Saturday, 25 September 2004

Just Not Good Enough

Gordon Brown’s offer to alleviate debt from poor countries is a nice idea, but it’s not enough. In fact it seems like little more than a PR exercise for him. I also think that this article is sloppy journalism, with misleading figures, and I would expect more from the Guardian.

Brown is offering to pay off debts owed to the World Bank and the African Development Bank. What about the rest of the debts? Owed to governments and other corporations? Thinking about it, I wonder if in fact this article has got its figures right? GBP£100 million a year might sound like a lot, but divvy that up between 30 countries – GBP£3 million a year? It’s like pissing on a forest fire, but not as effective. Zambia is indebted to the IMF and World Bank to the tune of GBP£1.6 BILLION.

The Jubilee Zambia website gives total Zambian debt figures of GBP£3.2 billion. These are from 2002, so no doubt the figure has escalated wildly in the intervening years as they struggle to actually calculate the debt because it’s so big.

‘Qualifying’ for Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) status brings only more problems. From the WDM website:
“Since 1991, in order to qualify for debt relief, Zambia has implemented (been forced to, my italics) such economic policies as privatisation, trade liberalisation, subsidy cuts and public sector wage freezes…Following public opposition to the privatisation of Zambia's state electricity company and state bank, the IMF announced that Zambia risked forfeiting US$1 billion in debt relief if it did not go ahead with the privatisation...WDM's report clearly demonstrates that the IMF and World Bank's involvement in Zambia has been unsuccessful, undemocratic and unfair. The country has been condemned to debt.”

Oh and watch the UK public at large whinge and whinge about even giving this miserly amount of taxpayers’ money away.