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Critics Of G8 Describe Lack Of Debt Cancellation As a Tragedy For Africa - 2004-06-14

At last week?s Sea Island Summit, G8 leaders rejected calls for full debt cancellation for poor countries. Instead, they endorsed a two-year extension of HIPC, the IMF?s heavily indebted poor countries initiative. HIPC is designed to reduce a country?s debt burden, but critics say it?s too little and has too many conditions attached.

One of those critical of the G8 position is Njoki Njoroge Njehu, director of the group 50 Years Is Enough. She spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the impact of the G8 not endorsing full debt cancellation.

She says, ?Well, I think it is a tragedy and a disaster for Africa and for the rest of the world where there are indebted countries?the UN estimates that Africa needs about $10 billion to fight HIV/AIDS each year, but that Africa is spending $15 billion servicing the debt. These are resources that are not being applied to the fight against HIV/AIDS. They are resources that are not being applied to primary education or basic immunization, safe drinking water. It?s a tragedy.?

She says while some African leaders have talked about debt cancellation, many do not speak in a ?clear voice? on the issue. Ms. Njehu says many African leaders ?do not pay the price. They do not go to the hospital without medicine. They get on planes and go for treatment in Europe and the US or other parts of the world. They do not feel the pain in the way the masses of ordinary Africans feel.?

The head of 50 Years Is Enough says, ?The handouts are happening in the opposite direction. Multi-lateral institutions that continue to receive debt payments are the ones who are receiving massive transfers of resources.? She says while it is true that Iraq is recovering from years of brutal dictatorship, so are Nigeria and South Africa.