A group of 300 lawmakers from two dozen countries have signed a letter sent on Wednesday, May 13 to the heads of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), calling on these institutions to forgive the respective debt of the world’s poorest countries, and to step up their financial support for these nations, in response to the global COVID-19 crisis.
“The temporary suspension and deferment of debt [announced last month by the G-20] will not be sufficient to help these countries fully prioritize the prompt and sustainable management of the crisis at hand,” the coalition of lawmakers wrote, urging the heads of the World Bank and IMF to instead “take strong leadership to provide extensive debt relief and financial assistance for all impoverished nations most at risk of the devastating human costs and the long-lasting economic injuries of COVID-19.” Among the 300 lawmakers who signed the letter are all five Hadash Members of the Knesset: Ayman Odeh, Aida Touma-Sliman, Ofer Cassif, Youssef Jabareen and Jaber Asaqlaa.
US Senator Bernie Sanders, who along with Congressperson Ilhan Omar, initiated the letter, has said: “What this crisis shows us is that we have got to act as a global community—we truly are all in this together. That means protecting the most vulnerable amongst us. In the face of a horrific pandemic and a worldwide recession, we cannot allow poor countries to dedicate money that should be going towards protecting the health and safety of their people to pay off unsustainable debts. We cannot allow these countries to be deprived of the resources they need to purchase food, medicine, protective gear, and medical equipment. The steps that our international coalition of lawmakers is proposing are not radical. It is the very least that these financial institutions should do to prevent an unimaginable increase in poverty, hunger, and disease that threatens hundreds of millions of people.”
Representative Omar, Sander’s partner in the initiative, has said: “This is a global economic and public health crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetimes. We as a global community must seize this opportunity to get relief to those who are suffering by cancelling debt for nations who cannot afford it. As the largest contributor to the IMF and the leading force behind the establishment of the World Bank, the United States should take the lead in this effort.”
The UN predicts that the coronavirus crisis could increase the number of persons living in poverty around the world by as much as half a billion, 8% of the world’s total human population. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that the number of people pushed to the brink of starvation due to the global economic crisis could double, from 135 million to 265 million, as a result of the pandemic. Meanwhile, developing countries hold roughly $11 trillion in external debt, with $3.9 trillion of debt service due this year. Sixty-four countries currently devote more of their budgets to debt servicing than to health care.
Among the other notable lawmakers who signed the letter are: UK Member of Parliament Jeremy Corbyn; French member of the National Assembly Jean-Luc Mélénchon; Mexican senate majority leader, Ricardo Monreal; Green Party MP in New Zealand, Golriz Ghahraman; leader of the Australian Greens, Adam Bandt; Member of the Spanish Congress of Deputies, Joan Josep Nuet Pujals; Member of Greece’s Hellenic Parliament, Yanis Varoufakis; Colombian Senator Gustavo Petro; and Member of Chile’s Honorable Chamber of Deputies, Maya Fernandez Allende, who is the granddaughter of Salvador Allende, Chile’s socialist president from 1970-1973, who was deposed and died in a military coup orchestrated by the American CIA at the direction of the Nixon-Kissenger US Administration, September 11, 1973.
MK Touma-Sliman who, along with her Hadash colleagues, was among the 300 signatories of the letter has said: “International solidarity is the answer to the capitalist and health crisis. The economic effect of the pandemic on poorer nations is catastrophic, and without debt relief and aid, they might not make it. We, Hadash MKs, are proud to join 300 lawmakers from around the globe in demanding a fairer system.”
Download (as a PDF file) the letter authored by Berny Sanders and Ilhan Omar that was sent, after it had been signed by 300 lawmakers from two dozen countries, on Wednesday, May 13, to the President of the World Bank, David Malpass, and to the Managing Director of the IMF, Kristalina Georgieva: