[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Chinese loans to Africa worry imperial financiers
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Mon Jun 19 06:33:45 BST 2006
(A new yellow peril emerges, even though the bogus 'debt relief' is
really to blame: 'eight of the first 18 countries to see their
written down -- including Uganda, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ethiopia -- are
back in debt trouble')
The Wall Street Journal
June 12, 2006
G-8 Warns China About Loans To Poorest Nations
Officials Attempt To Deter Debt Buildup After 2005 Write-Off
By MICHAEL M. PHILLIPS
June 12, 2006; Page A3
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- The U.S. and its allies are worried that
China and other up-and-coming economic powers may be overloading the
world's poorest nations with high-priced debt.
At a meeting here during the weekend, finance ministers from the
Group of Eight leading nations warned China, India, Brazil and South
Korea not to promote their exports to poor countries by pushing trade
credits the borrowers can ill-afford.
The G-8 ministers find the situation especially troubling because
just last year they engineered a write-off of as much as $60 billion
in World Bank, International Monetary Fund and other loans for as
many as 42 of the world's poorest nations. Now, G-8 officials fear
some of those same countries may be slipping back into debt trouble.
"We deem it essential to prevent the buildup of unsustainable debt in
low-income countries, particularly in those that receive debt
relief," the G-8 finance ministers said Saturday after a meeting that
covered a range of economic issues, from soaring oil prices to the
dangers of protectionism, in preparation for next month's G-8
leaders' summit here. The G-8 consists of the U.S., Russia, U.K.,
France, Japan, Germany, Italy and Canada.
The situation marks a twist on the debt crises of the past 30 years.
In the 1970s and 1980s, many middle-income Latin American nations
found themselves in debt distress largely because they borrowed
heavily from developed-world commercial banks and government
export-credit agencies. At the same time, the very poorest nations in
Africa and elsewhere ran up huge debts to rich nations, the World
Bank and the IMF. Beginning in the 1990s, a coalition of activists,
charities and religious groups successfully lobbied wealthy-nation
governments to begin forgiving those obligations.
The difference this time is that poor countries are becoming indebted
to their fellow developing nations, albeit to the better-off ones.
The G-8 ministers invited their counterparts from China, South Korea,
India and Brazil -- which are all emerging as big lenders through
their official export-credit services -- to St. Petersburg to discuss
their concerns. "After last year's historic debt-reduction agreement,
it is essential that we all work on making sure that low-income
countries do not take on unsustainable debt and therefore recreate
the lend-and-forgive cycle we have worked so hard to end," U.S.
Treasury Secretary John Snow said afterward in a written statement.
The G-8's main focus is on China, which has been particularly
aggressive in lending to the nations of sub-Saharan Africa. Chinese
President Hu Jintao announced last year that China would, through
2008, provide $10 billion in preferential loans and export credits to
help poor nations import Chinese products to improve their
Chinese authorities, for instance, lent Sudan $800 million last year,
according to the U.S. Treasury. Beijing is reportedly considering
financing dam projects in Ghana and Mozambique, both beneficiaries of
debt relief, according to a senior U.S. official. The U.S. also
thinks Angola and other oil producers are potential recipients of
Chinese loans. "I'm not saying countries can't take on new debt, but
it has to be done very carefully," said the senior U.S. official.
"What we're trying to do is call attention to the problem so that
four years from now they aren't back in [debt] trouble."
An adviser to Chinese Finance Minister Jin Renqing declined to
comment on the G-8 concerns.
There is no publicly available data on how much financing the big
developing nations provide. But a recent World Bank study found that
eight of the first 18 countries to see their multilateral loans
written down -- including Uganda, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ethiopia --
are back in debt trouble, some of them because they are again
borrowing more than they can afford. The World Bank's board of
directors is expected to take up the issue at a meeting next month.
World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz told reporters on the sidelines
of the G-8 meeting that creditor nations should "not pursue lending
in such a way that these [poor] countries become heavily indebted
Russia, the G-8 head this year, raised the issue at a time when,
flush with oil revenue, it is itself emerging as a donor to
less-well-off nations. Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin announced
shortly before the meetings began that Russia would forgive nearly
$700 million in debts owed by African nations.
The G-8 left open the question of how they can convince the emerging
lenders to limit their commercial-rate loans to poor nations.
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