Thursday, 24 September 2009

Oxfam: G20 should protect poor countries from economic crisis

Developing countries across the globe are struggling to respond to the global recession that continues to slash incomes, destroy jobs and has helped push the total number of hungry people in the world above 1 billion. The economic crisis arrived as poor countries were already struggling to cope high food prices and floods, droughts and food shortages linked to climate change. Oxfam analysis of economic data has discovered that governments in Sub-Saharan Africa will be $70bn worse off this year as a result of the global slump and unlike rich countries they cannot borrow their way out of trouble. Without outside help governments will find it increasingly difficult to respond to the climate, food and economic crises and to avoid cutting spending on schools, clinics and other anti-poverty programs.

But despite feeding their own economies a much needed stimulus, the G20 has not yet provided even half the $50bn bailout it promised poor countries in April. Oxfam is calling for a $290bn package of measures to ease the burden on developing countries without hitting ordinary taxpayers. The package includes a Tobin tax on currency transactions, a debt moratorium and a crackdown on tax havens. Oxfam says: “Existing aid levels are not enough to protect the status quo let never mind reduce poverty in the face of the economic crisis, climate change and rising food prices. The G20 has the chance to change the bad habits of the past and come up with new solutions to the problems facing poor people. A currency transaction levy on the banks that helped cause the global slump could bring in $50bn to help those suffering in a crisis they did nothing to cause. It is time bankers paid a bonus to the world’s poor.”

Oxfam is also calling on G20 leaders to fulfil a promise made by President Obama in July to deliver new funds to help poor countries cope with climate change. This funding is vital to break the deadlock in climate change negotiations leading up to the make-or-break UN Summit in Copenhagen in December. Oxfam calculates that $50bn-a-year is needed to help poor countries cope with climate change and another $100bn is needed to help them control their emissions.

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