The Guardian 15 June, 2005


Cancel all Third World debt

British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush have announced their agreement that all the foreign debt of sub-Saharan Africa should be cancelled. Also that the group of the world’s richest nations, the G8 — of which Blair holds the presidency — has reached a "broad-based deal" on third world debt relief. Under that scheme the World Bank, IMF and the African Development Fund would immediately write off all the money owed them by 18 African nations; around $40 billion. Another 20 nations could be the recipients of this magnanimous gesture, Blair says.

Have the leaders of the world’s most parasitical and piratical nations had an epiphany? No. They are deploying the "failed states" doctrine: any debt cancellation must be met by "targets for good governance and fighting corruption". Bush also announced that the USA would increase its African aid by $647 million. Again, this is hyperbole over substance. The US is near the bottom of the ladder of the rich nations in foreign aid, a lousy 0.2 percent of GDP (and most of this flows back to the US).

The massive social problems of the Third World — AIDS epidemics, tens of millions of children under five dying every year, life expectancy which has now dropped by more than ten years in many countries — arise out of colonial occupation and exploitation over a long historical period, and is continued today by imperialism.

Half of Africa’s people exist on less than $1 a day. There are more than six million refugees on the continent, wandering from one side to the other in search of work. There are officially more than 300,000 child soldiers.

It is true that poverty and economic collapse are primarily the result of the burden of foreign debt payments. In 2000 the total debt for the African continent was US$350 billion. The yearly payment to service this debt — interest, and further borrowings to enable payments that cannot be met to be rescheduled - was US$33 billion. For example, in 1997 Niger and Ethiopia had to use half of their budgets to pay their debt service.

Further, 50 percent of the export income of African nations is devoted to the payment of debt owed to foreign banks and financial institutions, money that supposedly was for investment to boost the economy but which was used by the corporations in market speculation and takeovers. This is accompanied by wide scale destruction of industries and infrastructure across the continent.

Bush and Blair are claiming all of this is the result of poor governance and corruption on the part of African nations. The fact is that more than two decades of what has become known as "neo-liberal structural adjustment" have left behind economic failure and social disaster in a world where the speculative transactions in the capitalist system come to more than $3 trillion per day.

We are told that deregulation, endlessly increasing profits, and the withdrawal of government responsibility from economic control and development, are the only ways forward. Such propaganda is part of the globalisation push by the transnational corporations; there cannot be endlessly increasing profits without endlessly increasing exploitation and plunder.

But the corporations cannot maintain rule over billions of people who are living in deprivation in an economic structure that is killing more men, women and children from hunger and preventable diseases every three years than all those killed in World War II.

The people of the third world are day by day rising up and fighting back against this order that has been imposed on them. For about a decade now the call for the complete cancellation of third world debt has become louder, and to a degree has forced the major western powers to at least appear to be taking action.

In 1999, what was then the Group of Seven richest nations announced the "cancellation" of the debt of the "poorest" countries, but with such stringent conditions attached that they would be left no better off. Thus we have today’s Blair-Bush project.

Workers of all countries are affected by the impoverishment of Third World nations. The campaign to cancel Third World debt strikes at the very heart of imperialist exploitation everywhere.

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