You may be aware of Jubilee 2000, the campaign to celebrate the Christian millennium by writing-off unrepayable debts owed by the poorest countries…
The IMF alone makes over $600 million profit a year in its operations in Africa; in 1996 that continent paid out $1.31 in debt service for every $1 it received in aid grants. Many other international banks and financial institutions are also in on the extortion, along with some of the multinational corporations. Those dealing in mineral resources have a pretty bad record in encouraging oppression and corruption, while the recent controversy over a leading sportswear company, backed by government muscle, exploiting workers in Southeast Asia, epitomises yet another facet of the relationship….
A rough guide to how debt has been induced over the years is :
- Use influence to lever a pre-selected ruler into office.
- Encourage this ruler to borrow heaps of money (ideally for grandiose schemes — military included — which involve lots of back-handers).
- Demand the money back with compound interest, but of course from the people of the country not the ruler — who will in any case feed most of it back into the financial institutions, on his own private account.
- The debt will carry on even if the ruler does not.
- Tell the poor population, who have already suffered under the dictatorship and interest-enhanced destitution, that it’s all their fault and they must live within their means.
- Asset-strip the country.
- If it becomes clear the country cannot pay up no matter how hard it is squeezed, seek a pretext to extract the repayments from well-meaning people elsewhere.
The campaign to make the financial organisations “forgive” the worst of these debts has widespread support across the political spectrum in Britain. But lest we become complacent, consider this May 1998 report in the Guardian newspaper’s website re the proposed Jubilee debt amortisation :
The Government is holding behind-the-scenes discussions with leading figures from banking, the churches and the arts to make the Millennium Dome the centrepiece of an ambitious multi-million pound project to reduce Third World debt.
The plan is to launch millennium bonds at the dome on January 2, 2000, 24 hours after it is officially opened. The £1, £5 and £100 bonds will be offered to the public and companies to raise at least £750 million to help with debt cancellation. The project will end at the dome on December 31, 2000 when the bonds will be burnt on a giant bonfire.
The scheme, called the Bondfire Project, is the biggest effort yet to change the image of the dome, blunting criticism of it as a vacuous Disneyland exercise and instead linking it with a moral crusade. A Mori poll showed overwhelming support for marking the millennium through debt relief rather than building the dome.
So the UK government (ie. Blair and Mandelson) have been trying to subvert the idea, into having the ordinary British public one way or another fork out to ensure the biggest financial institutions don’t suffer a shortfall in their profits….
That would not be “cancellation” of third-world debt — instead, it is an utterly cynical means whereby the banks and financial institutions could still extract the same repayments, but from other victims; a way to bail out the greedy fatcats, while whitewashing Mandy’s dome.
Sad to say, it really does show which interests come first with NuLab.