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The Everyday Impacts of the IMF Policies on Austerity: Zuwairiya's Story


In the heart of Angwagwagwalada, a community just a stone's throw away from the federal capital's bustling airport, resides Zuwairiya, a resilient mother of seven. Her story unveils the stark realities faced by her community in the wake of government budget cuts and austerity measures.

In Angwagwagwalada, over a hundred eager young minds remain deprived of the basic right to education. For those who embark on the journey to knowledge, it's a grueling trek that takes over an hour on foot. For those fortunate enough to afford it, a motorcycle ride to school demands a hefty N1000, a price that looms large, especially amidst the country's crippling inflation. As these children traverse the treacherous path to school, they are not only burdened by distance but also the looming threat of harassment and accidents. Zuwairiya's own children have fallen victim to this perilous journey, with accidents resulting in broken limbs and shattered dreams.

The very roads they tread upon are narrow and unpaved, a reflection of the community's dire lack of infrastructure. Angwagwagwalada stands as a stark testament to the government's neglect, devoid of essential amenities like health centers, schools, and access to clean, potable water. Pregnant women, in desperate need of medical attention, have tragically lost their lives in transit, with no healthcare facilities in sight. In a heartbreaking incident last year, four innocent children succumbed to cholera after consuming water from the contaminated stream.

The consequences of this dire situation are heartbreaking. A staggering 90% of the community's children are denied the opportunity to pursue an education, perpetuating a cycle of poverty and limited opportunities. For some women, the hardships are so great that they've been forced to bring new life into the world on the very roadways that lead to their uncertain destinations.

Zuwairiya's narrative serves as a stark reminder of the devastating impact of government budget cuts and austerity measures. As resources are tightened, vulnerable communities like Angwagwagwalada are left to bear the brunt of these decisions. The absence of essential services and infrastructure has dire consequences, not only on the community's present but also on their future prospects.

In a time when patience is wearing thin, the story of Angwagwagwalada highlights the urgent need for meaningful change. Budget allocations must prioritise the welfare and development of communities like this one, investing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure to uplift those who have been left behind. Only then can we break free from the cycle of austerity, ensuring that no mother like Zuwairiya has to witness her children's dreams shattered on the rocky path to education.

ActionAid are sharing stories of people whose lives have been impacted by IMF policies. Demonstrating the impacts of austerity, limited access to public services, frontline public sector workers stories, and stories of women’s unpaid care burden and how it impacts their lives.

These stories are shared ahead of the IMF annual meetings taking place in Morocco.

Despite repeated calls to end austerity and debt-inducing loans, the Washington-based International Monetary Fund (IMF) insists on pushing austerity and restrictions on spending on health, education and climate action across the world and Africa.

As only the second World Bank and IMF Annuals meetings to be hosted in Africa kick off, and despite calls within the IMF’s African regional outlook in April to ensure ‘important efforts to tackle climate change do not crowd out financing for basic needs like health and education’, in country advice from the IMF show it is demanding countries prioritise debt repayments over crucial spending on health, education and climate action.

ActionAid are calling on the IMF to stop imposing / recommending austerity policies and to shift their policy advice instead to focus on ambitious and progressive tax reform as the key alternative.

- The IMF must stop advising austerity measures and public sector wage bill cuts, the IMF needs to consider all economic policies that create more resources for government (particularly progressive tax reforms) and flexibility in how they can spend and invest it .

- The IMF must support more ambitious debt cancellation and rescheduling programmes, and support governments to restructure their debts so that they can prioritize investments in quality public services.

- ActionAid are for the IMF to Cancel debt for climate vulnerable countries and reform the global debt architecture with a new debt workout mechanism not dependent on IMF.

- The IMF must take global action for tax justice – through wealth taxes, windfall taxes, financial transaction taxes etc. Seize the opportunity of the UN taking the lead role on taxes away from OECD to make climate-sensitive tax a priority.

- ActionAid are calling for a national action on tax justice to support countries to expand tax-to-GDP ratios by five percentage points through progressive tax reforms by 2030 so they can double spending on health, education and a just transition.

- Ensure climate finance comes in grants not loans (and remains under more representative UN auspices rather than handing power to the IMF / WB).