Advocating Debt Cancellation Amid Profligacy

<strong>Advocating Debt Cancellation Amid Profligacy</strong>

House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, has said the Conference of Speakers and Heads of African Parliaments, CoSAP, is pushing its total energy, urging for a debt cancellation by creditor-nations, as opposed to debt relief or review.

Gbajabiamila, made the position known at the maiden CoSAP in Abuja recently, noting that there is a clear difference in the three terms; insisting that the body would want all debts owed by African countries cancelled.

He argued that cancellation would help the countries to “reset the button to zero”, and have no debts outstanding against them.

He informed that with debt review or relief, the debts would still be outstanding, except that there would be some alterations, adjustments or even postponement of the repayment schedules.

The Speaker in a statement by his Special Adviser, Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, was quoted as saying: “That is the position, and I appeal that we all support this push”, in his contribution to discussions on, “Financing Africa’s pandemic Response: Legislative Imperatives and Interventions”.

Anchored by the Country Representative in Nigeria, World Health Organisation ,WHO, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the session was chaired by the Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

“Cancellation would help African countries to reset the button to zero, and have no debts outstanding against them”, Gbajabiamilla asserted.

In support of Gbajabiamila’s position, participants stressed the need for parliaments to intensify their oversight duties in tracking how the Executive spent the loans taken on behalf of their countries, which ended as debt burdens or traps.

Some noted that in countries that secured debt relief, the legislators must interrogate how the money returned to them was spent.

They noted that the creditor-nations, in considering the appeals for debt cancellation or relief, would look at several factors, including accounting for how the loans were utilised and the compliance of countries to agreements signed at the inception of the loan requests.

Meanwhile, as part of his recommendation for tackling or preparing for pandemics, Gbajabiamila suggested setting aside a percentage of the health budget for vaccine research and manufacturing by African nations.

He said this could also be legislated to make compliance mandatory, while supporting the establishment of an African Centre for Vaccine Research and Production.

He explained that the joint centre could be located anywhere on the continent, where all African countries could contribute to its development.

On paper, the idea of debt cancellation is commendable as many African nations are today under the stranglehold of creditor nations, including some global finance entities. While it is doubtful African countries have been able to utilise borrowed funds judiciously, asking for debt cancellation each time suggests that the continent has been unable to weather the storm and stabilise its economy without relying on such magnanimity from creditors.

It is disturbing that financial profligacy is the ruling dictum of African leaders as borrowed funds are frittered away without recourse to the essence for which the loans were given in the first place.

Falsified and fraudulent budgetary patterns amid various infractions have dominated our landscapes, thus asking for debt cancellation as laudable and patriotic as it is would only make impact if African leaders purge themselves of the gross financial mismanagement that have become a feature in virtually many African nations. Corruption is at heart of the sad spectacle of our economies.

In scenarios where individuals rip the nation dry, dripping from the itchy fingers of its political and public office holders, it would be unprofitable to seek debt cancellation as a vicious circle of going cap in hand seeking for loans to fund essential infrastructure most times end up being fleeced.

We appreciate the mechanisms being advocated to check future disbursement and application of loans by this body but it is important to note that these nations have never at any time lacked the necessary instruments to handle the safe disbursement of such loans. It is the kleptomaniac tendencies of our leaders that has been the issue at stake.

We call on African leaders to be proactive in patching the cracks in their economies and making them sustainable rather go cap in hand always, each time there is shock within the system. Today’s globalised economy is knowledge-based, not anymore based on primordial economics which is now stale and unable to deliver the goods. We need such a new approach to our leadership to break the ice of dependence on foreign loans.

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