Send an Unhappy Birthday Card to the IMF/World Bank

Yoked to a treadmill of ever deepening debt, people in the world's poorest countries will not be celebrating the sixtieth birthday of their Washington bankers this year.

  • Africa pays around US$15 billion in debt servicing every year to the World Bank, IMF and rich country governments. This is more than the continent receives in aid.

  • Countries are forced to service their debt before protecting the most basic human rights of its citizens. Africa needs an additional US$ 10 billion a year to fight HIV/AIDS, yet paid US$ 4 billion more in debt service than it received in new loans in 2002.

  • In 1996, the World Bank and IMF created a mechanism (HIPC) to "relieve" the debt burden of the poorest countries that has not delivered a solution to the debt crisis. In spite of receiving some debt cancellation through this mechanism, Zambia, Mali, Niger and Sierra Leone will pay more in debt service this year than they did prior to the programme.

  • The World Bank, the IMF and rich country governments may grant Iraq an estimated US$ 80-90 billion in debt relief, if its new government adheres to IMF structural adjustment conditionalities. In less than a year, the international community would then have provided almost three times as much debt relief to one country as it has provided over the past seven years to 27 of the world's poorest countries combined.

  • In January 2004, when Canada announced it would cancel its $750-million share of Iraqi debt, Prime Minister Martin called on wealthy nations to take a more active role to help the world's poorest nations. Canada must recognize that the "odious" debts burdening other countries once ruled by dictatorship must also be wiped out. The Prime Minister stated that world leaders have the power to make changes that will help tackle growing social and economic problems, and debt cancellation must be a first priority.

On the 60th Birthday of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, I call on Canada to insist that 100% of the staggering debts owed to these institutions by the poorest countries be cancelled immediately and without condition. There can be no celebration without debt cancellation.

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