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International Debt Forgiveness: Applying an Ancient Principle to a Modern Problem

 article about International Debt Forgiveness:  Applying an Ancient Principle to a Modern Problem
2007-02-24 03:31:58



If I had a dime for every time I heard someone refer to under-developed countries as the "Third World," I would be a rich woman.  It is rather ironic that we use such an outdated title, given that two-thirds of the world lives in dire poverty.  That title helps keep us ignorant of the majority of the world's suffering.  It gives us the false impression that only a third of the world is poor.


Why is it that a quarter of the world possesses the majority of the riches?  It must not be forgotten that Western nations 'raped' the rest of the world, causing them to sink into a cycle of poverty.   Do you remember learning about people like Columbus and Cortez, who pillaged Latin America?  Remember the Triangular Trade, where many West Africans were captured and sold into slavery? 


What can the Western World do to help ease the suffering of the Two/Thirds World? Perhaps it can take a lesson from an ancient practice found in the Hebrew Bible called the Year of Jubilee. 


The Year of Jubilee followed seven successive Sabbath years, or seven times seven, or the 50th year.  The Sabbath Year occurred every seven years.  During the Sabbath Year the land was not to be tilled.  The only produce was what the land naturally produced.  Anyone, including the property owner, could pick the produce, but only for immediate use.  Produce could not be accumulated.  The purpose of the Sabbath Year was to give the land a rest, and provide for poor people.


The Year of Jubilee began by ram's horns being blown throughout the land as an announcement. The goal of the Year of Jubilee was to end poverty, provide an affordable way for original land owners to buy back property, and free slaves.  It was a time when injustices were righted, a fresh start was given to the poor, and equality was restored.


During the Year of Jubilee three things occurred:  land was not tilled (as in the Sabbath Year), land reverted back to its original owner, and slaves were freed.  The original property owner could buy his land back if he could afford the price, which was according to the number of harvests reaped between the sale of land and the Year of Jubilee.  If the original owner could not afford to purchase the land, his next of kin could do it for him.


In 2000 the Roman Catholic Church began a campaign called Jubilee 2000, which called for an end to world debt.  It was based on the Hebrew Year of Jubilee.  The campaign occurred in over 40 countries, and sought to wipe out the then $90 billion dollar debt owed by poor nations.  At the end of the year, Jubilee 2000 was disbanded, and Jubilee Debt Campaign was formed, which continued to call for the cancellation of debts owed by poor nations.


One of the aims of this year's campaign, Make Poverty History, is the cancellation of debts.  Make Poverty History is a British and Irish coalition of charities, religious groups, campaigning groups, trade unions, and celebrities who are trying to increase awareness of global poverty in Britain and Ireland.  Live 8 concerts, eight simultaneous concerts around the world on July 13 (the 20 year anniversary of Live Aid), grew out of the Make Poverty History campaign. 


The American version of Make Poverty History is the ONE Campaign.  The goals of the ONE Campaign are to end dire poverty, hunger, and AIDS.  One particular goal is to have President George Bush give at least 0.3% of the United States' budget, $30 billion, to foreign aid, and eventually increase it to the U.N. goal of 0.7%.  In 2004 the U.S. only spent $7 billion on foreign aid.


International Debt Forgiveness

It is imperative for the economic growth of the Two/Thirds World that Western countries forgive the debts of the respective poorer nations.  Many nations, if not most, in the Two-Thirds World have incurred huge debts with Western nations.  Often the loans were given years ago, and the funds borrowed were wasted, and not spent on helping the population.  Some countries cannot even pay the interest on their debts, and others simply cannot pay the loans at all. 


The G-8 debt relief plan would wipe out $40 billion for eighteen of the world's poorest countries.  There are two main problems with that plan.  First, it only focuses on eighteen nations, and not the entire Two-Thirds World.  Second, it calls for respective countries to remove obstacles to both domestic & foreign investments (privatization), which can be considered another form of colonialism.


The total cancellation of debts incurred by under-developed nations would remove the burden of crushing debts from poor countries.  It will help stimulate their economies without the undue burden of forced privatization.  Granted, private investments would eventually stimulate the economy of a poor country, but to get to the point where there is a free market, debt forgiveness must happen first.  Complete debt forgiveness would also give indebted countries opportunities to invest in the social welfare of their people.  



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