G20 fails to force banks to cancel lower-income country debt

G20 fails to force banks to cancel lower-income country debt

Date: 7 April 2021
Campaigns: Aid, Pharma

  • Debt relief scheme extended for a final time, but only ‘empty words’ on private creditors   

  • Campaigners say debt relief will continue to flow into the coffers of the richest banks on earth  

Debt campaigners have slammed “empty words” in today’s G20 communique over lower-income country debt held by private banks like BlackRock and HSBC.

While G20 ministers have called for private banks to participate in debt relief, they have not committed to legislation forcing banks to join relief efforts.

Global Justice Now, a campaign group calling for debt cancellation, said the communique lets private banks “off the hook” and called for the UK government to introduce legislation preventing speculators from suing countries in their courts.

Debt owed to private creditors from African governments alone could pay to vaccinate the continent three times over, the group warned.

Global Justice Now also said it was “very nice” for G20 countries to call Covid-19 vaccination “a global public good”, but that signatory countries were in reality privatising the medical knowledge behind vaccines, withholding them from much of the world.

On lower-income country debt, Daniel Willis of Global Justice Now said: 

“It’s welcome that the G20 has called on private banks to participate in debt relief, but we need more than empty words from the world’s richest countries. Private banks will only stop holding low and middle income countries to ransom if G20 governments force them through legislation – but today’s communique lets them off the hook.

“Private creditors like BlackRock and HSBC are demanding $23 billion from African governments this year alone – three times the cost of vaccinating the entire continent against Covid-19. While debtor countries struggle to protect their populations from the pandemic, banks have refused to cancel debts, putting sky-high profits ahead of people’s lives. 

“We are calling on the British government to introduce legislation to prevent speculators from suing countries in their courts. The UK has a central role to play in all of this – Chad, Zambia, and Ethiopia have all been denied requests for debt relief – and 33% of their debt is held by UK-based companies.”

On vaccine rollouts, Daniel Willis of Global Justice Now said: 

“It’s very nice that the G20 see Covid-19 immunisation ‘as a global public good’, but the reality is that G20 countries have privatised the medical knowledge behind Covid vaccines, artificially limiting supply and preventing most of the world producing the vaccines we so desperately need. They should have taken this moment to commit to putting the health of people across the world ahead of Big Pharma’s profits.”

Ends

Notes for editors

Media contact

Joe Karp-Sawey, media manager, Global Justice Now

Tel: 07711875345

joe.karpsawey@globaljustice.org.uk


Photo: HM Treasury/Flickr