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Monday, September 27, 1999 Published at 06:42 GMT 07:42 UK


Lifeline for world's destitute

Around 40 countries are classed as ''heavily indebted''

A new financial framework has been agreed to relieve the debt burden of some of the world's poorest countries.

World Debt
The main policy-making committees of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank have agreed to provide greater relief to more nations more quickly.

The scheme will be partly financed by an unusual IMF plan to sell and buy back up to 14 million ounces of its own gold reserves.

Around 40 countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia have been identified as "heavily indebted".

The BBC's Andrew Walker: ''The IMF will sell some of its gold reserves to fund debt relief''
British Finance Minister Gordon Brown, who chaired the unprecedented meeting in Washington, said the new alliance against poverty would bring help to some of them within weeks.

"We should see today as an historic day," Mr Brown added.

He said the action gave hope ''that we can enter the 21st Century with the problems of poverty and the problems of debt tackled''.

IMF under scrutiny
  • Reforming the IMF
  • IMF vs. Private sector
  • Russia: IMF's Biggest Failure
  • Currency cooperation
  • Some 30,000 young children die every day of preventable diseases and 200 million people are living in avoidable poverty.

    The new initiative will erase tens of billions of dollars from the poorest countries' debts, enabling them to commit resources to poverty, health and education programmes.

    Under the IMF scheme, the fund will sell gold to central banks in countries that are due to make loan repayments.

    Banking debts

    The gold will then be transferred back to the IMF as repayments.

    The gold in the IMF's accounts is valued at about one-fifth of the current market price.

    It is not allowed to revalue the gold, but the scheme will allow it to make use of some of the increased value for debt relief.

    With the IMF's contribution to the exercise resolved, the outstanding problem is the debts owed to the World Bank and a number of regional development banks.

    They need contributions from the rich countries, but bank officials say that what has been offered so far is not enough.

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