Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Forgive us our debts

The rich world will not forgive the poor its debt. It could not find a way at the latest G7 meeting.

The debt in question is $100 billion. The US has spent a third more than that killing Iraqis.

For once, this is an issue where Britain makes me proud. The UK is paying 10% of the very poor countries' debts as they fall due. Many of those countries pay more out in debt interest than they receive in aid. They are net supporters of the rich world.

Think about it. Mohammed, working in his dusty field in Mali, helps pay for your kids to go to school. His can't. Sadly, Mali has neither enough schools nor the teachers to teach in them.

America is by far the richest country on earth. It could pay the debt on its own. Yes, with the payment schedules, the amount owed would come to more than $100 billion, much more, but a deal could be done.

It would make America safer. It would be money well spent.


There is a proposal that the IMF should revalue its gold, or sell some, to pay down third world debt. It almost certainly won't happen.

No one much minds the third world's being poor. It keeps the cost of raw materials low. They remain cheap labour. It's all a false economy, of course. Any economist can tell you that you can make a great deal more money out of richer economies with more powerful markets than you can out of making slaves of the poor. But the people who drive policy are not economists. They are greedy shits who can't see past the end-of-years.

We should -- we all know we should -- forgive them their debts. We can make demands on them when they owe nothing, because they will need to borrow again.

Thirty thousand people will die today of preventable diseases. Thirty thousand. Today, tomorrow and every day until we fix their world. Three thousand died on 9/11. You do the maths.


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