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A historical turn that is only the first footstep

08/07/2005: Ireland

For many years the Church has asked for the reduction or the total cancellation of the debt that the developing countries had accumulated and owed to the developed ones. In many of his messages for the World Day of Peace, John Paul II underlined how these amounts constituted an obstacle to their development and, in the advent of the third millennium he pointed out that the Jubilee Year 2000 was an opportune time to think about a consistent reduction if not a complete remission of the international debt.

Great Britain, the host country for the G-8 summit, has developed, in view of this coming meeting from the 6th to the 8th July, an intense program to ensure that the countries involved make available at least 0.7 percent of their PIL, with the aim of making 1 percent available. This is the direction taken by the financial ministers in the preparation meeting for the G-8 in view of cancelling the debt that numerous countries have contracted with the International Monetary Fund, with the World Bank and the African Bank for Development for a total of around forty million dollars.

The provision concerns eighteen countries of which fourteen are African. In the next eighteen months it is anticipated that the zero resetting of the debts of another nine countries will take place for a general total of fifty-five million dollars. Another eleven States will profit by some remission as soon as their governments respect the set conditions: real democracy, good government, transparency…

Certainly the initiative can be defined as historical since it unloads States in debt from considerable financial burdens. It is in some ways an inevitable measure considering that many governments cannot even pay the interest of the debt let alone the total amount. It is like amputating a gangrenous leg to save the life of a person.

Basically it is a clear admission of the failure of fifty years of development aid that has been transformed into astronomical debts with the consequent damage for the creditors not only in terms of the money they have given as loans but also the money they have given as donations. The aid has not been invested in activities that are directly or indirectly productive, but instead it has been wasted.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has praised the initiative taken by Tony Blair on the eve of the meeting of the G-8, but such a measure is ambiguous if the money that will be made available with this decision is not used for providing opportunities of real and sustainable development for the people of the countries concerned. This can only be guaranteed if basic needs such as drinkable water, hygiene services, basic medical aid, the possibility of education…, are provided.
Unfortunately another possibility exists also: that the money potentially made available will be used not for building life, but for sowing death.

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