G8: A cynical summit


A cynical summit

THE G8 summit’s vague declarations about halving the numbers living in poverty, speeding-up debt write-offs and tackling Aids were merely empty gestures to try and dissipate the anger and protests that are continuing to build up against the exploitation and greed of the capitalist system.

Similar declarations were made after last year’s Cologne summit, then heralded by US President, Bill Clinton, as “an historic step to help the world’s poorest nations achieve sustained growth and independence.”

At Cologne, $100 billion worth of debt cancellation was promised to 41 heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs). A year later, $12 billion of debt has been cancelled.

Only nine of the 25 countries scheduled to receive debt relief have done so. And not one of the countries has had all its debt written off.

The US promised $600 million but hasn’t delivered a cent because Congress refused Clinton’s request for the money, effectively holding up assistance to Honduras and Bolivia. The EU and Japan have used this to delay their own contributions.

The US is now offering $300 million in surplus farm crops to developing countries. Why should anyone believe them this time? Even the Economist said: “These deadlines and promises should all be taken with a pinch of salt.”

The Christian Aid charity estimates that poor countries pay $21.9 billion a year to the rich nations – $60 million a day. At least three-quarters of this services debts that can never be repaid – an estimated $300 billion in total.

The bulk of this is not payable to governments but to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank. They see debt relief as part of their overall plan to spread neo-liberal policies, which means increasing capitalist multinationals’ profits while slashing the living conditions of working people around the world.

Harsh conditions are attached before countries can qualify for debt relief. The IMF slows down debt relief to force countries to implement unpopular aspects of ‘reform’ programmes, such as cuts in social services, health and education.

ESSENTIALLY, DEBT-relief programmes aim to bring debt down to a ‘sustainable’ level – enabling a country to pay its debts with export earnings. But a country may still be spending more on debt relief than on health and education.

Tanzania’s debt interest payments are to be reduced by nearly 20% over the next three years. But it will still be paying around $146 million (£98 million) in 2001-03. The government spends $85 million a year on basic education – the budget for teaching materials is just $1 a year for each pupil. Already 2.2 million children do not go to school at all and Tanzania’s illiteracy rate is rising. African governments spend 40% of their income on servicing $350 billion debt.

Anne Pettifor of Jubilee 2000 said: “The whole point is to free them from this form of slavery and neo-colonialism but instead the IMF is grasping the opportunity to reimpose its control over these economies.”

The G8 also made a statement on plugging the ‘digital gap’. Of an estimated 332 million internet users in the world – one in 20 – fewer than 1% live in Africa. 60% of Internet users live in the US.

The presence at the summit of representatives from Sony, Cisco Systems and other IT companies, show what a cynical attempt this was by the IT industry to penetrate the neo-colonial markets.

These world leaders do not represent the interests of ordinary working-class and oppressed peoples. The debt must be written off.

Protests expressing the anger of working-class and the oppressed can raise awareness and force limited change. But, ultimately, there has to be a struggle to break the power the multinational corporations wield over the neo-colonial world.

A struggle for a system based on human solidarity – socialism, internationally – can free the world from the bind of capitalism’s weighty chains.