Poverty Has Replaced Iron Curtain - Collins
Mwila Nkonge, All Africa, Apr 10
Lusaka, Apr 08, 2006 (The Post/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX)
POVERTY has replaced the scourge of the iron curtain as the biggest threat to the world, Commonwealth Foundation director Mark Collins has observed.
And finance minister Ng'andu Magande yesterday admitted that the government needed a strong partnership with civil society to ensure that the country did not revert to an unsustainable debt position.
During a civil society meeting on debt organised by Jubilee Zambia, Collins warned that the fight against poverty would not succeed unless the issue of poor countries' debt sustainability was addressed.
He noted that despite pronouncements that poverty levels were reducing the reality on the ground, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, was that poverty was increasing.
"Part of the reason, as noted at our meeting with civil society in Maputo last November, is that the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative has not offered a sustainable and permanent exit from the debt trap," Collins said.
"This is why civil society has consistently pushed for the establishment of an international court of arbitration to adjudicate issues of illegitimate debt to enable countries only pay for debts that are justified.
"Even the new Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) that resulted from the Gleneagles G8 summit needs attention. It sounds like a good initiative but as they say, the devil is in the detail. So we need to know how MDRI will facilitate a permanent exit from debt for poor countries and address, among other things, how international financial institutions can help poor countries cope with external shocks, natural disasters and other factors that can force them back into unsustainable debt positions."
Collins said poverty had indeed replaced the scourge of the A"Iron CurtainA as the biggest threat to the world. The A"Iron CurtainA is a Western term that was made famous by former British Prime Minister Winston ChurchillAs referring to the boundaries which symbolically, ideologically and physically divided Europe into two separate areas from the end of World War II until the end of the Cold War, roughly from 1945 to 1990.
Opening the workshop, Magande stressed the need for stakeholders to ensure that post-HIPC countries did not get into wanton borrowing.
He said for Zambia, her external debt would fall from US $7.1 billion to US $502 million in July this year, which he said posed the temptation to borrow.
"What this means is that people who were reluctant to lend us US$2 million two years ago are now eager to lend us US$2 billion," Magande noted.
"This is where we need a strong partnership with civil society so that we do not start borrowing recklessly. Imagine what the temptation is but we are resolved to ensure that we borrow only to finance development.
This is why our focus now will be borrowing for programmes that will enable us upscale the drive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and thereby set the stage for sustainable development."