Press Release - Saturday, September 18, 1999

HIPC Initiative will not serve the world’s poorest with the IMF in control
September 18, 1999
The Halifax Initiative coalition of development, labour, human rights and environment organizations is deeply concerned that debt relief is still inappropriately conditioned on compliance with IMF-directed programs. The debt crisis continues to be used as a lever to force open economies, an inexcusable manipulation of poverty and human tragedy. The heart of the problem is that final control of the program remains in the hands of an unreformed IMF.
"This is old wine in new bottles. Call it poverty reduction with growth or structural adjustment, at the end of the day, the IMF is judging whether a country is eligible for debt reduction or not,"said Pamela Foster, Halifax Initiative Coordinator.
The inclusion of social concerns is a welcome step in the HIPC Initiative, but changes to the debt reduction strengthen the IMF’s hand, especially if the emphasis on social priorities results in an expansion of the IMF’s jurisdiction. The IMF is without credibility when it comes to social concerns.
"The fox is still guarding the chicken coop. There are no clear goalposts for IMF reform, no mechanisms of accountability to the people its programs affect. IMF control of the debt reduction program is a manipulation of the crisis," said Derek MacCuish, debt policy analyst for the Halifax Initiative.
Debt relief should be immediate upon presentation of a country’s poverty reduction program - designed by country governments with input from civil society and donors such as the UN.
The IMF should get out of the business of directing the economies of poor countries, and be restricted to providing technical advice and temporary assistance related to balance of payments difficulties, when requested.