Kyrgyz groups protest about debt cancellation schemes
30 November 2006
Campaigners in Bishkek, the capital of the Kyrgyz Republic, have protested outside the World Bank's offices against terms under which their country is likely to qualify for debt cancellation.
Before the end of 2006, the Kyrgyz Republic is likely to be the 31st country to qualify for debt cancellation through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries
(HIPC) initiative, the current international debt relief scheme. The country desperately needs debt cancellation: average income per person is just $1.10 a day, the same as Zambia and less than Kenya. Meanwhile it has a debt burden of $2.1 billion and in 2004 had to pay out $161 million servicing this debt.
The Kyrgyz campaigners are well aware of this appalling burden - but they are very much concerned about the conditions with which the country must comply if it is to get any debt cancellation through HIPC. These have not been made public to the Kyrgyz people, but in many other cases have included forced privatisation of public services or cuts in public spending. The campaigners put out a statement saying that "Many civil society leaders are for debt relief but absolutely not for achieving it through HIPC." One of them, Alisher Mamasaliev of Civic Platform, said that much more information was needed: "The majority of the country's population still does not understand [the HIPC scheme]. President Bakiev himself once said that he does not understand the conditions. How can we, not knowing the conditions, conduct entry talks?"
The Kyrgyz Republic is one of only six non-African countries eligible for HIPC
, and the only one in central Asia. (The others are four Latin American countries, and Nepal.)