Briton calls for Africa debt forgiveness

/ Source: The Associated Press

British Treasury chief Gordon Brown on Monday called on wealthy nations and international institutions to write off Africa’s debt, saying debts incurred by past generations are keeping the continent poor.

Brown wants rich nations to set a timetable for increasing African development aid and is urging more countries to sign on to the International Finance Facility — an initiative intended to double rich countries’ help for Africa from the current level of $50 billion a year.

Speaking at the opening of a meeting between 19 African finance ministers and their British and Canadian counterparts, Brown said the extra money would go to helping poor nations meet the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals of halving poverty by 2015, boosting the fight against AIDS and educating some 100 million children not now in school.

Those goals are far from being met. At current rates, enrolling 100 million more children in Africa’s schools would not happen until 2130 and halving poverty until 2150, he said.

“African people know that it has been necessary to be patient, but 150 years is too long to ask any peoples to wait for justice,” he said.

“Justice promised will forever be justice denied unless we remove from this generation the burden of debt incurred by past generations,” he said.

Brown said he has been in discussions with finance ministers of creditor nations and International Monetary Fund officials to use gold reserves to write off poor countries’ debts to the IMF.

Brown has called for half a trillion dollars in new aid for poor nations over the next 10 years, likening the initiative to the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe after World War II. In exchange, poor nations would have to combat corruption, introduce transparency in government and improve administrative efficiency.

South African news media said former President Nelson Mandela agreed during a meeting Sunday with Brown to back the British official’s aid and debt initiative.