Debt Relief

Brown: Debts should be frozen for tsunami-hit countries

Chancellor Gordon Brown suggested that there is little point in the west spending millions on aid while at the same time continuing to receive debt repayments.

Chancellor Gordon Brown has called for the suspension of foreign debts owed by the countries hit by the tsunami disaster.

He has suggested that there is little point in the west pouring in millions of pounds worth of aid, whilst at the same time continuing to receive debt repayments.

Speaking this morning, Mr Brown said: “Our proposal is that, with immediate effect, the Paris Club should expect no debt repayment from afflicted countries. That would then lead to an analysis of the needs of these countries, with the possibility of some debt relief, at the same time ensuring that the money goes to the people and areas in greatest need. Britain has put this on the agenda for the G7 Finance Ministers meeting at the beginning of February.

“That will be backed up by two other proposals: the International Monetary Fund will offer emergency assistance; and the World Bank, which has made an initial contribution for emergency relief, will add to that substantially with money for reconstruction.”

The Chancellor also indicated his determination that long-term poverty reduction should not be hampered, saying: “What my discussions with the IMF, the World Bank, the US Treasury Secretary and other financial leaders over the last few days have shown to me is that we never want to be in a position again where we have to choose between emergency aid and tackling the underlying causes of poverty. The world ought to be able to do both.”

He reiterated his desire for a new “Marshal Plan” for aid to be drawn up under the UK’s G8 presidency saying: “What people are realising as a result of this terrible tragedy is that what happens to the poorest citizen in the poorest country affects the richest citizen in the richest country – we are an interdependent world, one moral universe, and I think just as we see the power of nature to destroy, we have seen the power of human compassion to build, and it is on that – people’s moral sense that something has got to be done – that we build the next stage of our efforts to achieve social justice on a global scale.”

An estimated 150,000 people were killed when the tidal wave hit south-east Asia on Boxing Day and the UN has warned that the death toll could rise sharply as the millions of survivors are left without access to clean water or healthcare.

The British public have so far pledged £76 million in aid, surpassing the £50 million pledged by the Government.

However, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said yesterday that the Government was “almost certain” to match the public donations.

There have been 40 British deaths confirmed so far but Mr Straw said that 199 UK citizens were “highly likely to have been involved as victims of the disaster”.

“The presumption has to be that a significant proportion of them have been killed,” the Foreign Secretary told a news conference.

Mr Straw said the Metropolitan police had drawn up the list of estimated British fatalities, with most victims thought to have been in Thailand when the tsunami struck.

The Foreign Office has so far confirmed the deaths of 29 Britons in Thailand, eight in Sri Lanka and three in the Maldives.

British police officers are currently working in the areas affected to help consular officials identify the dead and missing and provide assistance to British families.

Mr Straw added that the Government was contributing to the repatriation of victims’ remains and said that 113 family liaison officers had been made available by police to help counsel grieving families.

Politics.co.uk, January 4, 2005

Categories: Debt Relief, Odious Debts

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