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G8 Debt Relief: A Step in the Right Direction

Monday 13 June, 2005

G8 Debt Relief: A Step in the Right Direction

The announcement yesterday by the Group of Eight (G8) to wipe $NZ56 billion of debt of some of the world’s poorest nations has been welcomed by Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand, the Catholic agency for justice, peace and development.

“Any move to address the crippling burden of debt on the world’s poorest countries has to be welcomed, and these announcements will benefit a number of countries where we have partners – particularly Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Nicaragua. The evidence in these countries is that when debt relief has been provided, they have been able to dramatically improve their provision of health and education for their people,” says Caritas Programmes Manager, Peter Zwart.

“But we also need to read beneath the headlines. The last round of big cancellation announcements were made in 2000 and at that time many people thought that the issue of debt had been solved by the G8 governments. In fact, it was only a small part of a solution. Five years after 2000, only 27 out of the more than 50 poor countries in dire need of debt cancellation have received anything from that deal.”

The new announcement will only initially assist 18 of these countries and up to 33 in the longer term and the benefits will go to those who have been following a stringent set of economic restructuring packages. While the relief will be good for these countries, and is long overdue, it will do little to help those countries who face conflict or who have been unwilling to adopt this kind of restructuring, and which are currently failing to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

“We also need to treat figures such as NZ$56 billion with some caution. In the past, these kinds of announcements often include figures that were approved earlier, so the amount of new resources is likely to be far less.

“This is a first step, but we need to provide sufficient cancellation to all countries prevented from meeting the MDGs through lack of finance,” said Zwart.

Caritas Aotearoa NZ has been researching and advocating for debt cancellation for the past eight years; before, during and after the Jubilee Year. Caritas together with Christian World Service coordinates the work of Jubilee Aotearoa New Zealand (www.debtaction.org.nz) and a Debt Working Group which brings together officials from Treasury and NZAID.


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