Read Odious Debts, the book

by Patricia Adams
Probe International

We’ve all heard of the Third World’s debt crisis, of hopelessly poor nations unable to pay their debts, and of the human suffering and environmental consequences of their desperate predicament. Amid emotional calls from some to forgive the debt outright come the sober solutions from bankers and bureaucrats, with their seemingly unending stream of Brady and Baker Plans, and bewildering variants of them.

Yet despite the raging world-wide controversy over the Third World’s debt, no one has posed these most elementary questions: who lent what and to whom, where did the money go, what did it do there, and where is it now.

In this brilliant hybrid of detective work and policy analysis, Patricia Adams has unraveled a rats’ nest of Third World lending to describe the debt crisis in its startling simplicity. Her conclusions are equally startling — not what many might have expected from a prominent environmentalist heading an outspoken advocacy organization.

Through a straightforward exposition of the facts, you will come to see the debt for what it is — the sum total of thousands of loans, some illegitimate, justifying repudiation, others legitimate, meriting repayment. Surprisingly, you will learn that the Third World’s environment — so ravaged through decades of degradation — has often been spared by virtue of the debt. And that legal mechanisms — first used by the U.S. to repudiate Cuban debts after the Spanish-American War — are in place to resolve the debt crisis far more equitably than political solutions cooked up in Washington and the capitals of Third World countries. Odious debts are well established in international law; through this doctrine Chase Manhattan, the World Bank, and other lenders would collect on their debts — not from the people of the Third World but from the Marcoses and Mobutus who would be liable.

Patricia Adams is an economist and the author of In the Name of Progress: The Underside of Foreign Aid. She lives in Toronto and is the Executive Director of Probe International, a think-tank concerned with Third World aid and trade policies.

To order a copy of Loose Lending, Corruption, and the Third World’s Environmental Legacy by Patricia Adams, 1991, 256 pages, Earthscan, $15.95 soft cover,
please e-mail Probe International or visit Amazon.com.

Download the pdf here.

You can also purchase a copy through Amazon, here.