Little Progress on Debt Relief for Poor Nations

G7 Meeting Fails to Produce New Ideas

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PALMERMO, Sicily, FEB. 18, 2001 ( The Group of Seven rich countries failed to come up with any new ideas on debt relief for poor countries at a weekend meeting, drawing fire from campaigners who had hoped for progress, Reuters reported.

In a communiqué released after their meeting Saturday, G7 finance ministers and central bank chiefs said the group had brought 22 of the world´s poorest countries into the so-called Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative last year.

They also said they would work to ensure those countries benefited fully from HIPC over the coming years, which would eventually see two-thirds of their debts written off.

But there was no response to calls by campaigners to include new countries in the HIPC process or to call in independent auditors to the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to check their ability to extend their share of debt write-offs.

“The G7 are on dangerous ground,´´ said Jamie Drummond, spokesman for Drop the Debt — the successor organization of the famous Jubilee 2000 campaign group which disbanded at the end of last year. “Unless they move quickly, they are not going to build the foundations of a new deal on debt at Genoa,´´ he said, referring to a full G8 (G7 plus Russia) summit in July.

Drop the Debt and other groups are pushing for the Genoa summit to give a fresh boost to debt relief, which they say risks being forgotten now that many people in rich countries think, wrongly, that all poor country debt has been canceled.

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