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International Debt and Rising Global Food Prices

World Debt Day Forum in Sydney

In 1998, 70,000 people formed a human chain around the International G8 Conference in the UK to call for cancellation of the debt crippling poor countries. Jubilee Australia works with the global Jubilee movement to resolve the international debt crisis. Ten years on, the National Co-ordinator, Ms Adele Webb, points out that in this era of rising global food prices, 2.8 billion people still live on the tipping point, with no margin for coping with such rises.

Kenmore Uniting Church will be hosting a forum on debt cancellation on Friday, 22nd August, at which the keynote speakers will be Ms Webb and Mr Joffre Balce, Philippines economic adviser and expert on debt and poverty reduction. 

Ms Webb has recently returned from Indonesia where Jubilee Australia have been involved in negotiations between the Australian and Indonesian governments to implement a debt-for-development swap with Indonesia – a first for Australia. Under such an arrangement, an agreed amount of debt is cancelled by the creditor (Australia) and the debtor (Indonesia) is legally obligated to invest the funds into poverty alleviation.
Joffre Balce was an adviser to both President Corazon Aquino and later Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. As Chief Economist in the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, he designed a rural banking program linked to a World Bank debt reduction project and is currently on a scholarship to complete a PhD in Law at the University of NSW, focusing on debt reduction.
“Debt has long been recognised as the key obstacle preventing the development of poor countries,” said Ms Webb recently. “Developing countries spend more than they receive in foreign aid every year to service their debts. Many loans given in the name of ‘development assistance’ have often financed flawed projects and fuelled local corruption.”

One such example is the US $1 billion debt on the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the Philippines which was finally paid off last year after 32 years. The US giant
Westinghouse received payment, though the plant was built near an earthquake fault line, close to an active volcano and never produced a single watt of energy. Jubilee Australia says that many of these ‘loans’ can be considered ‘illegitimate debt’. In 2006, the Norwegian government cancelled $80 million of debt owing from five different developing nations, because the debt generated was clearly intended to benefit its own export industry and not the recipient countries.

Many Uniting Churches have been supporting the Micah Challenge programme and the Millenium Goals. Although the Rudd Government has increased our foreign aid commitment, Australia and the world is fast falling behind the targets agreed to in 2000.

This forum at Kenmore UC (982 Moggill Road 7.30-9.00pm) is an opportunity to find out about practical schemes for reducing poverty world-wide. It will include a question time and discussion with the speakers over a light supper. 

Photo : World Debt Day Forum in Sydney