Chancellor takes stars' debt plea to G7 summit

Click to follow
GORDON BROWN is throwing his weight behind calls this week by rock stars, headed by Bono and David Bowie, and the boxing legend Muhammad Ali to cancel huge amounts of Third World debt.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer will today appeal to his counterparts among the Group of Seven finance ministers to slash the burden of poor countries' debts by $50bn (pounds 31bn) by the end of the millennium.

At the G7 meeting in Bonn, Mr Brown will table fresh proposals to speed up aid. He wants all the needy countries to be on a systematic programme of debt reduction by 2000. He will also call for a clear link between debt relief and aid to the poor to ensure that cancelled debt repayments are channelled into health, education and economic development, rather than the pockets of self-serving political elites.

Mr Brown said that he would also be renewing his call for the International Monetary Fund to sell some of its gold reserves to finance the debt relief. It has already been proposed that the IMF sell five million ounces but Mr Brown said he believed that should be higher.

Bono, the lead singer of the pop group U2, and Mr Ali were in Britain earlier this week to support Jubilee 2000, a campaign calling for $371bn of debts owed by the poorest nations to be cancelled by the end of the millennium.

Ann Pettifor, director of Jubilee 2000, said: "The Chancellor is responding directly to Bono and Muhammad Ali and that's great news. $50bn to be wiped off the debt mountain of $371bn is a good start. But there is still a long way to go."

Ian Bray, a spokesman for Oxfam, which is also involved in the campaign, said: "The political train is leaving now. Politically it is important that the Chancellor is putting his head on the block."

He welcomed the Chancellor linking debt relief to where the money is spent. "Debt write-off is not an end in itself. It is kids in schools. Kids that get vaccinated, that is the test."

Mr Brown, speaking yesterday, admitted that the proposals fell short of the demands being made by Mr Ali's campaign. But he insisted that they were "practical measures" which had a real chance of being implemented.

He pointed out that recently Gerhard Schroder, the German Chancellor, and Al Gore, the US Vice-President, have expressed broad support.

Mr Brown and Clare Short, the Overseas Development Minister, wrote this week to the World Bank and the IMF, urging them to back his reforms.