Tutu likens debt to nuclear war

Archbishop Desmond Tutu urged Japan on Thursday to cancel debts of developing countries, likening their suffering to the devastation of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On a visit to Hiroshima, which has rebuilt itself into a major city in the world’s second-largest economy, Tutu said debt relief was a concrete way for Japan to demonstrate its oft-stated post-war commitment to peace.

”Many, many countries, in the way you were here devastated by the atom bomb, are devastated by poverty, by disease, by an international economic system that is fundamentally unjust,” the moral force against South African apartheid told a symposium of Nobel laureates.

”I hope that your experience of the injustice of atom bombs falling on you would give you the passion, which you already have, of wanting to help others rise from the ashes,” he said.

”So Japan ought to be in the forefront in cancelling all international debts that so many countries bear a heavy burden” from, Tutu said.

The Group of Eight major industrialised nations last year agreed to help alleviate poor countries’ debt burden, which critics say means more money goes to paying interest than to schools or health care.

Japan, however, has been hesitant about calls for blanket debt relief, arguing that such a move would encourage imprudent borrowing.

Japan has agreed to debt relief on a case-by-case basis. It last year agreed to forgive about $6,1-billion or 80% of the debt owed by Iraq dating from Saddam Hussein’s era.

Tutu renewed his criticism of Japan’s support for the United States-led invasion that toppled Saddam in 2003.

”I said even then that a unilateral intervention by the US would be immoral and I have no reason to change my views. If anything, what has happened since confirms what we said — that this would be a disastrous war.”

In addition to debt relief, ”I hope too that Japan would not support unjust wars”. Tutu said.

Meanwhile, it has been reported that the Japanese government has cancelled $60-million in commercial debt owed to it by Mozambique, officials said on Thursday.

The decision followed a meeting between Mozambican Foreign Minister Alcinda Abreu and her Japanese counterpart, Taro Aso, in Tokyo on Tuesday.

A statement from the Japanese embassy in Maputo said the cancellation was in line with decisions by creditor countries to wipe out commercial debt of nations within the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries debt-relief scheme.

Mozambique’s Finance Minister, Manuel Chang praised Tokyo for the assistance.

”This will help our government strengthen its efforts in the struggle against poverty,” he said. — Sapa-AFP, AP

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