UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
AFRICA: Clinton urges massive debt reduction
Nairobi, 17 March (IRIN) - US President Bill Clinton has proposed a six-point programme aimed at freeing African countries from debt valued at US $70 billion, news organisations reported.
Addressing the opening session of a 46-nation US-Africa ministerial meeting at the State Department on Tuesday, he urged the international community to adopt the proposal, which provides for waiving bilateral debts for some of the poorest countries and further reduction for other debts.
He also proposed offering relief more quickly to countries committed to reform and democracy. "Our goal is to ensure that no country committed to fundamental reform is left with a debt burden that keeps it from meeting its people's basic human needs and spurring growth," he said.
The programme will be presented to the G7 group of industrialised countries when they meet in Cologne, Germany, in June, and Clinton urged them to adopt it.
In his speech to the session, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Africa was faced with "unprecedented challenges" at the end of the 20th century.
"Rapid technological change and globalisation of trade, investment and financial markets are making dramatic progress possible," he told the meeting. He noted he had, in previous speeches, urged the reduction of debt burden and an increase in development assistance.
"We must reward those countries which are on the verge of reaping the fruits of a painful adjustment," he stressed.
Yussuf Ouedraogo, the foreign minister of Burkina Faso, which currently chairs the Organisation of African Uunity (OAU), welcomed debt relief but said the results of growth in many African countries were absorbed by debt repayments. "It is time to go to the heart of the matter, debt cancellation," he told participants.
The US-based Africa Policy Information Centre (APIC) compared debt to slavery, and commented that international efforts to address the debt burden offered no "exit strategy" for most indebted African countries.
In a recent background paper on African debt, APIC noted that 33 of the 41 countries identified by the World Bank as the "Heavily-Indebted Poor Countries" (HIPC) are in Africa.
Noting that the decision to cancel debt is as much political as economic, APIC said rolling back Africa's current debt would not be an impossible burden for creditors who have taken losses in other parts of the world to reward governments.
Date: Wed, 17 Mar 1999 18:31:55 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: AFRICA: Clinton urges massive debt reduction 
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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