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American Friends Service Committee
SEPTEMBER 29, 2004
5:39 PM
CONTACT:  American Friends Service Committee
Janis D. Shields (215) 241-7060
The American Friends Service Committee calls on U.S. Government, G-7 to Cancel Debt for all Impoverished Countries

PHILADELPHIA - September 29 - The Service Committee, as part of the Jubilee USA Network and its’ Countdown to Freedom from Debt campaign, is calling on the United States and other G-7 governments to support 100% debt cancellation for all impoverished countries at their upcoming meeting in Washington D.C. on October 1.

The discussion comes at a critical time, as many countries are repeatedly forced to commit crucial resources to debt payment rather than essential social services.

“Debt cancellation for all impoverished nations is urgently needed and must be resolved at Friday’s summit,” states Imani Countess, national coordinator of the AFSC Peacebuilding Africa Program. “Delay costs lives. We can not afford to wait.”

No where is this more evident than on the African continent, home to only five percent of the developing world's income, yet which carries about two thirds of the world’s debt — over $300 billion. Because of this, the average African country spends three times more of its scarce resources on repaying debt than it does on providing basic services.”

The more Africa services its debt, the more it continues to owe. This happens since African countries can only afford to pay interest while the principle continues to grow, often because they are forced to take out new loans to service previous debts.

“Africans are now being denied access to vital health, education and other public services because their governments are using scarce resources to repay loans,” Countess continues. “Six thousand people on the African continent die each day from the combined forces of HIV/AIDS, chronic famine, and poverty-related illness. Imagine for a moment what the global response would be if this many people were dying each day in the United States.”

The fight to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic is undermined by Africa’s debt, most notably to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other multilateral financial institutions.

Each year African nations transfer $15 billion dollars in debt payments to rich Western nations — five times more than is spent on education and health care for its people and $2.3 billion more than received in aid each year.

A recent report by Debt and Development Ireland demonstrates that, even using extremely conservative benchmarks, the IMF and World Bank can afford to cancel poor country debt; in particular, the IMF can sell or revalue some of its vast gold reserves.

“It is high time for the IMF and World Bank to contribute their fair share,” Countess concludes.

The U.S. Treasury Department apparently agrees. Jubilee USA recently learned that the department is pushing for full multilateral debt cancellation.

Over the past six months the Countdown to Freedom from Debt campaign has sent more than 600 faxes to the U.S. Treasury, delivered a letter from more 250 prominent religious leaders to the G-7, delivered 11,000 cards to the World Bank and IMF, and worked to introduce the bi-partisan JUBILEE Act into the U.S. Congress. Call-in days, calling on the Bush administration to support 100% debt cancellation, have tied up the lines at the White House.

The Service Committee’s national Life Over Debt campaign, launched early this year, seeks to free Africa's internal resources in order to address the continent's crucial needs.

During an April delegation to Mozambique and Rwanda, AFSC representatives met with communities struggling to combat the HIV virus, yet unable to due to lack of resources. While Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world with an average income of $200 a year per person, it is forced to pay $103 million in annual debt service to Western nations and financial institutions. Similarly, the Rwandan government makes annual payments of $42 Million U.S.D. annual payments to Western governments and financial institutions, although most of this debt was incurred by the perpetrators of 1994 genocide.


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