Rich nations renege on debts

11 October 2013

UN/MARTINE FERRET

Targetting hunger: grain from the World Food Programme is distributed in Pibor, South Sudan, in July

Targetting hunger: grain from the World Food Programme is distributed in Pibor, South Sudan, in July

SEVERAL developing countries are failing to meet international development goals, after rich nations reneged on pledges to deal with their debts, says a report published this week. Also, the debts of a number of EC states are increasing poverty at an alarming rate.

The study, Life and Debt: Global studies of debt and resistance, from the Jubilee Debt Campaign, examined nine countries: Egypt, El Salvador, Greece, Jamaica, Latvia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Portugal, and Tunisia.

It found that Jamaica spent 33 per cent of its revenue on foreign-debt payments. The economy has not grown since 1990, and the number of women dying in childbirth has almost doubled in the past 20 years.

The debt crisis in Latvia, caused by the levels of borrowing taken out by its banks, forced more than 200,000 people to emigrate - the equivalent of six million people leaving the UK. Extreme poverty affects 31 per cent of the population.

Greece, which is now four years into a regime of austerity imposed by the IMF and the EU, spends 29 per cent of its revenue on foreign-debt repayments. Its economy has shrunk by 25 per cent.

Pakistan is spending 20 per cent of government revenue on debt payments. It is unlikely to meet many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set in 2000, in which rich nations committed themselves to resolving the debt problems of developing countries.

Tim Jones, a policy officer for the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said: "People in Jamaica, El Salvador, and Pakistan have suffered for over 30 years from debt resulting from reckless lending. IMF-imposed austerity has failed to reduce these debts, whilst the same imposed policies are now increasing poverty dramatically in Europe. Such unjust debts should be cancelled, as leaders committed to do at the millennium."

A report calling for strengthened co-operation between the world's 49 least developed countries (LDCs) and their development partners was launched last month at the UN. Among its recommendations, the report said the international community should improve the quantity and quality of aid, and pay greater attention to the implementation of duty and quota-free treatment for LDCs' exports.

At the same UN session, the EU and the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation announced £50 million-worth of agricultural projects, which should affect MDGs on hunger for two million people in Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Gambia, Haiti, Madagascar, and Mozambique.

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