Jubilee responds to Bilbray’s comments

By Margaret Gooding

Public Relations, Media Chair of Jubilee San Diego

In reading John Horn’s article concerning the rally held outside the Solana Beach office of Congressman Brian Bilbray which was sponsored by Jubilee San Diego, (RSF Review, April 8, Del Mar Times, April 9) it is clear Bilbray’s Chief of Staff, Steve Danon, does not know the history of The Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation (HR4405).

The Jubilee Act passed the House of Representatives in 2008 with an overwhelming majority bi-partisan vote and also passed the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

Although it was scheduled for a “Unanimous Consent” vote in the Senate it was not brought to the floor for a full vote due to the presidential elections, which was also the fate of many other bills. The Bill was re-introduced on December 17, 2008, again with strong bi-partisan support. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), the Bill’s lead sponsor was joined by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), and Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL). There are currently 30 co-sponsors of HR4405, Democrats and Republicans.

The Jubilee Act cancels debt of impoverished countries, prohibits harmful policies on debt cancellation, mandates transparency and responsibility in lending from governments and financial institutions, and calls for a U.S. audit of debts resulting from illegitimate lending. Here are some facts about debt cancellation:

  • More than one billion people are living on less than a dollar a day, but are forced to pay $100 million per day to wealthy countries for debt service. Their citizens go without health care, education, adequate housing, access to clean water, and other vital needs.
  • Debt cancellation allows countries to access their own resources for poverty eradication and nation building.
  • Many nations have re-paid their debts: From 1970 - 2002, Africa received $540 billion dollars in loans and paid back $550 billion in principal and interest and yet Africa remains today with a debt of $295 billion due to skyrocked compound interest.
  • Poverty is a major security concern (former Secretary of State, Colin Powell said that poverty was a top National Security concern).
  • Anti-Corruption/Transparency/Accountability — The Jubilee Act ensures debt relief dollars are put towards measurable poverty alleviation.
  • The Jubilee Act encourages greater transparency and oversight of the IMF and The World Bank from donor countries and those countries receiving loans.

The resources of the poor nations paying western financial institutions debt interest often double whatever aid is given to poor countries, which in part supports the USA economy. For every $1 in aid provided to the world’s poorest nations, those same nations pay back to western financial institutions $2.30 in interest only on their debts.
Working in partnership with foreign governments and by effective lobbying of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), The World Bank and the United States Congress, JUBILEE USA NETWORK, a nonprofit agency, has been responsible for debt elimination in 28 countries.

The cry of the former President of Tanzania, Julias Nyerere, “Must we starve our children to pay our debts?” is not heard in Carmel Valley but is heard in the impoverished countries around the world. Mr. Danon infers that debt relief for these countries will have a negative impact on our citizens, this is not true. Furthermore, the support of the 68 Republicans who voted for the Jubilee Act in 2008 attests to the fact that the costs to the United States government for debt cancellation is minimal.

The above information could have been discussed with Mr. Bilbray but he has refused to meet with representatives of Jubilee San Diego at any time during the past four years. However, passage of the Jubilee Act is expected to happen in the House within the coming weeks.

It is time for Congressman Bilbray to recognize that he is an elected member of the House of Representatives and has an obligation to meet with his constituents to discuss their concerns and to be accurately informed as to pending legislation.