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Lift the Debt Burden on Poor Countries

September 21st, 2009

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Without debt relief, the developing world has little hope of economic progress, say the Rev. John Welch* and Ruth Messinger*.

The two members of Jubilee USA argue for debt cancellation in the poorest countries in a compelling article published in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on the eve of the G-20, the international financial summit being hosted by President Obama.

According to the two religious leaders, “The global financial crisis, which has devastated families in Western Pennsylvania and nationwide, is having an even more dire impact in the developing world. Throughout sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the global South, children who should be in school are instead hospitalized with diseases that could have been prevented with simple vaccinations. But the money many of these countries should be spending on basic education and health care is instead being funneled to multilateral banks in the form of steep debt payments.

The affected countries didn’t land in this predicament just by their own irresponsibility. If anything, they are paying the price for recklessness on Wall Street. They have often been victimized by bankers who aggressively made loans to brutal and corrupt governments, knowing full well that those loans would not benefit the people. In many cases, soaring interest rates and compound interest make it impossible for these countries to eradicate debt even after scrupulously making their payments time and again.”

Read the article in its entirety.

*Rev. John Welch, vice president for student services and dean of students at the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, is president of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (www.piin.org). Ruth Messinger is president of the American Jewish World Service (www.ajws.org).

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