Letter to Finance Minister Martin Re: Debt Moratorium - February 8, 2001

February 8, 2001

Hon. Paul Martin, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Finance House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6

Dear Minister Martin:

On behalf of the Canadian Ecumenical Jubilee Initiative and the Halifax Initiative Coalition, we wish to congratulate you on your decision to place a moratorium on the debt servicing re-quirements of eleven of the world's most heavily indebted poor countries. We believe that this measure, in the spirit of Jubilee, is a welcome contribution to ending the Third World debt crisis. Over the past two years Canada's leadership has played no small part in similar initia-tives by the UK, the US and France. Your initiative indicates to us a willingness to hear the concerns and arguments that we have expressed to you in person and through the petitions and letters of hundreds of thousands of Canadians who believe that it is time to give the poorest countries a new beginning.

We urge you to continue to exhort G 7 colleagues and the international financial institutions to cancel the debt servicing requirements of the world's poorest countries. We look for a mora-torium on multilateral debt to be announced at the upcoming Spring World Bank/IMF meet-ings as well as at the July meetings of the G 7.

We encourage you to extend the Canadian moratorium to other low income countries that are not HIPC-eligible, including a call for an assessment and cancellation of the illegitimate debts of middle-income countries. In the wake of a devastating earthquake El Salvador is one country that is not HIPC-eligible yet urgently in need of debt cancellation. We also call on you to ask that disaster assistance from the International Financial Institutions be made in the form of grants only, and to press for the immediate cancellation of existing IFI loans to El Salvador.

Our goal remains the cancellation of debts without conditions of structural adjustment. We are concerned that Canada's full cancellation of bilateral debts is still contingent on these in-debted countries meeting HIPC conditions-which include structural adjustment programmes which are well-documented to exacerbate poverty, inequity and environmental degradation and which have had negligible or negative impacts on the economies of the poorest coun-tries.

Lastly, we seek your clarification on the following questions related to the December 2000 announcement:

    1) What are the specific criteria and measurements for excluding each of the six HIPC coun-tries owing debts to Canada?

    2) Are the countries that have been granted a moratorium still required to adhere to World Bank/IMF approved Structural Adjustment Programs as a condition for maintaining the moratorium?

    3) What is the annual amount of debt servicing (due and actual) that Canada has foregone by enacting the moratorium?

We would appreciate the opportunity to meet with you in Canada before the Spring meetings and G7 Finance Minister's meeting to congratulate you in person for the December an-nouncement and to discuss issues of common interest.

Yours sincerely,

Pamela Foster Coordinator, Halifax Initiative
Canadian Council for International Cooperation
Inter-Church Coalition on Africa
Oxfam Canada
Miningwatch Canada
Results Canada
Social Justice Committee

cc. Terrie O'Leary, Executive Director for Canada to the World Bank Tom Bernes, Executive Director for Canada to the International Monetary Fund