Debt Forgiveness to Third World to Combat Covid-19
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) announced yesterday that the WHO joins the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in supporting debt relief to poorer countries to help them combat the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic fallout.(1) Now is the time for the international community to call for full debt forgiveness for countries in Africa, South Asia and Central and South America.
Religious leaders have renewed the call for a debt jubilee, which in the Bible is a grace period from slavery and debt. It is a period of renewal, for a fresh start. Most notably, in a broadcast to the Philippines, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle asked “Could the coronavirus crisis lead to a jubilee of forgiveness of debt, so that those who are in the tombs of indebtedness could find life – untie them, release them.”(2) The Cardinal went on to say that the wealthy countries have spent too much on weapons when people are dying for lack of ventilators in hospitals across the globe.
News of the spread of coronavirus in the Third World is starting to emerge. Being at the periphery of the economy may have granted many Third World countries a little more time to respond. But as the richest countries in the world prove unable to prevent deaths due to lack of supplies and preparations, the situation in Third World countries will in all likelihood prove more dire. In all countries, the death rate is revealing the ineffectiveness of an economic system guided by the profit motive in meeting humyn needs.
MIM(Prisons) stands in unity with the Cardinal’s call. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have been the institutions that issue and manage the majority of loans, along with accompanying structural adjustment programs, that have sucked wealth from the Third World to the First World since the Bretton Woods Agreeement in 1944. Therefore we must demand absolute forgiveness of these debts, a true jubilee, without the further meddling of these imperialist institutions in the economies of sovereign nations.
If there were ever time for a fresh start, it is now. The economic fallout from the current crisis is only just beginning. Forgiving debt to the poorest countries in the world will free up scarce resources and save countless lives.
1. Stephanie Nebehay, 2 April 2020, COVID-19 cases and deaths rising, debt relief needed for poorest nations - WHO, Yahoo! News.
2. COVID-19: Cardinal Tagle urges “forgiveness of debt” of poor countries. 31 March 2020, LaCroix International, Vatican City.