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US Jubilee Act rewards past African leaders reckless behavior


Lagos, Nigeria (July 7, 2008): Ahead of the G-8 meeting in Japan, we theundersigned write to announce our opposition to H.R. 2634, Jubilee Act forResponsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2007.


Foreign aid is a key component to impoverished nations' attempts toachieve economic growth and development. Unconditional debt relief, ascalled for in the Jubilee Act perpetuates poverty rather than alleviating it. In fact, it rewards past reckless behavior. It is akin to wiping out aperson's credit card debt then allowing them to continue to use it, withno penalties.


There are many tools available to low income countries attempting to easetheir debt burden. However, countries that choose to rely solely on debt relief and loan forgiveness will find themselves stuck in an endless cycle of debt accumulation followed by debt relief. While well intentioned, legislation like the Jubilee Act only contributes to this cycle.


Africa has received more aid than any other region in the world in thelast fifty years, yet remains the poorest region in the world. To breakthis cycle, debt relief must be reserved for countries that meet pre-determined conditions, including a democratic government, commitment to transparency, accounting of how aid money is utilized and commitment to eliminating corruption.


The Jubilee Act includes no such provisions. In 2006, the Republic ofCongo, a country with 5 percent annual growth and billions in oil revenue,was granted Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) status and received approximately $3 billion in debt relief. Yet its President, Denis Sassou-Nguesso spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in hotel bills, paying for most of it in cash. Still, the country remains eligible for debt relief under the Jubilee Act.


Providing debt relief to countries which refuse to adopt political and economic reforms only worsens irresponsible spending and corruption. In1998 Ethiopia's total external debt exceeded $10 billion, mostly to theWorld Bank and US and European creditors. The next year the country wasspending $1 million per day on a war with neighbor Eritrea, while theaverage Ethiopian lived on less than $1 per day. Under the HIPC initiativeEthiopia's external debt was halved, yet only four years later its debtwas back over $7 billion.


The U.S. government sponsors numerous aid programs, such as the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which require countries to meet certain conditionsto qualify for debt relief. Passage of the Jubilee Act would underminethese efforts, providing unconditional debt relief to countries withoutholding governments accountable for actions that lead to theirindebtedness in the first place.


On its surface, the Jubilee Act may appear to have the best interests ofaid candidates in mind. However, history has shown that unconditional debtrelief will lead to the same problems resurfacing in the future. It isimportant that this legislation not pass in its current state.


If the U.S. government truly wants to alleviate poverty and fosterdevelopment in low income nations, it must require candidates to upholddemocratic principles, establish rule of law, increase transparency, adoptfree and open markets and eliminate corruption in order to be eligible fordebt relief.


We encourage you to support economic growth and development in Africa andwe encourage you to help low income countries reduce their reliance onforeign aid. A significant step in helping these countries must be taken by voting against HR 2634 if no additional conditions are attached.


  • Sincerely, Prof. George Ayittey, American University, Washington DC

  • Thompson Ayodele, Initiative for Public Policy Analysis, Nigeria

  • Leon Louw, Free Market Foundation of Southern Africa, South Africa

  • Richard Tren, Africa Fighting Malaria, USA

  • Afari Kwando, Citizens Network for Democracy and Economic Development, Ghana

  • Linda Whetstone, London, UK

  • Rejoice Ngwenya, Harare, Zimbabwe

  • Julian Morris, Buckingham University, UK

  • Andrew Mwenda, The Independent, Kampala, Uganda

  • Philip Stevens, Campaign for Fighting Diseases, London, UK

  • Franklin Cudjoe, Imani Ghana, Accra, Ghana

  • Warren Coates, Bethesda, MD, USA




US Jubilee Act rewards past African leaders reckless behavior


Lagos, Nigeria, July 7, Ghanadot -  Ahead of the G-8 meeting in Japan, we theundersigned write to announce our opposition to H.R. 2634, Jubilee Act forResponsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2007. ......  More 


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