As debt piles onto the backs of poor countries, Christian community calls for relief

Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

In dialogue with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, representatives of the global Christian community shared lived experiences from countries grappling with heavy debt burdens as well as concrete proposals to tackle the current debt crisis at a 29 March side-event titled, “The impact of debt on poor countries and proposals for fair and green recovery financing.” The side-event was organised by the World Council of Churches together with CAFOD, ChristianAid, Jubilee USA and other faith-based organisations at the Civil Society Policy Forum.

Eugene Kabilika, executive director of Caritas Zambia, said that “increased debt servicing has reduced the amount of money available for government to adequately fund education, health, water and sanitation.”

Noting that poor countries cannot afford lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, Rev. Suzanne Matale from the Independent Commission for the Reform of International Corporate Taxation, called for debt cancellation to “free up resources for governments to respond,” adding that there is “an urgent need to stop illicit financial flows from our mineral-rich countries.”

Jeronim Zettelmeyer, deputy director of the International Monetary Fund’s Strategy, Policy and Review Department, shared current efforts to respond to the debt crisis. At the same time, he said civil society organisations should “put pressure on their own domestic authorities” as the problem does not only lie with the international financial architecture.

Marcello Estevao, global director of the World Bank’s Macroeconomics, Trade and Investment Global Practice said that their “goal is to enlarge the breathing space for poor countries” in a time of economic crisis.

Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA, cited the lack of private sector participation and inadequate coverage of middle-income indebted countries as key challenges to current initiatives to tackle debt. Moving forward, “there is a need to expand debt relief to middle income countries.”

Source: World Council of Churches

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