The IMF oversees the global financial system and aims to maintain financial stability, facilitate international trade and promote sustainable economic growth. The World Bank lends money to countries for purposes of economic development and poverty reduction, and aims to encourage international investment.
They have their fair share of critics. For example, the World Bank is often said to undermines the national sovereignty of recipient countries through various programs that pursue economic liberalization and de-emphasize the role of the state. Another criticism is that the World Bank is under the heavy political influence of countries such as the US which use the World Bank to advance their own interests.
Demonstrations and protests are therefore a regular feature at World Bank/IMF conferences. However, demonstrations and protests are definitely not a regular feature in Singapore, where the gathering of even five persons can constitute an "unlawful assembly" under the law.
So what's going to happen in September?
ST July 29, 2006Little in the above excerpt will surprise any Singaporean, who would be well aware of the government's strict stance on law-&-order issues.
No outdoor demos for World Bank, IMF meets, say police
But those who want to engage the two organisations can do so in secure, private area at Suntec City
By Tanya Fong
OUTDOOR demonstrations and processions will not be allowed during September's International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings, the police said yesterday.
But in keeping with the tradition of these meetings, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who want to engage the two organisations will be allowed to do so, but only in a private, secured area set aside for them at the Suntec City venue.
Issuing their public order guidelines for the meetings yesterday, the police said demonstrations are already banned by Singapore law, which cannot be changed to accommodate the meeting.
Securing the country against terrorist attacks and protecting residents, conference delegates and visitors, they said, must take priority.
Singapore Police Force chief-of-staff, Senior Assistant Commissioner Soh Wai Wah, said: 'We are talking about a high security period, and we do not want to create opportunities terrorists can exploit, which can then compromise our security.
'The threat of a terrorist incident is a real one, and requires Singapore to take all necessary and effective measures to safeguard the meeting.'
That means accredited CSOs will only be permitted to express their views inside the convention venue, in a special area on Level 1 of the Suntec Convention Centre. Even then, they must stick to the police rules, which include bans on wooden or metal poles to hold up placards.
The "terrorist" argument is a minor new twist, and a clever one to make the Singapore government's stance more palatable to foreigners. Of course, Singaporeans know that even if 9/11 had never happened at all and terrorism is not a global threat today, the Singapore government will still find some other reason to disallow IMF/World Bank demonstrations here.
The next part of the article will however surprise some Singaporeans:
Last night, in response to queries from The Straits Times, the World Bank's Singapore representative, Mr Peter Stephens, indicated that the global body might want to explore alternative arrangements with the Government.The concept will be rather radical to many Singaporeans. Here is a World Bank representative saying that he wants to see anti-World Bank protests take place. Why? Because he thinks that "effective inclusion of the voices of civil society is key to ensuring that World Bank/IMF meetings are a success".
'While we recognise the desire of the Government to provide space for civil society within the conference precinct, we believe that other options could give civil society representatives more space and more opportunity to express their views, without violating Singapore laws,' Mr Stephens wrote.
'Effective inclusion of the voices of civil society is key to ensuring that their Annual Meetings are a success'.
In contrast, imagine the Minister for Home Affairs saying that these four little SDP protestors should be allowed to stage a peaceful protest in Robinson Road because "effective inclusion of the voices of civil society is key to ensuring the accountability of Singapore's public institutions".
Gasp. Civil society? And voices? No, we can't imagine it. Not even jokes are allowed in Singapore. The whole idea is as inconceivable as the PAP admitting that more Opposition MPs in Parliament might be key to ensuring that new government policies are properly scrutinised, debated and discussed before implementation.
Singapore will host the event between Sept 12 and 20 at the Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre in Suntec City.In other countries, such people are called "activists". They may campaign for a wide variety of different reasons. For example, to end wars. To promote women's rights. To save the rainforests. For greater transparency in public institutions. Or against human rights abuses and the torture of Iraqi prisoners-of-war.
About 16,000 foreign delegates from 184 countries are expected to turn up for the event.
The entire police force will be mobilised to secure the area, and an additional 23,000 Police National Servicemen will be on stand-by.
A round-the-clock police ground presence will be enhanced by aerial surveillance by the Ministry of Defence. Stringent checks will be made at all immigration checkpoints.
Said SAC Soh: 'We work with agencies all over the world and we will be ready to handle any troublemakers who come to Singapore.'
In Singapore, they're just known generically as "troublemakers".
Technorati: Singapore; World Bank; IMF.
Past Musings: Possible Ways To Hold A Legal Demonstration in Singapore Without A Licence