south-north development monitor SUNS [Email Edition]

SUNS #4434, Wednesday 12 May 1999


Africa: UNCTAD advocates bold measures on debt crisis (Chakravarthi Raghavan, Geneva)

Health: WHO calls for more equitable world, healthier people (IPS, Geneva)

Environment: US uproar over waste from gold mines (IPS, Washington)

Thailand: Workers up in arms over privatisation (IPS, Bangkok)

Europe: Balkan conflict could speed up EU expansion (IPS, Brussels)

Yugoslavia: NATO accused of genocide at World Court (IPS, The Hague)

Yugoslavia: NATO mistakes toughen stand (IPS, Belgrade)

Excerpts from some selected articles:

Africa: UNCTAD advocates bold measures on debt crisis

Geneva, 11 May (Chakravarthi Raghavan) -- Need for bold international measures to deal with African debt crisis has been underscored by UNCTAD Secretary-General Rubens Ricupero at a meeting last week of African Ministers of Finance and Planning at Addis Ababa.

Explaining proposals advanced by UNCTAD, which he hoped could become a common position for debt policy advocacy by the UN as a whole, Ricupero among other measures called for review of list of Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) and including all poor countries facing debt service difficulties, shortening the time frame for implementation, apply less restrictive eligibility criteria, set a ceiling on fiscal revenue to be used for debt service in indebted countries.

In their communique, the African ministers took note of the idea of referring the issue of sustainability of Africa's debt to an independent body composed of eminent persons, selected by mutual agreement between debtors and creditors, and the latter committing themselves to considering debt cancellation where debt is deemed unpayable.

The Ministers welcomed the new international climate for addressing Africa's debt crisis, and said the proposals from UNCTAD and other high-level UN groupings, as well as recent reviews by the Bretton Woods Institutions showed a new realism "that much of the debt is unpayable, that it is a significant impediment to Africa's growth," and that current initiatives, particularly the HIPC, were "far too slow, far too selective in coverage and too conditional."

A major paradox, and contradictory reality of the times, Ricupero said was the recent reminder from the World Bank of official development assistance being at its lowest levels since 1981, allegedly because of budgetary constraints, while at the same time, the war on Yugoslavia (according to some estimates) might well end up costing $22 billion or more, including the resettlement of refugees, but without considering the cost of reconstruction of destroyed infrastructure. The total cost of the Gulf war, he noted, was $102 billion.

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