Pieter Jansen

Public Banks politics and policies • protections for impoverished communities and the environment

As a child I saw a movie about Smokey Mountain in Manila on Dutch television. Smokey Mountain was a landfill, a mountain of dirt, with on top an army of desolated scavengers making a life by picking through the rubbish. Slums surrounding the mountain now and then were caught by fire, which resulted in many deaths.

At around the same time that I saw Smokey Mountain on television, Manila hosted the World Bank Annual meetings. The new convention center was inaugurated by then World Bank President Robert McNamara, in support of then dictator Marcos' ambition to make Manila a Financial Center. The adagio of the World Bank and other banks is that economies should grow like mountains.

For Both ENDS, I follow the policies and money politics of international financial institutions (IFIs) for quite some time now. In 2012 I attended the Asian Development Bank Annual Meeting which was held in Manila. Parts of the road that brought me from the airport to the convention center were shielded off with billboards to hide the slums behind them. The city's ambitions and economic growth politics followed since Marcos and McNamara have not helped these slum dwellers to climb out of poverty.

In the IFI-work that I do for many years now one thing that repeatedly fascinates and worries me is the ongoing disconnection of Bank language with the reality of destitution on the ground. It is important for poverty solving to study the world's poor, in city slums as well as living in remote rural areas. It is important as much to study the Bank language in the conference centers to better understand the political dimension of dealing with destitution. This is what my work for Both ENDS is all about.

Pieter Jansen