In year 2000, the Church celebrated the Jubilee Year in the context of an escalating global debt crisis, mindful of the terrible price that the world's poor were paying for debts contracted by their governments without their knowledge, much less their consent. They are still paying, with blood, sweat and tears, seven years after Jubilee, despite the global movement against this debt burden.
Jubilee USA3 has already stated, "don't owe, won't pay!" But despite the defiance, in real life, the poor are still paying for debts of the rich, and will continue to do so as long as their leaders and governments bow down before dictates of powerful multinationals and multilateral agencies including the IMF, WB and WTO. This is one almost overwhelming obstacle that the global poor have to overcome to free themselves from immoral and illegal debts.
The Church's social teachings consider us all as members of the human community that have the right to human dignity and common good. But at the same time the Church "takes sides" by proclaiming its preferential option for the poor, especially vulnerable sectors such as women, children, and the elderly. This is especially true regarding the issue of debt. The overwhelming majority of people in poor countries suffer when so much of their resources are automatically channeled to debt servicing, instead of being used to fight poverty, ensure the delivery of basic services and generate more jobs, to mention only a few much needed programs.
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For the poorest of the poor, debt was and still is literally a matter of life and death. Of all continents, Africa is probably the worst hit by the combined blows of poverty and debt, two problems that feed off each other. Africa managed to score a few victories in improving the people's health and lives, only to slide back due to structural adjustment programs imposed by the IMF-WB as a condition to approval of more loans for poor countries.
"While many African countries succeeded in improving their health care systems in the first decades after independence, the intervention of the World Bank and IMF reversed this progress. In Kenya, for example, child mortality was reduced by almost 50% in the first two decades after independence in 1963. Across sub-Saharan Africa, the first decades after independence saw significant increases in life expectancy, from an average of 44 years to more than 50 years.
In the 1980s and 1990s, however, African governments had to cede control over their economic decision-making in order to qualify for World Bank and IMF loans. The conditions attached to these loans undid much of the progress achieved in public health. The policies dictated by the World Bank and IMF exacerbated poverty, providing fertile ground for the spread of HIV/AIDS and other infectious
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diseasesConsequently, during the past two decades, the life expectancy of Africans has dropped by 15 years." 4
No Relief from Debt Relief
Many people pinned their hopes on debt relief, specifically on the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, which was set up for countries whose debts were quadruple their yearly export earnings that were usually channeled to