Congresswoman Waters Jubilee Act

April 21, 2004

Congressmwoman Waters announced plans to introduce the Jubilee Act to cancel poor countries' IMF debts

Washington, D.C. -- Today, Rep. Maxine Waters (CA-35) announced plans to introduce the Justice and Understanding By IMF Loan Elimination and Equity Act or the JUBILEE Act. The JUBILEE Act will completely cancel the debts that poor countries owe to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). She made the announcement in a statement that was read to an enthusiastic crowd at an "Unhappy Birthday" rally, organized by the Jubilee USA Network to demand that the IMF and the World Bank cancel poor country debts. The Congresswoman's statement follows:

    "I would like to thank Marie Clarke, with the Jubilee USA Network, for inviting me to this most Unhappy Birthday Party for the IMF and the World Bank, and I would like to thank all of you in the worldwide Jubilee movement for your continuous and steadfast support for debt cancellation for the world's poorest countries.

    "In the year 1999, the worldwide Jubilee movement reminded us that the Lord instructed the people of Ancient Israel to celebrate a Jubilee -- or a Year of the Lord -- every 50 years. During a Jubilee Year, debts were forgiven. The Jubilee movement brought this simple Biblical concept of debt forgiveness into the complicated worlds of politics and finance.

    "Countless clergy, members of religious orders, dedicated church members and other activists explained to Members of Congress how debt payments took food from the mouths of the poor and caused 19,000 children to die every day in the world's poorest countries. The Jubilee movement opened our eyes to the fact that countries such as Zambia, Tanzania and Nicaragua spent more on debt service payments than they spent on health and education combined. Groups such as Catholic Relief Services, the Episcopal Church, the Africa Faith and Justice Network and the American Friends Service Committee brought a moral authority to political debates and helped us to understand that canceling the debts of the world's poorest countries was the right thing to do."

    "In response to this unprecedented movement, the United States and other bilateral creditors agreed to cancel virtually all of the bilateral debts owed by poor countries. Unfortunately, the IMF and the World Bank refused to provide their fair share of debt relief, and many poor countries are still struggling under the burden of their debts. Other poor countries, such as Nigeria, the Philippines and South Africa received no debt relief at all.

    "Many poor countries are being forced to pay debts that resulted from loans to corrupt and brutal dictators, which used the money to enrich themselves or repress their populations. Nigeria's debt was incurred under the dictatorship of Sani Abacha. The Philippines' debt was incurred by Ferdinand Marcos, and South Africa's debt is the result of decades of white minority rule under the brutal system of apartheid. The people of these countries did not receive any benefits from these loans, and it is unjust and immoral to expect them to pay back the debts.

    "I am planning to introduce a bill to require the IMF to cancel all of the debts owed by heavily indebted poor countries. My legislation, the Justice and Understanding By IMF Loan Elimination and Equity Act or the JUBILEE Act, will bring the Biblical concepts of justice, understanding and equity to the IMF. The JUBILEE Act will provide debt cancellation to all of the poor countries included in the IMF's debt relief program as well as Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa and several other poor countries that were excluded by the IMF.

    "This year, the IMF celebrates its sixtieth birthday. The JUBILEE Act is my birthday gift for the IMF!

    "President George W. Bush often reminds us of the importance that religion plays in his life. I urge him today to provide the leadership necessary to persuade the IMF and the World Bank to do the right thing and forgive the debts of the poor. I urge President Bush to bring the Biblical principles of justice and charity into the boardrooms of these powerful institutions."

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