Skeletons in the Cupboard? Dictator debts must be investigated.

Skeletons in the Cupboard? Dictator debts must be investigated.

Date: 12 October 2011

Maddy Evans, dodgy deals campaigner, Jubilee Debt Campaign

This year people across the world have been inspired by the Egyptian people’s struggle to overthrow dictator Hosni Mubarak. But despite their success, the dictator’s debts continue to burden the country, and the UK is still expecting payment. 

You could be forgiven for never having heard of the uninterestingly named ‘Export Credits Guarantee Department’ (ECGD). But this secretive government department is responsible for 95% of the debt which is owed to the UK by developing countries. We’ve been calling it ‘The Department for Dodgy Deals’.

Egypt ‘owes’ this department £100m, but we don’t know what goods resulted in the debt, and the government says it is not going to investigate it. Was Mubarak’s debt run up by the UK supporting deals which led to internal repression? Or other deals that were harmful to the people of Egypt? The UK government won’t say.

We think it’s high time the government came clean on dictator debts. We’re calling for an audit of all debts owed to the ECGD, and the cancellation of any debts found to be unjust. 

And it’s not just Egypt: Iraq, Kenya and Indonesia owe millions to the UK for debts run up by their dictators. For example, the ECGD backed loans to Indonesia to buy British Hawk aircrafts, Scorpion tanks and other military equipment under the dictatorship of General Suharto. This equipment was then allegedly used against the civilian population, including during the attacks on East Timor. Today, the people of Indonesia are repaying hundreds of millions of pounds in debt to the ECGD for this equipment.

Vince Cable, Liberal Democrat and Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, oversees the ECGD and has the power to instigate an audit of its debts. The Liberal Democrats already have policy to do so, and to end support for the arms trade through the ECGD. But so far there has been no progress in government.  

This Halloween, 31st October, we will be holding a demonstration at 5pm outside the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to tell Vince Cable to come clean on the debt skeletons in the government’s cupboard. Please join us. 

The demonstration will highlight the injustice of asking the people of a country to continue to pay debts when the lender can’t explain their origin – meaning that they may be paying off debts for goods that were used to oppress them. 

Find out more about the campaign and sign up for the demonstration on Facebook.