Credit where it is due: debt relief

The news today is that a deal has been reached on 100% multilateral debt relief. (There has been consensus for some time on this objective; the difficulty has been reaching an agreement on whether and how the multilateral institutions would be replenished for the cost of the relief). If so, then we should give credit to George Bush for shifting his Government’s policy; and to Tony Blair who visited the US last week to argue for the US to do more Africa, which seems to have contribute to this progress. The progress towards debt relief, more aid, and a stepping up the fight against infectious diseases is very welcome. However, it seems that relatively little progress is being made towards a package of trade access measures for developing countries – it seems that many G8 countries are procrastinating, trying to push this off to the WTO negotiations. As we welcome progress on debt relief, we should not lose sight of the enormous importance of trade liberalisation for the prosperity of developing countries – probably even more important, in the long run, than increased aid.

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