Jubilee Debt Campaign Birmingham

Posts Tagged ‘Gordon Brown

The launch of the Jubilee Debt Campaign multifaith project has  been very eventfu.l Over the last month we have gained some very useful media coverage l  and entirely unexpected “spin-off”.

One newspaper article led to the reader sending cheque for £100.00 and very encouraging comments about  coming to the Birmingham Human Chain in 1998 and the time she had given in the past to her activism. But now at 97 she had decided to support JDC by giving money rather than demonstrating or lobbying!

In a telephone call from a retired journalist I  was amused to hear him say that in 1997 when we first met and talked about the “Human chain” he  was convinced no more than a few dozen people would turn out on cup final day and that  I was completely mad to even try to get debt cancellation for the world poorest countries. It was rather good to have proved at least one journalist wrong in that 70,000 came  to Birmingham and that jubilee  has acheived so much in the last twelve years.but some would perhaps agree with him that I am completely mad!

The multifaith project attracted new  web-based radio audiences for us in that on December 1st Trans World Radio broadcast half an hour programme entitled “Drop the Debt”.Speaking along side Gordon Brown Stephen Rand and selection of celebs was certainly a new experience for me.The  radio venture  was successful in that more programmes about JDC are planned for the New Year on Vulture funds.

Then out of the blue an Anglo – french film crew arrived on the doorstep to interview Salma Hamid and I about how our faith links to Global Poverty..It will be interesting to see if the film commissioned by an Australian venture actually comes to completion and if Birmingham campaigners get past the cutting room.

What ever the out come it’s all been good fun and the news that we have almost raised £2,000  from private individuals towards the  multifaith project is  encouraging. Donations have ranged from £5.00 to £500.00.

If you can help with a donation  do get in touch  we can provide Gift Aid envelops to maximise your contribution if you are a tax payer. Perhaps you can also provide names of any trusts or charities which might support our work? It good that the word is spreading in so many media outlets and we are getting this positive” spin-off”

Seasons Greetings to you all.

Audrey Miller

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This blog is by Nick Dearden, of Jubilee Debt Campaign

Recent events in Iceland may have completed that countries transformation from free market, credit-fuelled billionaire playground to champion underdog. The Icelandic Parliament’s offer to the UK and Dutch governments earlier this week that it will pay back its debts but only at a level it can afford, could provide an invaluable model for how indebted nations can start putting the needs of their people ahead of the desires of the global financial markets.

Iceland has become synonymous with the financial crisis after nearly a decade of drinking neo-liberal kool aid. Around 2000 Iceland went on a deregulation and privatisation binge, totally reforming its financial sector, dropping bank reserve requirements, raising interest rates sharply, sucking in foreign capital and encouraging massive borrowing. It lived the dream being promoted by most European capitals at the time. So many millionaires flew into tiny Rejavik that a local politician demanded limitations on planes coming into the country.

Such a highly indebted financial system was, unsurprisingly, an early victim of the credit crunch, even though Iceland was not invested in sub-prime loans. Their situation was certainly not helped by Gordon Brown – proponent of the very policies Iceland had slavishly followed – who designated the country a terrorist state last October in order to seize Iceland’s banking assets in the UK. His attempt to derive popularity amongst investors at home neatly side-stepped the failure of UK authorities to adequately regulate UK investment.

The enormous anger that followed in Iceland toppled the government, and since then has radically reduced support in Iceland for the country’s membership of the EU. Most recently ordinary citizens have pushed members of the ruling coalition and opposition parties into opposing the enormous repayments being demanded by the British and Dutch governments.

That is the background to the decision earlier in the week of the Icelandic Parliament – the Althing –that it would repay its debts, but only at a rate it could afford. That is defined as spending no more than 4% growth in GDP to repay UK debts (and 2% for Dutch debts).

This decision, if implemented, is historical. Michael Hudson, Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, has said that it is the first agreement “since the 1920s to subordinate foreign debt to the country’s ability to pay”. Hudson is referring to the 1920s debate that raged over capping Germany’s First World War reparations repayments. Keynes argued at the time that insisting on debt repayments beyond a level which also allowed the country to grow would inevitably mean forcing Germany to sell its assets or alternatively to borrow more money. He predicted the subsequent  anger and discontent caused in Germany, which led straight into World War II.

But the situation which Iceland is trying to deal with is one which has faced scores of developing countries for decades – countries with less responsibility for the current mess than Iceland. Many countries still have to pay unreasonable levels of debt by selling off assets, skewing their economy towards unsustainable export trade and foregoing their right to development.

Iceland is correct to assert that states in debt have rights that trump the rights of creditors to bleed their economies dry. When companies and municipalities become insolvent, they are protected by work-out laws – but no such work-out mechanism exists when it comes to countries.

If limiting Iceland’s debt repayments is right, the same must apply, to an even greater extent, to poorer countries. Lebanon spends over 50% of government expenditure in servicing debts, Uruguay 32% and the Philippines 31%. These states top a much longer list of developing countries who understand from experience the injustice of indebtedness better than any European government.

Iceland has led the way in standing up for the rights of debtors. It may be followed by a range of indebted Eastern European countries who are also currently having their economic policies dictated to them by the International Monetary Fund.

Jubilee Debt Campaign is a part of the Put People First platform.

For more background details read Michael Hudson’s article here.

This blog has been written by Christian activist  John Johansen – Berg who draws on his experience in campaigning against the evil of apartheid and how  this can link with  the Jubilee Debt Campaign of today. John  also tells of his own  action in India  and call for fundamental reform of financial institutions.

The experience of South Africa and the international movement in breaking the chains of oppression is a useful reminder that bringing about change may take decades and require huge efforts by many people, but the gain in a just and fair economic system is worth the effort.

The Jubilee Campaign was another step in the right direction in calling for the cancellation of the debts of the poorest nations. It is based on the biblical concept of Jubilee, forgiveness of debts, and brought in the note of celebration by circling the representatives of the international market in its meeting in Birmingham. It achieved great success in a short period of time. The weakness of this strategy is in the danger that the process begins again; new loans can be made with rising interest rates; the flow of wealth from poorer to richer countries has a nasty habit of reappearing.

Fundamental change is needed in the system. It is as basic as loving your neighbour, even your enemies, as Jesus taught. India is an example of loans made with strings attached. In the case of Indian agriculture it was a demand that farmers changed from the self-sustaining agriculture, which had proved successful for generations, to the production of cash crops. Companies in richer nations benefited by sales of patented seeds and fertiliser; the small farmer for whom the change was inappropriate ended in debt and this resulted in the suicide of tens of thousands of farmers. The response to this has to be the reform of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. It has yet to be achieved though Gordon Brown says that he is committed to such reform. It needs an international alliance and a level of commitment akin to that which liberated the people of Southern Africa. My response was to initiate VIA (Village India Aid) which helps practically with support of projects which benefit the poorest sections of society and also makes representations for fundamental changes in the international economic system. Not months, but years, perhaps even decades of combined effort are needed to “Redeem the Markets” but the prize is well worth the effort. I suggest that this is the background for our shared concerns today and that it calls each one of us to urgent action.

John Johansen-Berg.  May 2009.

It’s a bad day for some again, we see people losing jobs, homes, and their faith in the money system. Fuel and food prices are exploding everywhere but the poorest are suffering most

None more so than in developing countries have been facing their own debt crisis for more than thirty years, because of the same problems that have created poverty here – enormous debt burdens, which have led to loss of jobs , and will soon lead to our government cuts in welfare spending and public services. In the midst of huge riches we are becoming all to aware of poverty on our door step.

Now more than ever it is important that we stand in solidarity with the world’s poorest peoples, I just hope Gordon Brown will remember his many promises in the past to cancel the debts of the worlds poorest countries. When he attends the important international meeting this coming week.

Debt Campaigners protested outside the mansion House Dinner this week will bells and clocks stressing he should respond to the “Wake Call” for those in around the globe not just wealthy bankers.

You can sign the petition calling on Gordon Brown to call time on greed at http://www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/greed


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This is the blog of the local group of the UK campaign calling for cancellation of international Debt.

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