Sunday, July 02, 2006

Bono says rich countries aren't keeping promises

Last year, leaders of the world's eight richest countries (the G8 ) wanted to make poverty history, by wiping debt, doubling aid and fixing trade ( apparently in that order) in the world's poorest countries, partly in response to post Live 8 lobbying.

A year later the G8 has kept promises to cancel the debts of 18 African countries, but, according to U2 frontman Bono, has not kept promises in aid and particularly trade. Bono's DATA lobby group has released a report which measures progress to date on debt, aid and trade in Africa. Athough debt has been cancelled, this was not without conditions imposed by the International Monetary Fund ( IMF).

For example, Zambia was unable to employ 9000 qualified teachers because of a public sector wage freeze imposed by the IMF as a condition of receiving debt cancellation. Now post cancellation, Zambia can emply more teachers. Yet cancellation needs trade assistance.The World Trade Organisation has opposed proposals from Zambia and other African countries to safeguard their farmers against sudden surges of cheap agricultural imports. This is despite the G8 vowing to make trade work for development. .

The G8 promised an extra $48 billion in aid a year by 2010. But double-counting means that that debt relief is included in aid figures, which is perhaps why the extra aid is not explicitly written into G8 country budgets. The G8 promised that poor countries should be allowed to decide their own economic strategies, but poor countries are still being forced to open up their markets,are struggling to get a good deal, are squeezed out of talks and their demands dismissed. Farm subsidies and other trade barriers in larger western markets hurt African producers, and their share of world trade has been steadily declining.

Fairer trade rules will make poverty history more so than aid or debt relief, yet rich countries have cancelled debt, done a little bit on aid and have gone backwards on trade. Its about time rich governments kept their promises, rather than having rock stars like Bono and Bob Geldof ensuring they do.

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