Are MDGs A Passing Cloud?
DEVELOPMENT experts and civil society organizations have concluded, and rightly so, that Global Partnership for Development — the last of the eight MDGs — is actually the most important of them all. The other seven set of goals – eradicating extreme poverty; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases and ensuring environmental sustainability – all hinge on Goal 8 which addresses how developed countries can assist the developing world achieve the rest of the goals.Lawrence Egulu, the director of economic and social policy at the ICFTU, African Regional Office in Nairobi told an AWEPON media training workshop in Kampala, that MDGs will just be ‘a passing cloud’ unless the developed world does more to uplift the developing countries.”We are now five years since the Millennium Declaration in 2000, but have we gone three-quarters in meeting the MDG targets? Where are we in UPE (Universal Primary Education), infant mortality, maternal mortality and environmental sustainability?” he asked.
Warren Nyamugasira of the Uganda NGO Forum says MDGs was a global pact of the 189 states that endorsed it five years ago and failure in one country meant failure by the whole world. He said the world had enough resources to achieve the MDGs except the focus should now shift on how to spread the resources across the globe through trade justice, debt cancellation and better quality and more aid. Economist Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad says all the MDGs and agendas were linked to the market economy and foreign aid. Unless more is done, he said, the increasing disparities in countries will continue.
”The 2003 Human Development Report of the UNDP finds that compared to 1990, 54 countries have become poorer and the number of poor people has increased in 21 countries,” IPS quoted Ahmad as telling a gathering in August.“The achievement of the goals will crucially depend on implementation of the last goal, i.e., a global partnership for development. All of its seven targets are to be basically fulfilled by the developed countries. But can that be ensured?” Ahmad cited statistics to show that barely half of this year’s global requirement of development assistance could be realised. ”The MDGs are nothing but another U.N.- sponsored agenda which will eventually be dumped under the table, without being implemented,” he
Goal 8 is therefore key if MDGs is not going to be a passing cloud. The goal calls for an increase in the official development assistance (ODA); measures to ensure debt sustainability in the long term; equitable, rule-based, predictable and non-discriminatory multilateral trading and financial system; and measures to address the special needs of least developed, landlocked and small island developing countries.
However, the obtaining situation is far from expected. While ODA averaged 0.25% of the donor countries’ Gross National Income in 2003 up from 0.23% in 2002, it was still below the required 0.33% reached in the 1990s and far too short of the ODA needed to achieve MDGs. Countries in Sub- Saharan Africa like the rest of the developing countries still have unfavourble terms of trade. Despite several debt cancellation under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) framework, most of them are still mired in debt servicing and unfavourble terms of trade which hinder their investments in the social services. For instance, according to Nyamugasira, despite a series of debt cancellations, Uganda’s external debt has risen from US$3.8bn to US $4bn. He said the money paid in interest on loans is estimated at US $200m annually. On unfair terms of trade, he said while Uganda earned US $400m from coffee between 1996-1998, it now earns US $100m yet it is exporting more coffee than ever before.
In Ethiopia, external debt stands at US $2.9 billion while Tanzania uses as much as 5% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for external debt servicing. In Kenya, the public debt stood at 74.3% of the GDP (2004) while the current account balance was in the negative at – US $459.2m. Uganda’s situation is no better with the public debt at 73.9% of GDP and current account balance in deficit of -US $590m. In it inconceivable how these countries will achieve MDGs without greatly increased aid.
While in June 2005, the major developed countries agreed to full debt cancellation of the US $40bn that 18 poor countries owed International Financial Institutions – the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the African development Bank – civil society organizations have pointed out that spreading the cancellation over 40 years meant failure to address the debt crisis. Stephen Rand of Jubilee Debt Campaign, UK had this to say: “This deal is an inadequate response to the global debt crisis, particularly in its failure to challenge the damaging and undemocratic conditions that are consistently attached to debt relief. This [deal] will provide less than US$1 billion per year – the equivalent of less than one dollar per head per year for the people who will benefit – when more than $10 billion a year of debt cancellation is needed to contribute to the ending of extreme poverty.”
In a joint African civil society statement on the G8 Summit’s conclusions, posted on Eurodad website, Hassen Lorgat of South Africa’s SANGOCO, a national NGO forum, stressed that “the debt package only provides only 10% of the relief required and affects only one third of the countries that need it. A large component of the US$50 billion pledged is drawn from existing obligations”. Lidy Nacpil, international coordinator of Jubilee South said, “the conditionalities attached to debt cancellation will exacerbate poverty rather than end it”.
AFRODAD commented:”We continue to question – how democratic is the selection criteria to pick on post completion point HIPCs and, after all, the agreement does not address the real global power imbalances in which debt is just but a conduit of expressing it. We reiterate our position that the debt crisis needs a lasting solution in which all stakeholders – debtors and creditors have a say.” The plan also falls far short of what the African Union has called for. The draft declaration of the 5th African Union Summit, held from 28 June to 5 July, indicates that African leaders are calling for “full debt cancellation for all African nations” to the tune of US$350 billion – a far cry from the US$40 billion promised by the G8, the website said.