Press Release - Monday, September 9, 1996

Time is running out for international efforts to resolve the debt crisis
For Release: September 9, 1996

Time is running out for international efforts to resolve the debt crisis facing the poorest countries. At the end of September, Finance Ministers from around the world will gather at the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank in hopes of finalizing a plan for debt reduction. At this late date, however, many key issues remain unresolved and the entire initiative could yet collapse.

While the proposed plan is far from perfect, it represents a critical first step, a step that may not be taken unless we act now. We need your help to maintain pressure on the Canadian government to help ensure that the biggest barrier to progress, political will, is overcome by October.

All the pieces of the debt puzzle must fall into place by October in order for its adoption, but one in particular is missing. While the World Bank has committed to contributing up to $US 2 billion for debt relief, the International Monetary Fund has not made the financial commitment to paying its fair share. The IMF has $US 40 billion in gold bars sitting in a vault but it refuses to divert a portion of that stock to provide debt reduction. Instead the Fund is proposing to sell some gold to finance a fund that would provide mostly new loans with very harsh economic conditions attached (known as structural adjustment conditions).

The Canadian government likes the IMF's proposed \solution\. This, in spite of the fact that new loans, however generous the terms, do not reduce the stock of debt a country holds. Even the most generous loan terms will not reduce debt on the scale necessary and soon enough to provide a fresh start to the poorest countries' economies. Despite endless rounds of rescheduling, sub-Saharan Africa's debt has risen from $80 billion in 1982 to $223 billion in 1995.

We need to send a strong signal to the Canadian government that the IMF proposal not acceptable. We need YOUR help. Here is what you can do:

1. Contact your MP and voice your concerns - ask him or her to contact the Finance Minister and/or raise the issue in the House of Commons. (If you don't know your MP's name, number or fax, contact Elections Canada toll free at 1-800-463-6868.)

2. Write again to Finance Minister Paul Martin expressing your concern that the IMF proposal will not relieve the debt of the poorest countries. State that you want all proceeds for the IMF gold to be used for grants to reduce the debt immediately without ties to harsh structural adjustment conditionalities. Ask him why Canada supports the sale of gold only to recycle IMF debt when significant reduction is desperately needed by the poorest countries. Ask him where the IMF will find the new resources to finance its stated commitments to effective debt reduction. Ask him what Canada will do if the proposals fail in the fall. Ask him how will Canada fight to make the debt proposals ensure the reduction of the desperate conditions of people in the poorest countries.
The Minister can be reached at 613-992-4284(phone) or 613-995-5176(fax) or by mail at House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0A6 (no stamp required).

3. Join in the activities scheduled for the autumn solstice, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 1996 - \THE GLOBAL DAY FOR FREEDOM FROM DEBT\. Urge your church leaders to make debt relief a part of their services that Sunday and use the opportunity to sign petitions or write letters. The Religious Working Group, a coalition of over 30 groups, is urging the similar action across the USA. Social Justice Committee of Montral will hold street theatre pieces in four Montral area parks on Saturday the 21st.

Call them at 514-933-6797. Don't use your credit cards during the week of the 22nd as a symbolic sign of solidarity with Southern governments and their peoples struggling to escape the debt trap. Write your local newspaper and tell them why you support debt relief for the poorest nations.

The Halifax Initiative will be very busy over the coming weeks. We will meet with Members of Parliament and government officials to voice our concerns and urge Canadian leadership in the global effort to find a solution. We will prepare materials for the media and work with colleagues around the world to help ensure that the poorest countries of the world be given immediate and comprehensive debt relief.

Please help the campaign by doing what you can to send our government the signal that the international financial institutions, particularly the IMF, must do their part to solve the multilateral debt crisis of the poorest countries. The only solution is a comprehensive, equitable, and immediate one.

Yours very sincerely,

Robin Round Coalition Coordinator

On behalf of : CUSO, Canadian Council for International Cooperation (CCIC) Centre International de Solidarit Ouvrire (CISO), Cultural Survival Canada, Inter-Church Coalition on Africa, Oxfam Canada, RESULTS Canada, Sierra Club of Canada, Social Justice Committee of Montral, Toronto Environmental Alliance