Sunday, October 15, 2006

World Bank, IMF Censured Over Debt Relief

Bretton Woods institutions and the rich nations have been censured over the conditionalities imposed on poor nations as a prerequisite for debt relief.

The institutions came under scrutiny during an intellectual discourse on various issues by academicians drawn from various institutions of higher learning in the country.

The forum, hosted at Mzumbe University, in Morogoro was meant to commemorate the nation’s founder President, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere’s 7th death anniversary.

Presenters focused on what Nyerere advocated for during his lifetime, ranging from economic development, foreign policy, debt repayment, and other related development subjects.

The intellectuals took a swipe at the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the rich western nations for imposing punitive and unrealistic conditions on poor nations to qualify for debt relief.

The don’s discussion centred on the constant struggle by developing nations to offset huge debts owed to rich nations and the world financial institutions.

Dr Peter Kopoka from the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM), called on rich nations and international financial institutions to stop pressing hard poor countries to privatise their basic services or liberalise economies as a condition to benefit from debt relief initiative.

’’Indeed the persuasion of debt relief or the threat not to provide further loans has been shamelessly used to push poor countries further into debt,’’ noted Dr Kopoka. He was presenting a paper entitled: Nyerere on Debt and Development in Africa.

Showcasing examples, the don said IMF had compelled Tanzania to privatise the then Dar es Salaam Water and Sewerage Authority (DAWASA) as a condition to secure debt relief under Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) arrangement.

’’The issue is that IMF had insisted on privatising Dawasa after injection of capital in form of a loan,’’ said Kopoka, quoting reports by an international media agency.
’’The venture did not succeed and Tanzania was left with a poor water facility and repayments of loans,’’ noted the vividly disturbed expert.

He called on rich nations and international financial institutions to cancel all the unserviceable debts by poorest nations.

’’They should not do this as an act of charity, but as an obligation on the part of the rich countries,’’ Kopoka said, adding: ’’They should also not do this by depriving poor countries of new aid, but digging into their own pockets and providing new funds.’’

The forum also heard there was a dire need to pushing for a more transparent international approach on debt cancellation to make sure human needs takes priority in debt repayments.

’’The task of calculating how much debt should be cancelled must no longer be left to creditors alone,’’ observed Kopoka.

African governments, the forum was told, ought to stop colluding with world financial institutions and foreign companies to accumulate massive foreign debts that do not tackle the root cause of poverty.

He said African leaders must break out of the vicious circle of debt by undertaking responsible borrowing.

’’African governments who keep on borrowing more and more should be accountable for these loans, some of which our grandchildren and their children will still be paying,’’ said the development studies’ expert.

’’The people of Africa have the right to know why these debts are accumulated, how the money is used and the costs of repayment,’’ he added.

Mwalimu Nyerere, according to Kopoka, advocated for massive debt cancellations and challenged today’s government to ensure the tireless efforts of Mwalimu were not in vain.

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