Cancellation of Pakistan's $55 billion debt to save peopleCitizens urged to sign up petition
ISLAMABAD, September 2, 2010: As Pakistan struggles to rescue families from floodwaters and fend off disease and starvation before winter sets in, it is scrambling to pay out a shocking 30% of its annual budget revenues to foreign creditors on debt incurred by previous dictatorships.
If Pakistan is obliged to make these debt payments, rescue efforts for tens of millions of people whose lives have been devastated could be crippled. Earlier this year, the world community and citizens persuaded creditor governments to drop Haiti's debt after it was devastated by an earthquake -- and now they could do the same for Pakistan. To start with, Pakistan's citizens, civil society, media and academia need to come on the forefront to support this international petition signing campaign by Avaaz.org.
The Infochange News and Features Network (INFN), a pro-people news agency, provides space on its website (www.infochangepakistan.net) to sign the petition or citizens can sign this on (http://www.avaaz.org/en/pakistan_cancel_the_debt/?vl).
"Together we have donated a stunning $1 million which is already making a difference to desperate Pakistani flood victims. But if we win this debt campaign, we can make billions available for relief and reconstruction. Let's make sure the international community does the right thing. So, sign the urgent petition and share this message with all your friends and family," said the Avaaz team.Right now international financial institutions and donor countries are assessing how to assist Pakistan. Let's come together and call for life-saving debt relief for the people of Pakistan. Sign the petition to stop these stifling debt payments and let Pakistan rebuild, and it will be delivered directly to ministers and senior officials attending the annual meetings of the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Pakistan's staggering $55 billion debt burden comes from decades of reckless spending by its autocratic ruling elites, matched by irresponsible lending on the part of Western creditors and banks. But 60% of Pakistanis still live below the poverty line. It is a tragic irony that these tens of millions of Pakistanis whose lives have been destroyed in these floods and who have received little or no benefit from these massive loans, are the ones now footing the bill of such unjust debt.In the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake, Hurricane Mitch in Central America, and the Asian tsunami, the world responded by suspending and cancelling debt payments from affected countries. Pakistan's debt is too vast to cancel in one swoop, but a two-year moratorium with accountability mechanisms to ensure that the released funds are spent on relief is a first step and now is the moment to push for it.