UN talks on fair lending blocked by UK ministers

By staff writers
April 26, 2012

The UK government is reported to be blocking attempts at the United Nations (UN) to discuss how governments can lend and borrow responsibly. The news comes from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Doha, Qatar.

The situation was described as “appalling” by the Jubilee Debt Campaign, who said it was part of attempts by the UK government and others to marginalise the role of the UN in global economic reform.

Over recent years, UNCTAD - the UN body that focuses on global economic reforms to benefit development - has been working on principles of how governments should behave when borrowing and lending money.

At the talks in Doha, the UK government have been insisting that reference to these principles is removed from UNCTAD's mandate, potentially removing UNCTAD’s ability to work on them further with member states.

Tim Jones of the Jubilee Debt Campaign said, "The UK has consistently tried to marginalise UN bodies in global economic reform, despite the fact the UNCTAD has a much better record than the IMF of predicting financial crises and advocating policies which could assist the building of a fairer world.”

UNCTAD’s draft principles of responsible lending include making lenders responsible for making a realistic assessment of the borrower’s ability to repay a loan; requiring lenders to perform their own investigation into the likely effects of a project they are funding; and ensuring meaningful oversight of state borrowing.

“Excessive and irresponsible debt has caused crises across the world for the last thirty years,” said Tim Jones.

He added, "The UK government has a history of grossly irresponsible lending, from giving loans to the Zimbabwean police to buy British-made Land Rovers in the late 1990s, to loans for Saddam Hussain to buy British weapons in the 1980s. For the last few years, the UK government has been lending already heavily indebted countries money to cope with the impacts of climate change caused by others.”


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