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International Financial Institutions in Manipur increasing loans and indebtedness of people

IMPHAL: A workshop consultation on International Financial Institutions (IFI) in Manipur held on Saturday at Manipur Press Club in Imphal asserted that the IFIs in Manipur are increasing loans and indebtedness of Manipur and its people to Asian Development Bank, World Bank, New Development Bank, Japan International Cooperation Agency, French ODA, etc. and are destined to be trapped in a vicious circle of debt, conflict and impacts on communities and its fragile environment.

The workshop consultation was organised by the Centre for Research and Advocacy, Manipur; the United Voluntary Youth Council and the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness, India on the pattern of financing and persisting issues and challenges of IFI financing in Manipur and to discuss ways and strategies to promote effective and sustainable development.

CRAM secretary, Jiten Yumnam said that ever since the adoption of a neo-liberal economic system by the government of India in 1990s, IFIs (both bilateral and multilateral institutions) have changed the politico-economic framework while the geographical advantage of Manipur have generated massive focus in expanding trade and investment cooperation between the countries with dominant economies of South and South East Asia. There has been an aggressive move to connect the NorthEast region with SouthEast Asia for trade and investment, as evident by the aggressive construction of Trans Asian Highway and Railway, Trans Asian High Voltage Transmission and distribution lines, all passing through Manipur, Jiten added.

The exclusivity of the development decisions making, the incompatibility of the initiatives with the primary needs of Manipur and insensitivity to the rights and impacts on indigenous peoples of Manipur has long been questioned, Jiten said.

Jiten explained in-depth on the challenges faced in implications of International Financial Institutions in Manipur. In Manipur, the ADB, the World Bank and JICA are primarily involved in financing of sectors such as road building, energy, water and sanitation, agriculture and business etc.

The World Bank is currently funding the dam rehabilitations and improvement project (DRIP) for Singda Dam and Imphal Barrage. As such, development cooperation in Manipur is marred with a range of social and environmental issues in addition to the direct and indirect violation of indigenous people’s rights. The project financings are also marred with lack of accountability of corporate bodies involved in the project financing and implementation, Jiten said.

The key challenges of the Official Development Assistant (ODA) projects in Manipur are the policy conditionings, tied aid or reliance on consultants from the donor countries at exorbitant consultancy fees. The challenges of such financial support of the international multilateral and bilateral banks are that the monetary support come as loan support with obligatory interest payments.

Most of the ODA financials are non-concessional, which also undermine the objectives of ODA to have greater grant components. The implications of these loans in Manipur have never been considered in projects or discussed with communities. Manipur is one of the poorest states of India with limited source of revenue and the state continues to reel in precarious financial situations, Jiten added.

Affected people of the proposed Imphal Town Ring Road and affected people of various development projects shared their experiences and opinions during the workshop. They said that the non-recognition of rights, lack of accountability of project authorities and intimidation to community leaders striving for development justice only undermine the effective partnership process between the communities and project authorities. The exclusive nature of the pursuance of such development processes and the least concern directed to the rich biodiversity of Manipur is also a concern for affected people.

As a moderator of the workshop consultant, CSO partnership for development effectiveness, India, focal point, Josephine Joseph said that it is high time to reflect on the implications of liberalization of policies and targeting people’s resources by extracting industries with tactical involvement of IFIs pursued under India’s Act East Policy. The project requires addressing basic rights of indigenous survivors. Public hearing has to organise wherever it is possible and every project should consult people, she added.

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