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World Bank Cancels Debt of 19 Nations

It’s taken nearly a year, but the World Bank has given its final stamp of approval to debt cancellation for 19 of the world’s poorest countries. It’s a process that began last year at the G8 summit.

Debi Karr is with the Jubilee USA Network, which campaigns for debt cancellation for poor nations. In Washington, she spoke VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua.

“On July 1st of this year the World Bank finally cancelled the debts of those initial now 19 countries that will see their debts cancelled under the terms of the G8 deal that was announced last summer in Gleneagles, Scotland…and so it took a little under a year for them to implement that commitment for debt cancellation for those initial countries. And yet what we’re seeing is the additional roughly 21 countries that are still eligible for debt cancellation under the terms of the G8 deal, they still have not seen their debts cancelled. And they’re tied up in these economic strings and are seeing delays,” she says.

Why did it take almost a year for final approval? Karr says, “The World Bank would say that there is the issue of their accounting practices, that their fiscal year doesn’t begin until July first every year. And since the announcement was made by the G8 last summer in mid July that they had to wait a whole year before countries could see their debts cancelled because of their fiscal accounting practices.”

Karr says those delays could have been overcome with political will.

As for this year’s G8 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, the Jubilee spokesperson says, “This year unfortunately what we’re seeing is that debt and many of the other issues around poverty alleviation are actually off the agenda. What we’re seeing now in fact is more of a focus on some other issues that they didn’t talk about last year I suppose because they were talking so much about poverty. So this year they’ll be discussing, for example, energy security.” She adds, however, that there is a link between debt, poverty and energy issues.

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