The rich forgive the debt
Great news has gone almost unnoticed in the United States in the midst of Michael Jackson’s acquittal, the political debate over whether the infamous Guantanamo prison should be closed, and public satiation with Iraq that hinders the popular assessment of the president.
Last weekend, the group of 7 richest countries (United States, Japan, Germany, United Kingdom, France, Italy and Canada), which together with Russia form the G8, announced a proposal to forgive 40 billion dollars of debt outside of 18 countries, almost all African. The initiative agreed by the finance ministers of the G8 could soon be extended to 9 more African countries that fulfill good governance conditions, that is, that fight against corruption and fraud, and establish measures to liberalize their economy and foreign trade.
The British government, which will organize the next G8 summit in Scotland in early July, has decided to push international action on two key issues, the development of Africa and climate change. Prime Minister Tony Blair, already thinking about the legacy of what will be his last term, and his more than likely successor, Chancellor Gordon Brown, have agreed to set world attention and make tangible progress in these intricate problems. The United Kingdom has a privileged position to influence the international agenda, thanks to its status as a large country in the European Union and a faithful ally of the Americans.
Tony Blair visited Washington on June 7. In relation to climate change, he could expect little from his friend George, despite the British sacrifices in Iraq and their electoral costs for Blair. George W. Bush is the last world leader who still questions the relationship between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. In those same days, Philip A. Coney, chief of staff of President Bush’s Council on Environmental Quality, resigned on discovering that he had softened conclusions of scientific reports on climate change. (The real scandal is that Bush appointed a former lobbyist for the oil industry for that position).
On the other hand, as for Africa, Bush has surprised both people and strangers. The United States has agreed to dedicate between 1,300 and 1,750 million dollars to the initiative to forgive the debt to international borrowing agencies of the poorest and most indebted countries, although Bush has not clarified where this money will come from. Despite its record deficits – or perhaps because it is parrot chocolate – the Bush Administration has almost doubled aid to Africa in relation to its predecessor Democrat. It launched the Millennium Development Goals of poverty reduction (although of the 5 billion dollars it promised between 2002 and 2005, only 325 have been disbursed), it promoted the reduction of tariffs on imports from 37 African countries and undertook to provide anti-HIV / AIDS treatment to 2 million Africans in 5 years.
Among the industrialized countries, the United States has the lowest percentage of GDP dedicated to international aid, only 0.16%. Even so, in absolute dollars (more than 10,000 million a year), they have returned to be the leader after giving the first place to Japan in the ’90s, after the cold war. Unfortunately, US aid is used more to reward military and economic allies than for social and humanitarian causes: its main recipients are Israel and Egypt, followed by Colombia.
Since 9/11, the US government and public support an increase in aid because they believe that it stops terrorism and favors foreign policy objectives. President George W. Bush has come to declare that the money they are spending in Iraq to implement democracy there is a certain type of development aid, since a democratic system will favor their economic and social progress.
Apart from wars, the proposal of the richest countries to condemn the external debt of 18 poor countries in Africa and Latin America should be applauded. We will have to wait for a greater definition of its details after the G8 summit in July.