A Golden Opportunity

CAMBRIDGE: The rich countries meeting in June at the G-7 Economic Summit in Cologne had some interesting things to declare about their relations with the poor countries. First, they acknowledged -- without ever quite admitting it -- that their earlier attempts to reduce developing-country debt had failed. Therefore they signaled the start of a new program, immediately dubbed the Cologne Initiative, to reduce further the debt burden of the so-called Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs). Second, they instructed the IMF and the World Bank to re-think their development strategies, in order to put more focus on social problems, particularly health and education.

One could of course be quite cynical about both announcements. After all, it has been clear to most objective observers for many years that the rich countries had no realistic strategy for reducing the unpayable debts of the poor countries, yet such critics were told to be patient, that everything was okay. Moreover, only the finance ministers of the G-7 could possibly have believed that the IMF and World Bank were doing a good job in the poorest countries. In truth, their record is often disastrous, or simply irrelevant. The IMF in particular doesn't have a strategy for long-term economic development, even though the United States has assigned the IMF the lead role in economic development in dozens of poor countries.

Another reason for cynicism is that the G-7 didn't move mainly on their own initiative, but rather in response to a growing cry of international civil society for action on behalf of the world's poorest. The credit for the Cologne Initiative goes strongly to the worldwide movement known as Jubilee 2000, a grass-roots movement based on the biblical concept of Jubilee, in which unpayable debts should be forgiven in order to allow a debtor to have a fresh start in life. The Jubilee 2000 movement has adherents in all parts of the world, including Pope John Paul II, rock stars such as Bono of the Irish group U2, and non-governmental organizations representing many religions and professions.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/D4sILVX;
  1. Patrick Kovarik/Getty Images

    The Summit of Climate Hopes

    Presidents, prime ministers, and policymakers gather in Paris today for the One Planet Summit. But with no senior US representative attending, is the 2015 Paris climate agreement still viable?

  2. Trump greets his supporters The Washington Post/Getty Images

    Populist Plutocracy and the Future of America

    • In the first year of his presidency, Donald Trump has consistently sold out the blue-collar, socially conservative whites who brought him to power, while pursuing policies to enrich his fellow plutocrats. 

    • Sooner or later, Trump's core supporters will wake up to this fact, so it is worth asking how far he might go to keep them on his side.
  3. Agents are bidding on at the auction of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Salvator Mundi' Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

    The Man Who Didn’t Save the World

    A Saudi prince has been revealed to be the buyer of Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi," for which he spent $450.3 million. Had he given the money to the poor, as the subject of the painting instructed another rich man, he could have restored eyesight to nine million people, or enabled 13 million families to grow 50% more food.

  4.  An inside view of the 'AknRobotics' Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

    Two Myths About Automation

    While many people believe that technological progress and job destruction are accelerating dramatically, there is no evidence of either trend. In reality, total factor productivity, the best summary measure of the pace of technical change, has been stagnating since 2005 in the US and across the advanced-country world.

  5. A student shows a combo pictures of three dictators, Austrian born Hitler, Castro and Stalin with Viktor Orban Attila Kisbenedek/Getty Images

    The Hungarian Government’s Failed Campaign of Lies

    The Hungarian government has released the results of its "national consultation" on what it calls the "Soros Plan" to flood the country with Muslim migrants and refugees. But no such plan exists, only a taxpayer-funded propaganda campaign to help a corrupt administration deflect attention from its failure to fulfill Hungarians’ aspirations.

  6. Project Syndicate

    DEBATE: Should the Eurozone Impose Fiscal Union?

    French President Emmanuel Macron wants European leaders to appoint a eurozone finance minister as a way to ensure the single currency's long-term viability. But would it work, and, more fundamentally, is it necessary?

  7. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now