Friday, June 10, 2005


A Step Toward Debt Relief

Tony Blair's meeting with President Bush this week was a failure in many ways -- but the official version will spin the summit as a victory for Blair's causes and tout the agreements reached. But don't stop with the headlines (The New York Times version: "U.S. and Britain Agree on Relief for Poor Nations," handing "Tony Blair of Britain a timely political lift"). And the writing off of $16.7 billion in debt by very poor nations, most of them in Africa, is indeed to be applauded as a helpful step in the right direction, even though a) it's not enough (Blair called for doubling direct governmental aid to Africa, and Bush refused) , and b) the world's rich nations -- thanks to Bush's obstinacy on the issue -- once again aren't paying their fair share of the cost of debt forgiveness.

The Times noted: The White House has also rebuffed Mr. Blair's efforts to persuade the United States to move closer to the position of the other industrial nations on how to fight global warming. ... And the administration has rejected the British proposal for creation of a new international body that would raise money for Africa by borrowing against pledges of future aid.

The most important thing to come out of the Blair-Bush meeting may very well be the momentum Blair gains in support of his work against global poverty -- which is especially key as we approach next month's meeting of the Group of 8 in Scotland.

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