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Friday, 28 July, 2000, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
G8 summit: expensive talking shop?
This year's G8 summit, where the world's richest nations will gather in Japan to discuss writing off third world debt, is costing $500m - roughly the same as Sierre Leone's annual income.
Last year it was promised that $100bn of debt owed by the world's 40 poorest nations would be wiped out. But debt campaigners predict that only $15bn of debt will have been wiped out by the end of the year.
UK International Development Secretary Clare Short insists progress has been made, but urged that poor countries must improve the way they run themselves if they want to benefit from any long-term debt relief.
Do you think there should be a fixed timetable for dropping the debt? Will poor countries plagued by conflict, corrupt governments and natural disasters ever be able to turn the tables on their financial crises? Is the G8 summit just an expensive talking shop full of empty promises?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
If the richer continue to be more rich, year after year, there will be a very horrible world war. Choose your camp...
Moses Dotsey Aklorbortu, Ghana
Yes, I do believe that Third World debt has to be written off immediately. While the poorest countries continue to be shackled with the servicing these debts their situation is comparable with slavery.
I've read through people's comments with a certain amount of distress. It's interesting that some of the most vociferous AGAINST debt relief are from the USA, one of the richest and most self-indulgent nations of the world. While I understand the concerns that debt relief goes to the poor, not to governments (which might waste the money... on lavish summits or suchlike), this argument ignores the reality in which many people live. When those who are so against debt relief have lived in similar circumstances to some of the poorest in the world, ONLY THEN do they have a right to be so sanctimonious. No one is saying that the debt should be given to corrupt regimes with no provisos at all, but to use the fear of this as a reason for inaction is an abdication of responsibility.
Mr. Rogers wants to know if you can say "Hollow symbolism."
Somebody else says "What we have here is a failure to communicate."
But if they actually do any of it, it might be nice.
To claim that capitalism is to blame for deaths in the Third World is erroneous. The poverty that exists there is largely a result of the actions of governments, whether it be in pursuing internecine conflicts, official corruption or grossly inefficient economic policies (i.e. Communism). Without debt cancellation many countries will never be able to recover, but this must be done in a way that ensures that the poor, and not their rulers, will genuinely benefit.
I was indignant to hear of the opulence of the G8 summit. It is ironic that an organisation constructed to financially aid the developing world should unnecessarily spend so much money on a summit. Admittedly Japan is an affluent nation but nothing can excuse such an asinine waste of money. President Clinton should have stayed at Camp David to arbitrate the Middle-East peace talks, which are at a paramount stage.
If these countries hadn't been used as political playthings for hundreds of years by the West, they wouldn't need the money that they borrowed and more importantly they wouldn't need the weapons
Vishal Vashisht, UK
If the poorest countries were able to pay back the debts they owed, they wouldn't borrow.
Imagine the G8 didn't lend and isolated the majority of the population of the world, then the poorest countries stop buying arms that are necessary to maintain their legitimate states, and the production process in the richest countries decreases, therefore, dropping the debts is investment, not waste of money.
In response to Paul Yardley's "why does Britain get invited to the G8?" It may have someything to do with the fact that we have the 4th largest economy in the world, and might therefore have a contribution to make. However, why worry about the facts when it is much less taxing to have a swipe at any pet hate you may have.
Let's forget about the debts and waive them then we can start over and do it again. That is the way it goes and the idea you are going to collect on a debt is stupid. That is why corporations file petitions for bankruptcy and end up never paying back the investors. It is nothing but a racket by some to get money back with interest.
Capitalism kills, yes. But corruption, nepotism and non-accountability have enslaved future generations in the developing countries to a life of poverty and never ending debt. Maybe the G8 leaders should consider establishing a code of conduct that would perhaps oblige the developing countries' leaders to behave responsibly.
The G8 is an anachronism. Why does Europe get four seats at the table when it is supposedly a single economic unit? Why is Canada there? And why is Russia there? Certainly it would be better to bring the top economic players of the world together, which must include India and Brazil but not Russia and Canada. Like the UN, these things make some countries seem far more important than they really are. It is scandalous that $750MM has been spent on this. I would have preferred to see the taxpayers' money going into education or infrastructure than a large photo/ dining opportunity.
I was disgusted by the way the Japanese authorities used money as if it was water. In the light of the subject debate, you think Japan and the rest of the great powers attending would have had the common sense to see the object was to cancel debt of the poorest countries, not use it in extravagance to be used as an aid for Japan to be accepted within the 'great powers' circle.
How did the debt in the emerging nations' debts come about? We have often lent money to buy arms that we are selling! Now we are giving aid, which does not even cover interest payments. We build up food mountains and yet people are starving. Our leaders spend several hundred million pounds on a lavish conference (I agree that they need to meet but why do they have to spend so much) - most of the money spent could have been used to help relieve debt.
I think that the G8 should re-invest all debt and interest payments back into infrastructure development of the paying country. This way, the G8 can achieve it's objective of developing the economies of the debtor countries. I am also sure that taxpayers of the G8 countries will find this an acceptable solution.
David Atocha, Texas, U.S.A.
Just like an individual, a country needs to get its credit cards under control (i.e. international debt) before dashing out to buy more "things".
Why can't all eight go to a coffee shop and discuss the problems
of the world over tea and biscuits? It'd be a lot cheaper, and get the
same results: none.
It's utterly ludicrous that the G7 leaders are discussing how to implement IT programmes in third world countries ahead of debt relief. Talk about putting the cart before the horse!
If the West wishes to give money to the
poor of the Third World, we could not invent a "worse" system than giving money
to corrupt and inefficient governments to spend on bribes, weapons and Swiss
Bank accounts, and then forgiving the debt.
Work hard, win wars, work hard, lose wars, work hard, make money. If others don't like the way we do it, fine! I for one feel NO guilt for all my hard work.
It is silly to give any money to countries that do not understand such basic
concepts as fiscal responsibility and social welfare. If you borrow money
it is your duty to pay it back, whether you are a person or a country.
If we drop the debt, then we should NEVER give any of these countries aid again.
My bank manager wouldn't do this for me, and I wouldn't expect him too. Why should thses countries be treated any different?
G8 leaders live in a privileged environment. They seem to be totally out of touch with the struggle for survival which constitutes the 'lifestyle' of much of the developing world. Electricity supplies are often unreliable, clean water is frequently unavailable, and literacy is far from the norm.
How can the G8 leaders offer Internet connections?
It's akin to 'give them cake' and a depressing sign of the cynical heartlessness of the leaders of the developed world.
Alan Tyne, UK
I agree with Colin Wright that these countries, especially the UK, plundered our nations for centuries and it is only right that there be a cancellation of the relatively paltry amount of debt owed. On the other hand, the nations who are debt-ridden should make every effort to regain the stature of yesteryears.
Maire Kelly, Ireland
I think it is not as expensive as the summits of poor countries, where rulers bring a planeload and hire limousines to arrange honeymoons for their loyalists. Therefore, whenever, we talk about debt relief, we should first establish a system that those rulers should no more be there to spend the money of poor people. Therefore, debt relief should be conditional to a strong system which can protect the rights of unfortunate people.
G. Neudorf, Canada
Ken Livingstone was wrong when he said capitalism kills on average around 20 million people a year; he was making a vast understatement. I would estimate the numbers at around 60 to 100 million at least. A more accurate estimate could be made if you totalled up the number of deaths worldwide caused by poverty, inadequate public services, road accidents and even such things as asthma caused by traffic fumes.
As many of the kooky left-wing comments in this section demonstrate, the G8 summit is good for at least one thing: it allows these silly anti-trade/capitalism protestors to blow off a little steam. As a good liberal, I like to keep as much political distance as possible between myself and the Loony Left. Quoting Ken Livingstone? Please. A silly quote from a very silly man.
Only the national pride is significant for the people of Japan as well as the media here. Few understand the situation of African countries, because the Japanese can not imagine what is actually going on.
And who pays for losses if debt is forgiven? The bank's stockholders or the government's taxpayers I think. In either case it is us.
Yes, debilitating debts should be forgiven. But where is our say in the loans in the first place? After all, we will supply the default losses one way or another.
Ubong Effeh, UK(Nigerian)
With respect to Russia, I am weary of hearing about Russian debt. Why does the western media dwell on Russia's debt (total of about $150bln) and somehow neglects to mention that more than $200bln is owed to Russia by other nations outside of former Soviet block. If Russia can forgive at least 60-65% of money owed by Her debtors, I am sure other developed countries can follow a good example shown by Great Britain and forgive all 100%.
Third world countries are ruled by military dictators, developing countries are ruled by macho man dictators and developed nations are ruled by financial dictators. G8 summit is here to see that all dictators are happy.
It's typical that Tony Blair is using the G8 summit to promote a caring image of himself and New Labour when he knows in reality exactly what the agenda is concerning the timetable to reduce third world debt. With or without the G8 summit the UK could make a stand and drop their debts if Mr Blair felt that strongly about it but as usual it's all "spin". He would be terrified of having to put his money where his mouth is!
Hamad Sheikh, USA
I think it is a good idea for rich countries to forgive debts of those poorer nations - America might forgive Britain her debts.
It shows utter ignorance and extremely anti-social political views for any person, politician or G8 leader, to even consider the possibility that world debt should not be paid off as soon as possible. How can we possibly aim for world peace, unity and both spiritual and material prosperity for humanity if leaders of the world's richest countries do not see the importance of equality and community over capitalism and individualism?
T. K. Tanizar, USA
Great idea for cancelling their debt, but Brazil had its debt cancelled in the early 80's, and look what happened to it.
There is no point freeing the "poor" countries from their debt unless the repayments they are saving goes into their infrastructure. If the repayment savings merely go to fight another war or build yet another presidential palace, we in the "rich" West would be virtually guilty of genocide. In any event, when have the "rich" Western nations, which have national debts running to billions if not trillions of dollars, tried to get their debts written off?
We do not need to make the G8 a kind of god. They have a lot of their own problems and they are terrible debtors also. However, they have been able to pretend that they are not debtors. What should be done is for these creditors to stop taking interest, which is called "debt servicing" from the poor countries.
The fact that the G8 nations did not take the opportunity to cancel all of the debt of developing nations casts an air of shame upon the entire G8 summit.
As one of the poorest EU countries, why does Britain even get invited? I suspect it is to effectively double the US 'vote'. If it is to represent the Commonwealth, why not rotate the chair amongst its members?
Colin Wright, UK
While one would like to see some debt relief to poor countries, it is important that it is attached to conditions regarding political and social reform. Throwing more money at chronically corrupt and financially incompetent governments would be insane. As for Aneurin quoting Ken Livingston about capitalism, perhaps he ought to read about Stalin and communism; capitalism and free markets work, my friend; communism and socialism clearly and demonstrably do not.
I agree with the points raised by some of the participants. This "debt relief" is just a licence to the corrupt rulers of the developing world to loot more foreign aid. What the G-8 should do instead is enforce strict accountability for every dollar of aid that it gives. That, more than loan write-offs, will ensure that the aid is spent usefully and not for the personal luxuries of the Mobutus and Suhartos of this world.
G8 meeting is just so much "yada, yada, yada". The suits are spending a fortune for a few pictures to show back home.
Matt, Netherlands, ex UK
Rather than writing off the debts of African countries which only helps corrupt leaders why not donate drugs and medical resources to fight aids. This would directly benefit the people and give hope of rebuilding the lost generation. Until this huge problem is tackled debt is meaningless. Parents will continue to bury their sons and daughters who will leave behind orphans with a bleak economic and social outlook.
How have these Third World countries got into debt in the first place? By waging war, that's how. So now we're supposed to write off this debt because someone's realised they've used all their cash for arms and have nothing left? Maybe we should have fought these wars for them, as happily giving them the cash for it amounts to the same thing.
Neil Hastings, USA
Unfortunately the loans were largely wasted by politicians (nothing new there!) rather than invested in the things which would really help the third world - business, technology and education. Writing it off would be expensive for us, but it wouldn't necessarily make the third world any better off. Their governments could just take what's saved and waste that instead.
I realise that the quantity of money owed by the third world is large,
but how can we begin to quantify the amount taken by us from
the commonwealth during the days of Empire?
I don't want to sound like a "bleeding heart liberal" here, but can we (The British)
be gentlemanly about all this?
Writing off the debt doesn't make it disappear. It will be paid for by the rest of us in the first world in the form of tax and inflation. We should be aware of that. I'd be happy to take the hit if our own governments would drop a similar amount of their wasteful and expensive programmes to compensate. Then we could all be better off.
John Brownlee, England
Why should the debt not be paid back? If I take out a loan the bank would chase me to the ends of the earth for repayment. Why should these countries be any different? If they can't afford to pay it back we shouldn't give it to them.
I wonder if Bono and his cronies have donated millions from their own coffers to the cause or opened their houses to look after them. I think not.
T.J. Cassidy, USA
Debt relief should not be restricted to the relationship between poor and rich governments only. If we are attaching stringent conditions on debt relief (that poor governments straighten up their acts), then what will happen to the poor people of those nations whose leaders refuse to comply with the set conditions? Is it fair to punish the poor citizens for their leaders' wrong doings?
Dropping debt won't work. The high standards of living enjoyed by the richest third of the world's population are already causing environmental havoc. If the standards of living were substantially raised in the poorest countries, the planet would soon become a toxic wasteland. Strict population controls across all countries - rich and poor - are the only way conditions can be improved without catastrophic environmental effects.
I wondered how long it would be before the G8 countries reneged on their promise to write off Third World debt.
Who can now stand up and say that Ken Livingstone was wrong when he said that Capitalism kills more people than Hitler?
James Richardson, UK
Rather than cancelling debt, exploitation of the poor nations by the rich nations should stop immediately.
21 Jul 00 | Business
Debt shadow over G8 summit
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