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Africa: Debt Deal in Question
Sep 22, 2005 (050922)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"Arbitrary criteria have been used to exclude most countries from
debt relief. While it may be politically expedient for powerful
countries to pretend that only a small set of countries need debt
cancellation, it is time to explode this myth." - Christian Aid
As delegates gather for the World Bank and IMF meeting this
weekend, debt cancellation is still on the agenda. But, say debt
campaigners, the agreement reached at Gleneagles, Scotland by rich
countries is not only inadequate. There may even be backtracking
from that limited commitment, which promised full cancellation of
debt for 18 countries..
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a press release from Jubilee USA
Network, stressing the threat that the World Bank/IMF meetings this
weekend will fail to implement the Gleneagles agreement. The
Bulletin also contains a press release and executive summary from
a new report from Christian Aid - UK. That report, "What about Us?
Debt and the Countries the G8 Left Behind," stresses the need to
expand full cancellation to a wider set of countries and calls for
the immediate cancellation of approximately 20% of developing
country debt as illegitimate "odious debt."
For the full text of the Christian Aid report "What about Us?," see
Additional information from Jubilee USA Network is available at
For earlier AfricaFocus Bulletins on debt, visit
The World Bank's latest information on the debt issue is at
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
G-8 Debt Deal Hangs in the Balance On Eve of IMF/World Bank
Jubilee USA Network Condemns Attempts by Some To Weaken G-8 Debt
Calls on Institutions to Approve Deal, then Dramatically
Expand Debt Cancellation
September 21, 2005
Jubilee USA Network
Contact: Debayani Kar, 202-783-0215, 202-246-8143
Neil Watkins, 202-783-0129, 202-421-1023
Washington - As the IMF and World Bank prepare for their annual
meetings in Washington, DC this weekend where they will consider
the agreement reached by the G-8 in July on debt cancellation,
Jubilee USA Network, the US arm of the global Jubilee movement,
today condemned moves at both institutions to weaken the G-8 debt
Leaked documents obtained by Jubilee USA and reports from the US
and UK have highlighted challenges to the deal by some European
governments and World Bank staff. Specifically, these proposals
would undermine the G-8 principle of 100% irrevocable debt stock
cancellation for 18 impoverished countries and would add more
economic conditionalities. African Executive Directors at the IMF
have opposed such moves to water down the deal.
"The G-8 made a promise this summer that some of the world's
poorest nations would see their debts to the IMF and World Bank
totally and irrevocably erased. Now some governments and the World
Bank are trying to take that promise back. That is unacceptable,"
said Neil Watkins, National Coordinator of Jubilee USA Network.
"The IMF/World Bank must agree to full debt cancellation this
weekend. But this will only be a first step towards our broader
goal of expanding debt cancellation to all impoverished countries,
without devastating economic conditions, in the months and years
Jubilee USA Network has characterized the G-8 deal on debt
cancellation as an important and precedent-setting first step, but
one that falls short of what is needed to conclusively end the debt
crisis faced by the world's impoverished nations.
Any backtracking on the G-8 deal would result in serious
consequences for those populations in the 18 initially eligible
countries that urgently require the resources released through full
debt cancellation. As an example, the presidents of Rwanda and
Zambia - eligible countries - have called for the IMF and World
Bank to immediately cancel their debts. Yet, current discussions at
the institutions' boards have set the G-8 deal's implementation
date at July 2006. This would continue to prevent the Zambian
government from providing additional AIDS drugs to almost 100,000
infected people, an initiative the government announced in response
to the G-8 agreement. Jubilee USA Network's analysis of the G-8
debt agreement, "First Step on A Long Journey: Putting the G-8 Deal
on Debt into Perspective," highlights the benefits of the G-8 debt
agreement, while detailing its shortcomings, and provides
recommendations of next steps. The report and executive summary are
available at http://www.jubileeusa.org.
Jubilee USA Network is the US arm of the international movement
working for debt cancellation for impoverished nations. Jubilee USA
is a network of over 70 religious denominations, labor groups,
environmental organizations, and community and advocacy groups
working for freedom from debt for countries in Africa, Asia, and
Bold action on debt urged as G8 fails most of the world's poor
Millions of the world's poorest people are still suffering under
the burden of international debt, despite agreements reached by
leaders of the world's richest countries at the G8 summit in July.
The G8 debt deal was so limited it leaves 19 out of every 20 people
in the developing world - more than 5 billion people - living in
countries mired in debt, says Christian Aid in a new report 'What
About Us: Debt and the Countries the G8 Left Behind.'
Published to coincide with this weekend's annual meeting of the
World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the
report calls for urgent steps by world leaders and creditors to
alleviate the crushing debt burden.
'This is such a serious matter that a massive overhaul of the
international debt system must be the next move,' said Jonathan
Glennie, Christian Aid's debt policy specialist.
'The G8 deal was welcome but in the end proved only a small step
forward. We now need a huge leap if the world is serious about
tackling the poverty and despair of millions of poor people.'
Despite the huge importance of the debt issue for poor people, the
G8 deal will only help 18 out of 153 developing countries, with the
possibility that a further 10 would join them by the end of 2007.
Those left out in the cold include Bangladesh, Brazil, Kenya, the
Philippines, India, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti, Guatemala and
Christian Aid urges an end to the 'drip-feed' approach to debt
cancellation and proposes a new system be created that can
independently assess whether poor countries should pay back all the
debt that rich countries claim is owed them.
The report also examines the case for debt repudiation where poor
countries might consider unilaterally declaring that they will not
pay their debt.
'While rich countries must assess whether they are doing enough, it
is important that debtor nations should be more assertive in
negotiations with creditors, raising issues of injustice rather
than simply asking for charity,' said Mr Glennie.
The world's poorest countries continue to pay more every year in
debt payments than they receive in grants and loans - forking out
a massive 100 million [pounds] every day - says the report.
The G8 debt deal left at least 40 countries needing immediate and
total cancellation of their external debts with many more needing
a substantial reduction in what they are required to pay if they
are to eliminate extreme poverty.
'These countries are home to vast numbers of poor people and are
forced by an iniquitous system to waste large amounts of money on
debt repayments rather than spending it on the health care and
education that their people so urgently need,' said Mr Glennie.
For further details contact:
Jonathan Glennie on 0207 523 2397 or 07881 780060.
Or Katy Migiro on 0207 523 2058 or 07939 190145
Notes to editors
- Kenya is one of the world's poorest countries. Life expectancy
has declined from 57 in 1986 to 48 years today.
- In 2000, more than half of Kenyans did not have enough food.
- Its per capita income of US$360 in 2003 was lower than the level
- Kenya's external debt is close to $7 billion.
- It spends about 40% of its annual budget ($600 million) servicing
that debt, twice what it spends on public health.
What about us? Debt and the countries the G8 left behind
A Christian Aid report
Half the world's population, around 3 billion people, live on less
than œ1.40 a day. Every year more than 10 million children die of
hunger and preventable diseases that's one child every three
seconds. The bold targets set by world leaders aimed at halving
poverty by 2015 the millennium development goals, or MDGs still
appear out of reach. The grim statistics on poverty have become
increasingly well known throughout 2005. Thanks in part to the
worldwide Make Poverty History campaign, the cancellation of
developing world debt is now recognised as a pivotal way to reduce
global poverty. In the largest demonstration that Scotland has ever
seen, more than 225,000 people marched through Edinburgh last July
to demand debt cancellation, as well as trade justice and more and
better aid a call that echoed around the world, not least when 3
billion people watched the Live8 concerts.
Campaigners have long realised that debt is one of the key
obstacles preventing low and middle-income countries from
developing and achieving their full potential. The world's poorest
countries continue to pay more every year in debt payments than
they receive in grants and loans, forking out an enormous œ100
million every day to the rich North. Cameroon, Gambia, Guinea,
Mauritania, Senegal and Zambia are among the countries still having
to pay back more in debt service than they spend on healthcare for
The effect on poor people of this massive haemorrhaging of money
has been substantial and devastating. The UN has estimated that
19,000 children die each day as a result of the social impact of
debt. If the money spent repaying debt were instead invested in
poverty reduction and economic growth, millions of deaths would be
prevented and lives improved. There is abundant evidence to back
this up. Tanzania has abolished primary school fees since receiving
debt relief, meaning 1.6 million more children now go to school.
Mozambique was able to offer all children free immunisation against
common diseases, while in Uganda, 2.2 million people gained access
to clean water.
As the facts about debt's stranglehold reached an ever-growing
audience, and a flicker of intent was detected among some of the
world's most influential decisionmakers, hopes were high that
July's G8 summit at Gleneagles would see a significant push forward
on cancellation. Unfortunately, despite the hype and the hope, the
world's richest nations again failed to deliver. Only 18 out of 153
developing countries will receive anything from the G8 deal on
debt, with, at best, a further ten joining them by the end of 2007.
As we discuss in annex three, the deal leaves at least 40 countries
still needing immediate and total cancellation of external debts.
Many more require massive reductions in debt repayments if they are
to eliminate extreme poverty.
The stark truth is that nine out of ten people in developing
countries will remain unaffected by the G8 debt deal.
The countries left out in the cold include Bangladesh, Brazil,
Eritrea, Kenya, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Ecuador, Peru, Haiti,
Guatemala and Indonesia. All are home to vast numbers of poor
people and are forced by an iniquitous system to divert large
amounts of money away from critical social expenditure to debt
repayments which end up in the bank accounts and government
exchequers of the rich North.
Christian Aid believes that this situation is unsustainable. The
G8's achievements at Gleneagles, however limited, are welcome but
they will also force campaigners around the world to ask whether it
is time for a fundamental reappraisal of the tactics required to
end the injustice of debt once and for all. This report argues that
In chapter 1 we make the case for broadening debt relief to a much
wider group of countries, because it is not only the poorest
countries that are paying billions of dollars a year in debt
servicing. Arbitrary criteria have been used to exclude most
countries from debt relief. While it may be politically expedient
for powerful countries to pretend that only a small set of
countries need debt cancellation, it is time to explode this myth.
In chapter 2 we look at why countries are in debt. Contrary to the
way western politicians often portray the situation, poor
governance and corruption are by no means the only reasons. We
argue that the governments and institutions that lend money have to
take a large part of the responsibility. By lending to oppressive
and corrupt regimes that used the money unproductively or
unscrupulously, creditors are complicit in today's debt crisis and
must share the blame. Christian Aid says that these 'odious debts',
which comprise about 20 per cent of total developing-world debt,
should be cancelled immediately.
We also examine unfair trade conditions imposed by creditors,
which, along with falling commodity prices, have meant countries
have not only been prevented from making the money to pay back the
debt, but have actually got more into debt.
The report lays bare other unfair factors that increase debt. For
example, huge penalties for late payment and high interest rates
have meant that countries have paid back far more than they ever
borrowed. Between 1970 and 2002 Africa received US$540 billion in
loans, and paid back US$550 billion. But it still owed US$295
billion because of penalties, interest and arrears.
In chapter 3 we show how creditors have made decisions on debt
relief in their own interests and not in the interests of poor
people in developing countries. We conclude that there is an urgent
need for this unjust system to be changed, and call for a new fair
and transparent process to ascertain what debts should be paid,
taking into account lender liability for odious and unfair debt.
Chapter 4 argues that, given the apparent reticence of creditor
nations to deal with the crushing debt burden, developing-country
governments should consider what actions they need to take
unilaterally to protect the interests of their citizens.
We make three recommendations for debtor countries. Firstly, we
urge them to emphasise the injustice of debt when dealing with
creditors by underlining the real reasons so much debt was accrued,
and how they were denied the means to repay it. We call on debtors
to be more assertive in negotiations with creditors, and review
arguments for and against debt repudiation as a strategy,
contending that creditor nations and organisations should act now
to cancel debt before countries become so desperate that they
default to everybody's detriment. And finally we encourage poor
countries to reduce their reliance on loans by maximising domestic
income sources, minimising the illegal outflow of money and
bringing government decisions under greater scrutiny.
Campaigners should take heart. In April 2004 senior UK Treasury
officials told nongovernmental organisations that there would be
'no further movement' on debt cancellation in the foreseeable
future. Just over a year later, in response to the Make Poverty
History campaign, the UK government had reversed its position and
worked towards achieving the important, though very limited,
progress at Gleneagles. And this wasn't the first time creditor
governments had responded to pressure on debt. In 1999, after years
of campaigning, world leaders announced substantial debt
cancellation to date US$50 billion has been cancelled for some of
the world's poorest countries as a result of this commitment.
The debt campaign is working and poor people are benefiting. Now is
the time to redouble our efforts.
Recommendations to creditors
- Immediately write off odious and unfair debt
- Establish a fair and independent process to solve debt crises, to
replace the present biased and arbitrary system
- Immediately cancel the debts of those countries that need it to
achieve the millennium development goals
Recommendations to debtors
- Emphasise the injustice of the debt
- Be more assertive in negotiations with creditors
- Reduce reliance on loans
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