Andrei Bokarev An interview with Finance Ministry official Andrei Bokarev
In the lead-up to the G8 summit in St. Petersburg this July, writing off debts for the world's poorest countries is becoming a matter of honor for the Russian authorities. Writing off $700 million of debt for 16 African countries is actually payment for Russia's chairmanship of the G8.
In the lead-up to the G8 summit in St. Petersburg this July, writing off debts for the world's poorest countries is becoming a matter of honor for the Russian authorities. Writing off $700 million of debt for 16 African countries is actually payment for Russia's chairmanship of the G8. Andrei Bokarev, deputy director of the international financial relations department at the Finance Ministry, told us how the debts will be written off and who would do this.
Question: Who is writing off whose debts?
Andrei Bokarev: The goals pursued by the donor countries that write off debts are outlined in the millennium declaration of 2000 and in the Paris declaration of efficiency of assistance to development of 2005. This is reduction of the level of poverty by 50%, increase of the number of children receiving elementary education, countering HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and polio.
Question: According to which criteria debts are forgiven to some countries and are not forgiven to some others?
Andrei Bokarev: The Finance Ministry and the Interior Ministry are currently working on establishment of a national system in the field of assistance to international development. This document will formulate the main lines of aid provision, channels of its delivery and will indicate the main regions to which the aid will go. This work is at the initial stage. The volume of aid provided by Russia is insignificant yet. In other countries there are special national structures that coordinate state policy in provision of assistance to national development. In our country coordination of this issue is not laid on any ministry. Something is done by the Foreign Ministry, Emergencies Ministry and Education and Science Ministry. In any case, the major part of work is done by the Finance Ministry.
Question: So does this mean establishing an agency through which all cash flows will pass for aid to the poorest countries?
Andrei Bokarev: The Finance Ministry proceeds from the assumption that at the current stage establishment of this agency is untimely because the volume of our aid is not so big. We believe that in case of approval of the concept we can work more actively for a few years in provision of aid both on bilateral basis and through other organizations. The main work should be focused on international initiatives. At any rate, even in case of establishment of such agency like in other countries significant cash flows will be directed through the Finance Ministry anyway.
Question: Why did we write off debts for Algeria, which isn't one of the poorest?
Andrei Bokarev: Presumably, this is a one-time action. A draft resolution is being currently prepared in accordance with which in 2006 Russia will write off the remaining debts to the 16 poorest African countries. This is $700 million.
Question: Why should Russia write off debts without exchanging them for property like in case of Armenia? Why should Russia provide aid at all?
Andrei Bokarev: There are many aspects. First, this is payment of Russia for chairmanship and participation in G8. In some cases, by helping the poorest countries we are also helping ourselves. We help to fight AIDS that may come from Africa, and help counter bird flu.
There is also another scheme, that is provision of aid on certain terms. For instance, we can allocate money to countries for purchase of food but this food should be bought from Russian suppliers. This is written in conditions of an agreement and money actually remains in our economy.
In principle, the Finance Ministry will be able to hold negotiations in such a way that the option of debt exchange for property like other options of regulation may be used actively in the future. This will be determined at consultations and negotiations with each separate country.
Translated by Pavel Pushkin