G8 pledges $1-billion debt relief to world's poorest
The Group of Eight (G8) members agreed at their summit on Wednesday to grant an extra one billion dollars in debt relief to 42 of the world’s poorest countries, a German government source said.
The initiative for Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) will benefit states with debts equal to at least 120% of their gross domestic product, including 22 in Africa.
The world’s poorest continent is the focus of the G8’s consideration at its two-day summit in the Rocky Mountain resort of Kananaskis.
Six countries—Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Uganda—have already benefited from debt relief, with the money “saved” being earmarked for reinvestment in health care and education.
The full HIPC project is estimated to cost $27-billion.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said his country had pledged an additional $200-million to the plan, in spite of Japan’s weaker economy.
The G8 decision came a day before leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States were to welcome counterparts from five African nations to discuss President Thabo Mbeki’s plan, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).
The one billion dollars promised on Wednesday will benefit African countries, hit hard by a plunge in prices for their crucial raw material exports.
Meanwhile, a new UN report has noted that 10 of the 45 sub-saharan African countries are on target to achieve eight development goals endorsed by world leaders two years ago, including halving poverty and hunger.
Prepared at the request of the G8 summit, the report has been drawn up by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and UN Children’s Fund (Unicef).
It warns that nearly half Africa’s population, or about 300 million people, live on less than one US dollar a day and that the number is rising. The figure jumped 25% between 1990 and 1999.
“If current trends continue, Africa will be the only region where the number of poor people in 2015 will be higher than in 1990,” the report said.
Africa’s share of global trade stood at about five percent in the 1980s but dipped below three percent the following decade, while growth in exports of manufactured goods also dramatically fell.
A UN Millennium Summit in September 2000 laid down the eight development goals that also foresaw universal primary education and gender equality and stopping the spread of HIV/Aids by 2015.
However, the report is not all gloomy.
Malawi and Uganda have increased enrolment in primary schools by 30%, the report noted. The report also noted developments in democratic governance and human rights protection in several countries.
The economies of Cape Verde, Mauritius, Mozambique and Uganda are also held up as success stories with annual growth rates of seven to eight percent.
But UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown warned that much more needed to be done.
“We must understand that African countries cannot do it alone,” he said. - Sapa-AFP