U.S. Bishops Hail Debt Plan for Poor Nations

World Bank Decision Seen as a Move of Solidarity

WASHINGTON, D.C., APRIL 2, 2006 (Zenit.org).- A U.S. bishops’ conference official welcomed the World Bank’s decision to approve debt cancellation for an initial 17 countries effective July 1.

“This important step will mean that poor countries will not have to wait over a year for debt cancellation once they have qualified,” said Bishop Thomas Wenski, chairman of the U.S. episcopate’s Committee on International Policy.

“This step will relieve the burdens on some of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters around the world,” he said.

The Florida bishop also welcomed the World Bank Executive Board’s agreement to cancel poor countries’ debt in the least time possible.

The debt agreement will cancel 100% of 17 impoverished countries’ debts to the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and African Development Bank in 2006.

In a statement posted Friday on the U.S. episcopate’s Web site, Bishop Wenski called the decision “a concrete application of Pope John Paul II’s call for the ‘globalization of solidarity.’ The poverty that traps so great a portion of our human family shocks us.”

Completion point

The plan for implementation of debt cancellation originally under consideration at the World Bank Board would have required impoverished countries to keep making non-refundable debt payments to the World Bank, even after reaching the “completion point” when they become eligible for debt cancellation.

But in the plan that was finally approved, impoverished countries that complete mandatory economic reforms and reach “completion point” in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank’s debt relief program will see their debts canceled within three months of qualifying.

This will enable a country like Malawi, which is estimated to reach completion point this June, to see debt cancellation to the World Bank on July 1, rather having to wait until July 2007.

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