Third World Debt

 

Sir, - We know that the debt burden of many Third World countries constitutes a serious obstacle to their social and economic development. In recent years, we have had the awful spectre of loans being given to the poorest countries of the world in order to ensure the financing of existing debt.

As a member of the Development and Co-operation Committee of the European Parliament, I fully welcome the serious debate which is taking place about the future relief of Third World debt. In principle, the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank should agree to putting in train policies for the elimination of Third World debt as the new millennium dawns.

I welcome the fact that the European Union since 1996 participates in the highly indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative. This certainly has been a successful programme in part. Mozambique, for example, will have its external debt reduced from £5 billion in 1996 to about £1 billion in late 1999. This HIPC initiative is certainly a useful tool to put in place a meaningful international response to the debt crisis of poor countries in the world.

This HIPC initiative should be implemented so that it benefits the largest number of countries in light of their specific situation. Countries receiving debt relief should demonstrate a commitment to economic, social and human rights reforms and this process should be undertaken on a case by case analysis depending on the circumstances in each country.

In principle, we should all agree to debt relief for the poorest countries in the world. However, it would be improper for the Third World to eliminate the external debt of Nigeria, which has demonstrated institutionalised corruption for many years. We also have to ask ourselves the question: Should debt be relieved for Ethiopia and Eritrea and Angola, where civil war has now overtaken all events? - Yours, etc., Niall Andrews, MEP,

European Parliament Office, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2.