Documents newly uncovered by the Jubilee Debt Campaign reveal that the Government's Department for Business is still demanding money from the Egyptian government in payment for loans made to former dictator Hosni Mubarak to allow him to buy Western arms.
Egypt owes £100 million to the UK Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD), nicknamed ‘the Department for Dodgy Deals’ by its critics, because of its support for arms, aviation and fossil fuels.
The ECGD claim that they no longer have information about what the loans were made for. But the Jubilee Debt Campaign has discovered neglected documents in the National Archives, revealing that loans for arms were made to the Mubarak regime, and his predecessor Sadat, in the 1980s and 1970s. Weapons bought include Rapier and Swingfire missiles, Lynx helicopters and a tank factory.
Tim Jones, policy officer of the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said:
“It is unjustifiable for the UK government to demand that the people of Egypt continue paying off loans which arose from the UK backing arms sales to Mubarak’s oppressive regime.”
“It’s time the coalition government put into action its fine words about supporting democracy in Egypt by coming clean on the origins of Egypt’s debt, and cancelling those debts that arose from exports which were damaging to Egypt’s people,” he added.
The Liberal Democrats have a yet-to-be-implemented policy to conduct an audit of all debts owed to ECGD and rule invalid “any past lending that was recklessly given to dictators known not to be committed to spend the loans on development.”
The news comes the week after deputy prime minister Nick Clegg promised £5 million of British money to help Egypt. He did not mention that the country is paying more than twice this amount to the UK every year in debt repayments; £12 million a year, say critics.
The Jubilee Debt Campaign reiterated its call for Egypt’s £100 million to be audited, so that loans used to fuel repression and corruption can be cancelled. Monday will see a lobby of Parliament and a protest outside the Department for Business, where Vince Cable, who oversees ECGD is based.
Egyptian campaigners in Cairo will also hold a conference on 31st October launching a campaign to audit and drop Egypt’s debt.
Dina Makram-Ebeid from the Popular Campaign to Drop Egypt's Debt commented: "We believe that Egypt's debt is Mubarak's debt. It is not the Egyptian people's. Egyptians never had a say in the borrowing that was being made in their name, let alone borrowing to buy arms."
She added: "If the UK government is in earnest in its support for democracy in post-revolutionary Egypt, it should be telling the Egyptian people what they are paying for and not demanding that they carry the burden of repaying illegitimate loans. Dropping Egypt's debt is fundamental to achieving the goals of 'bread, freedom and human dignity' that the people revolted for early this year."
Copies of documents from the National Archives are available by contacting Jubilee Debt Campaign. www.jubileedebtcampaign.org.uk/
Ekklesia is an affiliate of the JDC