Drop the debt!
Unpayable and unjust poor country debt must be cancelled fully, quickly and without conditions, through a fair and open process, if we are to see a permanent end to the scandal of debt repayments killing people in poor countries.
- Full cancellation: there must be irreversible 100% cancellation of unpayable and unjust debts. 'Unpayable' debts are those that a country cannot afford to pay whilst meeting its own people's basic needs. 'Unjust' debts are those that are not legitimate claims, such as 'odious' debts on loans knowingly given to dictators, or those from loans given on unfair terms, or for failed projects based on lenders' advice.
- Cancellation now: cancellation needs to happen quickly. The current situation is an injustice and a crisis, whilst the benefits of debt cancellation are well-established.
- An end to harmful conditions: international institutions such as the World Bank and IMF must stop attaching harmful strings to debt relief. Poor countries should no longer have to privatise basic services or cut public spending as a condition for receiving desperately needed debt relief.
- New money: the rich world must fund this cancellation not by using money already pledged as aid, but by digging into their pockets and providing new money.
- A fair, open process: in the long term, we need a transparent, impartial and comprehensive international insolvency process to resolve debt crises, to judge what debt is unpayable or unjust, and to ensure that human needs take priority over debt repayments.
- Grants not loans: to avoid another debt crisis like the current one, poor countries should be given more grants, rather than have their debt burden piled higher with yet more loans.
- Transparency and accountability: creditors and debtors must be fully transparent about the extent of debts, the terms of any debt relief, and the amounts and terms of new loans - this is the only way that the parliaments, media and citizens of poor countries can hold their governments accountable. At the moment, too much is negotiated behind closed doors, with governments being accountable to other, rich, governments or institutions like the World Bank and IMF, rather than their own people.
The battle plans for the war on poverty are drawn and certified correct. There is no better way for me to end my speech than to say to the leaders of the rich industrialized countries: “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job. Wipe out debt!! On to the jubilee!!”
President Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, 2005