Belgian activist urges donors delete Pakistan’s debt

LAHORE: The Campaign for Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) will observe October 14 as Shout for Pakistan- Cancellation of Debt Day.

Stephanie Jacquemont, the CADTM Belgium representative, announced this on Sunday at the Lahore Press Club.Jacquemont is currently on a visit to show solidarity with the Anti-Debt Campaigners in Pakistan. She said that the day will be a part of the International Debt Week CADTM organises every year from October 7 to October 17.

She urged Belgium as well as other countries to write-off Pakistan’s debt so that the country can use freed up resources for rehabilitation of the flood-affected people. She criticised the Belgium government’s response to Pakistan’s flood appeal, “Pakistan owes $34 million to Belgium in bilateral debt, while our government has only pledged a grant of $2.8 million.”

Talking to the reporters, Abdul Khaliq Shah, the CADTM focal person in Pakistan, urged the donor countries and the international financial institutions (IFIs) to cancel Pakistan’s foreign debt. He asked them to extend grants to Pakistan instead of loans.

“It was nothing short of a crime that a poor country like Pakistan was being deprived of such a heavy amount every year in the repayment of its foreign loans,” he said.

Shah urged that an immediate debt write-off was required to ensure that the emergency aid does not get consumed in debt repayments.

He told the reporters that the external debt of the country stood at $55 billion. The amount, he said, would shoot up to $73 by 2015-16, as the debts rescheduled in exchange for Pakistan’s role in war-on-terror, during Musharraf regime, will become due.

He said that the country was paying $3 billion every year in debt servicing.

He added that the amount for 2010 would be up to $5 billion. “All these funds going into debt servicing when about 20 million people displaced by the floods are in dire need of getting their basic needs fulfilled,” he said.

Shah said that almost 80 per cent of Pakistan’s foreign debt was obtained during dictatorial regimes – General Ayub, General Yahya, General Zia and Gen Musharraf.

People, he said, did not benefit from these loans as they were used to implement other agendas. He said that the debts were illegitimate and were not binding on the people of Pakistan.

He said that a democratically elected government had the right to refuse to repay these loans.

Most poor countries, he said, were stuck with foreign loans from their inception. He said in some cases these countries had repaid many times the original amount.

Farooq Tariq, the Labour Party Pakistan spokesperson, also urged the government to stand up and say no to international financial institutions. He called upon the political forces and civil society organisations to get together for the on-going anti-debt campaign. He criticised the neo-liberal policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Bushra Khaliq, the Women Workers Helpline general secretary, said that the IFIs were using debts to exert their influence in the poor countries. This, she said, was equivalent to re-colonising these countries.

She criticised the IMF for pressurising the government to cut subsidies on public services and to impose more taxes on the poor.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 11th, 2010.

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