KARACHI, Oct 12: Debt is a powerful tool used by creditors to dominate, exploit and plunder indebted third world countries. It is a major obstacle in the way of peopleâ€™s sovereignty and their economic, social and cultural rights.
This was observed by Stephanie Jacquemont, representative in Pakistan of the Belgium-based civil society organisation, CADTM (Committee for the Abolition of Third World Debt), which is spearheading an international campaign for immediate and unconditional abolition of foreign debts of the third world and advocating an end to the neo-liberal policies implemented by developed countries and international money lenders through strict structural adjustment programmes.
Speaking at a press conference along with local civil society organisations at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday,
Ms Jacquemont urged the masses in Pakistan to force their government to stop repayment of foreign debts as the country was not at all in a position to pay off the debts because of the colossal losses caused by the recent worst-ever floods in its history.
The press conference was part of a 10-day campaign (October 7 to 17) being run jointly by the CADTM and various local civil society organisations in Pakistan for the abolition of foreign debts.
Ghani Zaman of the National Trade Union Federation, Nasir Mansoor of the Labour Party Pakistan, Zehra Khan of the Home-based Women Workers Federation, Mushtaq Shan of the Labour Education Foundation and Shabir Azad of the Sindh Labour Relief Committee were among the local leaders present.
They appealed to all foreign money lenders to write off Pakistanâ€™s debts â€” roughly $55 billion â€” to enable it to cope with the dislocation of millions of people and manage the massive rehabilitation of the devastated infrastructure.
They said that under 10-day campaign, several programmes had been organised in different countries and October 14 had been dedicated to the issues being faced by flood-ravaged Pakistan, adding that a demonstration would be held in Brussels and many cities in Pakistan, including Islamabad on that day. It would be the â€˜Abolish foreign debt dayâ€™, they said.
Ms Jacquemont and Nasir Mansoor told journalists that the major chunk of the $55 billion loans had been taken by military regimes for the procurement of military hardware etc. Hardly a friction, if at all, was spent on social sector development, they added.
They said the country had to pay over $3 billion every year under the head of debt servicing which could otherwise be spent on provision of better health and educational facilities as well as social uplift of the masses.
According to Ms Jacquemont, IMF is blackmailing Pakistan and forcing it to withdraw subsidies and introduce tax reforms in order to receive the sixth tranche of a loan. Both the conditions are bound to seriously affect Pakistanâ€™s economy and its poor population.
She criticised the Belgian government for pledging just $2.8 million in aid for over 20 million Pakistanis affected by the disaster. She urged her government to immediately write off all the loans it had extended to Pakistan and also push plead Pakistanâ€™s case in the IMF, World Bank and Paris Club.
She advised Islamabad not to accept loans but only grants and aid. â€œKeeping in view the floods, it cannot be accepted that repayment of an odious debt to rich creditors be prioritised over social needs of Pakistani people,â€ she argued.
She said that it could not be accepted that international financial institutions â€” World Bank, IMF, Asian Development Bank etc â€” took advantage of the natural calamity and Pakistanâ€™s need for reconstruction to make fortunes on loans.