The Good Shepherd and the Black Sheep? How IMF’s Economic Experts Describe Debtors in Sight of the Public

Saturday, 21 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Sebastian GIACOVELLI, Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany
The media coverage about government debt crisis in Greece mostly lacks of a differentiated view on the involved parties. Apparently, according to mass media there are on the one hand self-inflicted, heavily indebted national states –the most recent example is Greece– and on the other hand the altruistic triad of IMF, World Bank, in the event of Greece debt crisis the European Central Bank, and WTO with their mutual task to help insolvent countries stabilizing their solvency. However, in daily press it is much less common that sticking to credit terms, namely implementing the structural adjustment programs, has profound effects on societies, which is increasingly and critically debated. Thus, conceding new facilities shall not be considered as neighbourly help but rather as a sell-off of former state property for profit maximizing purposes of banks only. And IMF is attributed to play the role of a debt-collection agency. In short, these two examples of black and white thinking raise awareness of the author’s perspective. Therefore, the paper focuses on the IMF’s description of debtors that is observable by broad non-specialist public.

Inconsistencies of these linguistic framings and in particular neoclassical predisposition of legitimate debtors are of peculiar interest. Which behavioural requirement does a state debtor have to meet, being regarded as credit-worthy? The heuristics, which guides analysing the relationship between creditor and debtor via the picture the IMF draws of Greece, is based on linguistic analysis and conceptual debates about the role of third parties in competitive relationships in market sociology. The particular of the present case is that IMF acts as ‘lender of last resort’. IMF, more precisely the banks IMF represents, is practically unrivalled. In fact, a rejection of IMF’s offer equals an outrage, which IMF tries to prevent by appealing to the ‘mysterious third party’, the non-specialised audience.