International day demands end to Third World debt


International day demands end to Third World debt

By Paul Oboohov

CANBERRA — A spirited and noisy group of 100 people braved a cold early morning outside the Treasury building on June 18 to tell the government to drop Third World debt. The gathering was part of the worldwide Jubilee 2000 campaign, which called a worldwide day of action to coincide with a meeting of the finance ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) — the larger rich states — and Russia.

The campaign demands that the rich countries forgive the debt. It presented a 25 million signature petition to the finance ministers.

The Canberra rally heard from Jim Redden from ACFOA, Thorwald Lorenzen of the Human Rights Commission of the Baptist World Alliance and Gillian Robson of APHEDA (the overseas aid arm of the ACTU) about the crippling effect of debt owed by the poorest countries to the richest. Robson pointed to the effects of debt in breaking down wages and conditions of workers in debtor countries.

The speakers cited examples of the debt burden, including: more than 50 countries will never repay their debt; some have debt per head twice that of the average income; Africa collectively spends four times more on debt than it does on health; some countries have paid back the debt principal several times over but the debt continues to grow; 5 million African children's lives could be saved if the debt was written off.