A Joint Submission to the World Bank and IMF Review of HIPC and Debt Sustainability | Heavily Indebted Poor Countries | Millennium Development Goals

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In this paper, a series of agencies propose that the World Bank and IMF and their shareholders radically overhaul the way in which debt relief is calculated and provided. The over-arching objective of debt relief must be to help mobilise the finances needed to achieve the MDGs. If HIPC countries are to meet these targets the principle of a 100% debt cancellation option needs to be agreed. Similarly, a broad set of economic and human development objectives must be applied when deciding what level of debt repayments a country can afford to make.
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    A Joint Submission to the World Bank and IMF Review of HIPC and Debt Sustainability August 2002 EURODAD European Network on Debt and Development    Executive Summary At the World Bank and IMF annual meetings in September 2002, it is understood the two institutions will be discussing the progress of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and a number of proposals that have been put forward for its reform. CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam GB and EURODAD believe that this review must, as agreed at the UN Financing for development Conference in Monterrey in March, include an assessment of the HIPC Initiative’s role in helping finance the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are internationally agreed development targets including the aim to halve poverty by 2015. The HIPC Initiative has already freed up resources from debt servicing for 26 low-income countries, enabling pro poor expenditure and some  progress towards the MDGs. However, these socio-economic gains under HIPC are by no means universal and, where they exist, they are limited and precarious. The HIPC countries, as with all low-income countries, continue to face development challenges such as the spread of HIV/AIDS, low levels of literacy and poor nutrition, equipped with only scarce and highly vulnerable domestic resources. The Monterrey consensus re-affirmed that developing countries would need to supplement these domestic resources. Yet, despite the international commitment to achieving the MDGs, donors have not pledged the sufficient additional aid resources that are required to meet these goals. Most low-income countries have limited sources of capital available to them. They are not able to attract substantial private sector investment, and global trade rules limit their ability to develop their markets. Debt relief is therefore an important additional source of finance, and for the reasons that this paper outlines, it could be one of the most efficient and effective forms of resource transfer for the poorest countries. However, the current system of debt relief, the enhanced HIPC Initiative, is not working effectively. Some countries will soon be left with unsustainable debts once again. The way in which debt relief is calculated for each country needs to be reviewed and alternatives adopted. The reliance on a debt-to-export ratio to calculate debt relief packages, based on World Bank and IMF projections, is flawed. Not only are some countries spending more on debt payments after they receive debt relief, but they are overshooting the World Bank and IMF’s own definitions of debt sustainability. In this paper, we propose that the World Bank and IMF and their shareholders radically overhaul the way in which debt relief is calculated and provided. The over-arching objective of debt relief must be to help mobilise the finances needed to achieve the MDGs. If HIPC countries are to meet these targets the principle of a 100% debt cancellation option needs to be agreed. Similarly, a  broad set of economic and human development objectives must be applied when deciding what level of debt repayments a country can afford to make. The G8 Africa Action Plan for Africa states, “No country genuinely committed to poverty reduction, good governance and economic reform will be denied the chance to achieve the Millennium Development Goals through lack of finance.” Our aim is to see debt relief as a mechanism centred on human development that provides support to low-income countries to achieve the MDGs. We are asking the World Bank and IMF, and their shareholders, to make this aim a reality. 2    Introduction. “Future reviews of debt sustainability should also bear in mind the impact of debt relief on progress towards the achievement of the development goals contained in the Millennium Declaration.”   Monterrey Consensus of the International Conference on Financing for Development - March 2002 At their 2002 Spring Meetings, the World Bank and the IMF agreed to “discuss the issue of debt sustainability and, consequently, financing and policy implications, at the next [Annual] meeting.” 1  With other members of the official donor community, they signed up to the explicit commitment made in the Monterrey Consensus paper that future reviews of debt sustainability should also include an analysis of the part that debt relief plays in making progress towards achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). As international development agencies, we have become increasingly alarmed at the weaknesses  becoming evident in the HIPC Initiative and the widespread doubts regarding its ability to achieve the promised objective of a “robust exit from the burden of unsustainable debts.” In  particular, we are concerned that levels of debt repayment after HIPC initiative debt relief are far too high, undermining the necessary investment needed to accelerate poverty reduction. In the absence of radical reform, HIPC will join a long list of failed poverty reduction initiatives. This  paper by CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam GB and Eurodad, is our joint submission assessing the HIPC Initiative’s role in helping achieve the MDGs, and of the World Bank and IMF’s review of the HIPC Initiative’s debt sustainability analysis. What HIPC is delivering. Preliminary analysis of the HIPC Initiative’s achievements shows that in some eligible countries debt relief has resulted in demonstrable social and economic gains. For 2001-2003, the HIPC Initiative reduces the average debt service paid by HIPC graduates by about one third. Among these countries, social expenditures are expected to increase in 2000-2003 from the levels in 1998-1999 2 . Where countries have had resources freed up from debt servicing, the proceeds have resulted in some new development programmes and economic progress:  Mozambique has introduced a free immunisation programme for children;  User fees for primary education have been abolished in Uganda, Malawi and Tanzania, as have user fees in rural areas of Benin;  Mali, Mozambique and Senegal are due to increase spending on HIV/AIDS prevention;  Uganda and Mozambique, among the early beneficiaries of debt relief and enhanced aid flows, have consistently sustained annual growth rates over 5%.  The requirement to engage in a consultation process in designing Poverty Reduction Strategies has helped to increase the potential for poor people to influence national resource allocation processes. These examples demonstrate that debt relief can generate additional resources that contribute to furthering human development. They also highlight the human cost of transferring limited public resources from governments in poor countries to creditors. Today, over half of the countries 1  Development Committee communiqué April 2002 2  “Sustainable Debt: What has HIPC Delivered?” Lucia Hanmer and Ruth Shelton August 2001 3  receiving debt relief still spend more than 15% of their government revenues on debt servicing, diverting precious resources away from poverty reduction. HIPC is on a precipice. The socio-economic gains made as a result of enhanced debt relief are by no means universal and, where they exist, they are limited and precarious. Low-income countries face development challenges equipped with only scarce and highly vulnerable resources. The fragile economic and human conditions prevalent in most HIPCs suggest that the benefits derived from limited amounts of debt relief are likely to be small or easily reversed.  In Africa, the scourge of HIV/AIDS will leave over a million children without teachers. In Mozambique alone, the Government estimate that 17% of their children will die of AIDS by the end of this decade. 3  The World Bank estimates that combating HIV/AIDS will cost low-income countries at least 1 to 2 per cent of GDP 4 . Yet thirteen of the 26 countries receiving debt relief are still spending more on debt than on public health. For example, Zambia has almost one million people affected by HIV/AIDS, but is spending 30 per cent more on debt servicing than on health. 5    For almost all HIPCs, private sector flows will not make up for chronic resource deficits. The marginalisation of the African continent from global trade is equivalent to a loss of 21 per cent of regional GDP or $68 billion per annum 6 .  For Africa in 2001, adjusting for inflation, non-fuel commodities are at one half the annual average value for the period 1979-81. The World Bank and IMF estimate 8-10 of the HIPC countries most affected by the slump in commodity prices will have higher debt to export ratios by completion point than the 150% target set by HIPC itself.  The HIPCs continue to rely on external official assistance, particularly in the form of grants, to fund their domestic spending and balance of payments gaps. Despite optimistic  projections in decision point documents, new HIPCs are not receiving the levels of external financing anticipated that will in turn help them achieve the MDGs. 7  In sum, the development gains made with the small additional resources provided by the enhanced HIPC Initiative will be swept away without additional financing. We believe that this year’s World Bank and IMF stocktaking of the HIPC framework needs a clear analysis and strengthening of the relationship between debt relief and the overall official development assistance envelope. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the poorest countries. “  No country genuinely committed to poverty reduction, good governance and economic reform will be denied the chance to achieve the Millennium Goals through lack of finance.” G8 Action Plan for Africa - 2002 OECD donors and the World Bank and IMF have signed up to the objective of meeting the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). While the global target of reducing the number of  people living in absolute poverty may well be met because of progress being made in South Asia 3  Stephen Lewis UNAIDS June 2002 4   Can Africa Reclaim the 21  st   Century  – World Bank 2000 p. 236 5  Debt Relief and the HIV/AIDS Crisis in Africa – Oxfam July 2002 6   Can Africa Claim the 21  st   Century p20  – World Bank 2000 7  The Enhanced HIPC Initiative and the Achievement of Long-Term External Debt Sustainability – April 15 2002 4
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