Debt Relief on the agenda

The BBC is reporting that Gordon Brown is calling for 100% debt cancellation for the world’s poorest countries by the end of 2005. He was speaking at the World Economics Forum (WEF), an annual gathering of business and political leaders that seems to have had a much stronger emphasis on global poverty this year.

As yet, there don’t seem to be many details of the content of Gordon Brown’s speech. The WEF blog has this piece about the final plenary at which “South African activist Kumi Naidoo of Civicus and the Global Call to Action Against Poverty chastized the World Economic forum for not doing enough to address poverty and inequality.” But the UK Treasury doesn’t yet have the speech in its archive and little analysis is yet to be found online.

Whatever the specifics, this is undoubtedly a good thing. Gordon Brown, while not going as far as many campaigners would like, has always been more engaged in the cause of debt relief than most of his colleagues, and this is precisely the time of year to be setting the agenda for the G8 summit. Hopefully more will emerge, particularly on the key issue of conditionality, after the upcoming meeting of G7 finance ministers.

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4 comments

  1. *snip* “Whatever the specifics, this is undoubtedly a good thing.” */snip*

    What sort of cynic are you?

    I might vaguely subscribe to the notion that guns are bad. We (well, I) don’t live in a Utopia (Sorry Farnborough, it’s true).

    If Gordy were to say “I’m for a 100% cancellation of guns in the poorest towns in the UK”, that would be fine, until the neighbouring towns who weren’t quite as poor, but still had their guns (Aldershot) came and rode off with our horses and dames.

    I accept (reluctantly) that my example is a little extreme, but there’s something about Devils and Details that I can’t quite place my trigger finger on…

  2. Naturally I’m responding after a few more details have emerged… 😉

    The reason I welcomed this without reservation is that it’s been too long since debt relief was last a subject of serious public debate, and Gordon Brown has the power to lift it back up the political agenda.

    It’s good to talk, remember 😉

  3. As everyone knows, I’m more cynical than most.

    Brown’s “100% debt relief” has already turned out to be “on a case-by-case” basis and there is a distinct lack of US resource to go with the words.

    And he is not the first to propose a Marshall plan for Africa. Indeed, there was one proposed by a South African Apartheid-era Foreign Minister (his name escapes me). And isn’t it a little crude to come up with one “Marshall plan” for a very diverse continent? Next we’ll have US politicians treating the Middle East as one socially and politically homogenous oil well.

    Yes, words and rhetoric are good as a prelude to solutions and action, but is that what this is?

    I won’t be congratulating politicians for fulfilling long-overdue moral obligations until I see them do it.

    Your point, I think, was that it should make poverty a point of debate.

    That hasn’t happened. We have unanimous agreement that poverty is bad and that someone should do something. If Gordon Brown was serious about stimulating debate, wouldn’t we see a plan? Wouldn’t we see an innovative, workable strategy out there for discussion?

    You can’t have a meaningful debate on a point that’s universally held. Until we get a proposed solution, he’s just grandstanding his conscience to the electorate.

  4. I don’t think there was ever any doubt that the debt cancellation would be on a case-by-case basis. That’s how it’s been all along, and probably as it should be. The detail of how they analyse the cases is the usual stumbling block, but 100% cancellation once they’re analysed would be a huge step forward.

    I’m not all that familiar with the details of the Marshall Plan, so can’t really comment on the analogy, but I suspect the adoption of the language is for effect more than anything. The plan may not extend further than “do more for Africa” and it will then rely on a number of sub-plans for precise detail.

    The way things usually work with the G7/8 is that finance ministers and others meet early in the year and hammer out key ideas for discussion at the main conference. There is then some work on policy in the intervening time, followed by two rounds of meetings (finance ministers again, then heads of state) which are followed by a commique from the main meeting.

    I would imagine that more details will come as the summer approaches, and when we get details on questions like who the next World Bank President will be.