Brownís billions highlight rich-poor dilemma -27/01/05
Following his support for the church-backed Make Poverty History campaign, and his call at a United Nations meeting yesterday for the rich nations to "take the final historic step in delivering full debt relief for the debt-burdened countries", British Chancellor Gordon Brown has unveiled a five-point plan for the developing world. And he backed it with a £2.4 billion package to boost the health and education of children in the poorest countries. However, Brownís commitment to eliminating poverty internationally coincides with criticism of his domestic economic policies. Under new pension plans some £4 billion of taxpayersí money is destined for the pockets of the countryís wealthiest people, while the Labour governmentís plans will simultaneously take over £20,000 from the pension of each public sector worker. Critics say that under new pension rules coming into effect in 2006, the rich will be able to benefit by up to £215,000 tax free every year. This will shift the burden of the Chancellorís pensions spending to the wealthiest 10 percent of the population who already receive 50 percent of tax relief. They welcome his attempt to reduce crippling international inequality, but wonder why he is pursuing policies that contradict this at home. The Chancellor, who is seeking to work with churches, faith groups and NGOs to secure the UNís Millennium anti-poverty targets, stressed today that Britain would use its presidency this year of the G8 group of industrialised democracies to push for global change. "I believe that in this year we, the international community, can agree a plan for a new deal between developed and developing countries as bold and as generous as the Marshall plan of the 1940s", he declared. Gordon Brownís strategy to lift the poorest nations out of poverty involves: * Matching 100% bilateral debt relief with financing 100% relief of the debt owed by the poorest countries to the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African Development Bank. * Setting up the international finance facility to raise the additional 50 billion US dollars a year. * A comprehensive plan to tackle HIV/Aids, including a global advance purchasing scheme for vaccines, treatment for all those who need it and the development of essential health care systems. * A new proposal for schooling by 2015 for the 105 million children denied education throughout the world. * Drawing up new ideas to help poorer countries improve their capacity to trade, while ensuring the Doha trade round is the first in history to favour developing countries. NGOs and development agencies like Christian Aid have welcomed the Chancellorís energy and commitment. But they see it as the beginning rather than the highlight of the struggle to banish poverty.