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Year 2005 No. 81, June 20, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

Britain’s “Aid” and “Debt Relief” Facilitating Enslavement and Domination of World’s Poorest Countries

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Britain’s “Aid” and “Debt Relief” Facilitating Enslavement and Domination of World’s Poorest Countries

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Britain’s “Aid” and “Debt Relief” Facilitating Enslavement and Domination of World’s Poorest Countries

The government’s attitude towards “aid” for Africa was starkly revealed this week in two unrelated incidents. Number one: the Minister for Africa and former General-Secretary of the Labour Party, Lord Triesman, delivered a speech to the parliament of Tanzania in which he arrogantly spelt out the “conditionalities” associated with “aid”. Number two: in Addis Abba, the capital of Ethiopia, Hilary Benn, the Minister for Overseas Development, announced that a £20 million increase in “aid” to Ethiopia would be suspended following rioting in the Ethiopian capital in which over 30 people were killed.

            Both incidents occurred just days after the G8 countries, led by Britain, reached an agreement that they claimed would provide “debt relief” to some of the world’s poorest countries. They illustrate the fact that the government uses “aid”, just as it uses “debt relief”, as a means to impose its aims and values on the governments and peoples of even the poorest countries in the world. It is interesting to note that both the President of Tanzania and the Prime Minister of Ethiopia are prominent members of Blair’s Commission for Africa. Hilary Benn announced that he was putting the increase in direct budget assistance to Ethiopia on hold during a one-day visit to that country this week. However, both Benn’s visit and the government’s action seem to have been largely designed to demonstrate the influence it wields in Africa ahead of the G8 Summit as well as to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to pursue “good governance”.

            Lord Triesman’s speech to the Tanzanian parliament was clearly intended for an African as well as a Tanzanian audience ahead of the G8 Summit at Gleneagles next month, in which matters relating to Africa will be high on the agenda. The Minister for Africa made it clear that despite the fact that Tanzania has already subjected itself to the World Bank/IMF Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative and Poverty Reduction Strategy and carried “a vigorous programme of economic reform” still more needs to be done, in particular to attract “foreign investment”.   According to Lord Triesman, such investment is “the engine of sustainable growth, jobs and skills”. In order to attract such investment, the Minster for Africa argued, Tanzania must further open up its economy and carry out further “reforms” in “public financial management, in the legal sector and in public services at national and local levels”.

            It is difficult to comprehend how the economy of Tanzania, one of the poorest countries in the world, can be more open to external control and exploitation than it already is. The World Bank/IMF programmes actually force countries to carry out privatisation, reduce spending on social programmes such as health and education, and open up their economies to external capital. Indeed it might be argued that Tanzania’s poverty is precisely a consequence of such opening up both during the period of British colonial rule and since formal independence. Even today Britain remains Tanzania’s major trading partner and investor and the major provider of “aid” to a country that has nearly 50% of its budget funded by external sources. One of the leading British investor’s is CDC, the government’s own “instrument” for investing capital in the private sector in “developing countries”.

            Tanzania is also one of the countries that is due to receive “debt relief” as a result of the plan to cancel some $40 billion of debt owed to the IMF, World Bank and other major lenders. Of course, Tanzania and other African countries have repaid this amount many times over in interest payments in the last 40 years. But it should also be pointed out that this is only a fraction of Africa’s total debt and that this debt was forced on Africa as legacy of colonial rule and a vital means to continue the exploitation of the continent. But even this “debt relief” is also accompanied with “conditionalities” which force poorer counties to continue to follow the enslaving policies and adopt the economic and political systems of the big powers.

            What is presented as humanitarian concern and philanthropy needs to be seen for what it is. Both “aid” and “debt relief” continue to serve the interests of Britain and the other big powers and are a means to continue the enslavement of the world’s poorest countries.

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