Africa Notes: An IMF Happening - June 1983
June 6, 1983
As Iran's Ghassem Salehkhou settled himself into a first-class jetliner seat in Tehran for the trip to Washington last October, he could look forward to taking part in what normally is one of the world's plushest and most placid jobs, as one of the 22 executive directors of the International Monetary Fund.
But over the Atlantic, Mr. Salehkhou unfolded his copy of the International Herald Tribune and was startled to learn that he would be landing in what promised to be an ideological minefield. The story he read said that the Republic of South Africa was coming to the fund for a $1.1 billion loan. Because of the worldwide aversion to South Africa's racial policies, the loan could be politically the hottest in IMF history. And most IMF directors found out about it as Mr. Salehkhou did, reading a newspaper. In one jolt it gave the IMF directors the two things they don't like: surprise and publicity.
This is the story of that loan-a story, obtained through leaked documents and more than 30 hours of interviews with more than half of the IMF directors or their alternates as well as staff members (all were promised that they wouldn't be identified). It is a tale in which countries have taken loud public positions and then turned around to do exactly the opposite behind the closed oak doors of the IMF board room, as all the proud talk about human rights dissipated into bland code words.