UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
AFRICA: Policy-debt relief "blackmail" criticised
ADDIS ABABA, 7 May (IRIN) - Current moves to address Africa's debt crisis through the IMF and World Bank-led Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC) were on Thursday described as "half-hearted" and "in some ways tantamount to blackmail" at the opening of a conference of African finance and planning ministers.
In the opening statement to the conference, convened by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on "The Challenges of Financing African Development", Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, claimed the HIPC and other debt reduction initiatives were "far from adequate" and were being used "as the whip to enforce unquestioning acceptance of the economic orthodoxy, the so-called Washington consensus".
Meles added "the choice we are left with under HIPC is to either abandon all independent and rational thinking in economic policy making or wallow in the quagmire of unsustainable debt".
The Dutch development cooperation minister, Eveline Herfkens told the conference that "deeper, faster, broader" debt relief was the aim of several new donor initiatives.
The governments of Canada, France, Germany, the UK and the USA have proposed new debt initiatives that will be discussed at an upcoming G-8 summit in Germany next month. Telling the conference that the G-8 should "put their money where their mouths are", Herfkens said: "it's time for the emperor to buy clothes and pay for them". On the question of aid conditionality, she added "you can't buy policies".
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in a message to the conference, reiterated his view that "all creditors should convert into grants all remaining official bilateral debt of the poorest countries, and creditors should consider clearing the entire debt stock of the poorest African countries".
Africa's debt stands at US $350 billion in 1998. The UNECA regards the debt as "essentially non-payable".
Date: Fri, 7 May 1999 17:31:13 +0300 (EAT) From: IRIN - Central and Eastern Africa <email@example.com> Subject: AFRICA: Policy-debt relief "blackmail" criticised 
Editor: Dr. Ali B. Ali-Dinar, Ph.D
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