. Late
>capitalism requires large, stable supranational states with human rights
>for citizens regardless of race, colour or religion.
>It is cheaper for western capitalism to set up Marshall Aid for the Balkans
>than to fight another war like that of Kosovo, in Macedonia, Montenegro,
>Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and Moldava. These capitalists are of course not
>entirely stupid.
>4) Those who dismissed my previous posts muddled up my prediction of a
>Marshall Aid plan for the Balkans with my advocacy of a Marshall Aid plan
>for Africa. The two are not the same. About Africa, it is an informed view
>in international financial circles that Africa is peripheral to the world
>economy that matters. Africa could fall off the map and the world would
>still keep turning.
>That is exactly why the demand for a Marshall Aid programme for Africa is a
>progressive demand that challenges the capitalist domination of the world
>economy. We know technically that Marshall Aid is quite possible (unless
>informed economists think it their duty to dismiss it). It is a reform
>therefore that could be tried anywhere. Why is it not tried in Africa? For
>class and national reasons. That is why progressive people and economists
>should campaign for it.
>Besides is it really so absurd as to be impossible to explain to certain
>capitalists or their servants? While the west has been pre-occupied with
>the horrors of Kosovo, Ethiopia and Somalia have been pounding each other
>back into the poverty from which they have only just been dragging
>themselves. In West Africa a vicious civil war is continuing in Sierra
>Leone, beyond the ability of military power of the regional peace making
>force. These disputes also need conciliation, and positive aims shared by
>the countries for their common economic prosperity.
>Now the western arms merchants have no interest in Marshall Aid to Africa,
>but other capitalists could. Furthermore the working people of the west (or
>at least Europe) have shown repeated good will for other suffering human
>beings. A well presented plan backed by left economists willing to fight
>for reform of the international financial system would attract increasing
>political support.
>There is a world to win.
>A Marshall Aid plan for the Balkans will help. Lets also start a Marshall
>Aid plan for Africa.
>And what would be wrong, Barkley, in view of the billions sucked out of
>Africa and transferred to the developed world each year, if issuance of
>SDR's was prioritised for African human and environmental protection and
>development? There is no theoretical or practical reason why it should not.
>Chris Burford

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