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Experts say draft NY law is to ensure fair debt relief for Caribbean countries

Published:Friday | June 9, 2023 | 8:52 AM
In 2021 these nations spent an average of 27.5 per cent of their budgets on interest and debt payments, or more than the amount spent on education, health and social protection combined.

GENEVA, CMC – Two experts appointed by the United Nations' Human Rights Council say that a draft New York State law is a “golden opportunity” to ensure fair debt relief for Caribbean and other developing countries.

The experts said that the proposed legislation could provide “effective and fair relief” for developing countries crippled by debt.

Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Olivier de Schutter,and Attiya Waris, Independent Expert on foreign debt and human rights, have welcomed the proposed New York Taxpayer and International Debt Crises Prevention Act, which is currently under discussion.

They urged lawmakers to adopt the draft bill, which compels private creditors to participate in international debt relief efforts on similar terms as public lenders.

The UN said New York State is home to New York City, the financial capital of the world and the experts said at least 60 per cent of developing countries debt is held by private creditors, and that New York law governs 52 per cent of this global debt.

“If taxpayers contribute to public debt relief, private creditors should be obliged to participate on the same terms. Debt relief must be effective and fair for all, and its costs must be shared by private creditors as well.”

The experts said proposed legislation means distressed low and middle-income countries would be able to protect the economic, social and cultural rights of their citizens instead of paying “unsustainable” debt loads.

In 2021, they said these nations spent an average of 27.5 per cent of their budgets on interest and debt payments, or more than the amount spent on education, health and social protection combined.

“This bill is a golden opportunity that will allow countries in debt distress to shift their budgetary priorities and, by providing for better living conditions, reduce the risks for investors in these countries and create better opportunities,” the experts said.

They stressed that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the energy crisis, rising food prices and inflation, have led to an increase in unsustainable debt for many countries, with a particular impact on developing nations.

“Many poor people can barely afford food and minimum dietary needs for health. It is precisely in times of crisis that States must be able to ensure social protection and food security for all people in their country,” they said.

They underscored that “everyone has an interest in countries being able to invest in social protection, healthcare, housing, education and food security, instead of devoting more and more of their limited budgets to debt repayments.”

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