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Wednesday, 11 September, 2002, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Mali gets help with debts
Cotton harvest
Mali's cotton crop is expected to be lower than usual
The French president has promised his country will cancel 40% of the debts owed to it by Mali, one of the world's poorest countries, his spokesman has said.

President Jacques Chirac made the pledge during a meeting with Mali's leader, President Amadou Toumani Toure, in Paris.

The bilateral debt cancellation will wipe out about 15% of Mali's total foreign debts.

It will take effect at the end of this year under the auspices of an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme to help poor nations.

Development hopes

France will register the debt with the IMF's Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) scheme.

Mali is believed to owe about 520m euros ($504m; 326m) in foreign debt altogether.


We don't even make T-shirts

President Amadou Toumani Toure

Its debt to France amounts to about 200m euros, so France's promise to cancel 40% of this will leave 120m euros.

Annual income per head in Mali is about $240 and the average life expectancy of men is only 45 years.

The economy relies heavily on cotton farming, but poor rainfall has reduced the crop this year.

Mali is the second biggest cotton producer in Africa after Egypt.

Diversification

The Malian president was on his first visit to France since he was elected in May 2002.

During the visit he said he hoped to start a textile industry to shift the economy away from exporting raw materials to exporting finished products.

"We don't even make T-shirts," he said.

The HICP scheme aims to reward countries which are trying to introduce economic reforms by lifting their debt burden.

See also:

20 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
13 Jun 02 | Africa
25 Apr 02 | Business
26 Apr 02 | Business
12 Apr 02 | Business
12 Apr 02 | Business
02 Apr 02 | South Asia
01 Jun 01 | Business
30 Jul 02 | Business
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