Zambia, Honduras and Rwanda get increased debt relief
15 April 2005Three more impoverished countries - Honduras, Zambia and Rwanda - have qualified for some debt cancellation, releasing desperately-needed funds. The three countries completed the international debt relief scheme, the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, between 5 and 13 April 2005. They have consequently had debts written off amounting to $1 billion for Honduras, $1.4 billion for Rwanda and $3.9 billion for Zambia. The HIPC scheme was expanded in 1999 to offer deeper debt relief after determined and vocal campaigning by Jubilee movements worldwide - including the gathering of 70,000 debt campaigners at the G8 summit in Birmingham in 1998. However, the current cancellations are only enough to bring the countries' debts down to a level considered 'sustainable' in the terms of the HIPC scheme. This sustainability is defined by a standard economic calculation which takes no account of a country's human development needs or its particular situation. (In fact, the amount of cancellation initially agreed for Rwanda did not leave it with debts 'sustainable' even in these narrow terms, meaning that further 'topping up' relief was required.) Even after completing HIPC, countries are left with huge debts, and are thus still forced to pay money to the rich world rather than spending it on health and education. Jubilee Debt Campaign joins activists in indebted countries and worldwide in calling for 100% debt cancellation for the most impoverished countries. In order to complete the HIPC scheme, countries are forced to implement policy changes which have often been shown to be extremely harmful for impoverished countries and their people. For instance, Zambia was forced to freeze wages in the public sector - meaning that it could not employ thousands of trained teachers. Often, these kinds of strings attached to debt relief can undermine much of the value of the debt relief itself. Jubilee Debt Campaign is calling for an end to all economic policy conditions on debt cancellation.