Iraq's Odious Debts

Maloney, Leach introduce H.R. 2482 (Iraqi Freedom from Debt Act)

Press release, Washington, USA
June 18, 2003

MALONEY, LEACH INTRODUCE H.R. 2482, THE IRAQI FREEDOM FROM DEBT ACT Legislation Asks President Bush to Urge World Bank, IMF, France, Russia, Rest of World to Relieve Debts Owed by Iraq

Contact: Afshin Mohamadi 202-225-7944

WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Jim Leach (R-IA) announced the introduction of H.R. 2482, legislation requiring the Treasury Secretary to use influence the World Bank and IMF to cancel or radically reduce the approximately $150 million of debt Iraq owes to the institutions. The legislation also includes a sense of Congress asking the President to urge France, Russian and all other public and private creditors to relieve Iraq of its debts.

“Passage of this legislation will send a powerful message to the world that a major reason the U.S. went into Iraq was to the benefit the Iraqi people,” said Rep. Maloney. “There is a powerful moral case for relieving the Iraqi people of the debts incurred by Saddam’s murderous regime.”

“Nothing would be more ironic or reprehensible than for American and other international assistance in the wake of war to be transferred to pay off Iraq’s debt to countries such as France, Germany and Russia, which have sold sophisticated arms to Iraq and helped build ostentatious palaces for Saddam Hussein,” said Rep. Leach.

 

Background –

The Iraqi Freedom from Debt Act, H.R. 2482, consists of “Findings” and two major initiatives. It requires the U.S. to negotiate in the IMF, World Bank and other appropriate multilateral development institutions for relief of the debts owed by Iraq to these institutions. Secondly, it includes a sense of Congress that the President should urge France and Russia and all other public and private creditors to relieve the debts owed to them by Iraq.

While estimates of Iraq’s debt range from one hundred billion to several hundred billion, the combined debt owed the IMF and World Bank is just over $150 million. These institutions have the resources to relieve this debt, setting an important precedent for the rest of the world.

In recent years, debt relief has proven to be an effective development tool that releases funds within a nation that can be used to address poverty and meet essential human needs. The case for some debt cancellation is even more compelling in Iraq given that much of the debt can be characterized as odious. Odious debt is internationally recognized as debt that is taken on by a country for the personal benefit of corrupt leaders or for the oppression of a people.

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