Global Anti-debt Week: Pakistan campaigners urge debt waiver

LAHORE, Oct 10: The anti-debt campaigners, including a foreign member visiting Pakistan to show solidarity with local activists, on Sunday urged the donor countries as well as international financial institutions to write off all foreign debts which the country owed to bilateral and multilateral creditors.

They also called for immediate freeze of foreign debt repayments of Pakistan keeping in view the flood-devastated economy of the country.

The campaigners urged grants instead of loans for Pakistan which were essential for it to develop the means to withstand such disasters in future.

They also urged the government to constitute a Debt Audit Commission on the pattern of Ecuador to monitor all debt, its utilisation in different sectors and to detect illegal repayments.

The appeals were made at a news conference organised by the Campaign for Abolition of Third World Debt (CADTM) – Pakistan, here on Sunday in connection with the ‘Week of Global Action Against Debt and the IFIs’ being marked from Oct 7 to 14 and special marking of Oct 14 as Anti-Debt Day for Pakistan for the first time.

The campaign in Pakistan will last up to Oct 17.

Speaking to reporters at the Lahore Press Club, CADTM international member from Belgium Stephanie Jacquemont said Pakistan had owed $34 million to Belgium as bilateral debt while Belgium government’s recent response to Pakistan’s flood appeal was poor with only $2.8 million pledged amount.

She said the CADTM -Belgium would be influencing its government to waive Pakistan’s total debt keeping in view the needs of as many as 20 million flood-hit people to whom the loan amount could be diverted.

She said Oct 14 was being observed as Anti-Debt Day for Pakistan with slogans of ‘Shout for PakistanCancellation of Debt’ and ‘Break the Chain and Change the System’, urging her own government to forgo the Pakistani loans forthwith to get the country out of economic instability and poverty.

She said CADTM’s international network had 30 members from regions like Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia, South Asia and Asia Pacific and it was fighting against lending under unconditional reconciliation debt programme by the IFIs to the third world countries.

She claimed their global campaigns and organisation of several social forums and workshops against debt-servicing had brought positive changes, pushing the people of third world countries like Ecuador to get rid of the economic oppression.

Citing example of Ecuador, she said after the formation of DAC as a result of CADTM’s successful campaigns, the government had saved an amount of $2 billion which had to be given to IFIs as an illegal payment.

She emphasised the need for putting an end to conditional ties for the debt structural programmes, saying continuous lending and debt restructuring was a major obstacle to development and sovereignty of poor countries, besides being a violation of economic, social and cultural rights of their people.

Stephaine was of the view that the external debts of the countries should be abolished immediately and without any condition from the creditors, saying the debts were repaid at the expense of people’s social needs because in many countries like Pakistan more was spent on debt servicing than on education and healthcare.

She said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was blackmailing Pakistan by demanding elimination of subsidies given to the energy sector and tax reforms audit and linking these steps to disbursement of next tranche fixed under the agreement signed earlier.

CADTM-Pakistan focal person Abdul Khaliq Shah said Pakistan’s current external debt stood at $55 billion which would further jump to $73 billion by 2015-16, as debts that were rescheduled after 9/11 in exchange for the country’s cooperation in the war on terror.

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