When I spoke on this Bill this day last week I indicated it was not often that I had the opportunity or inclination to praise Deputy Roche's contribution. The speech he made was an important one which should be read carefully by the Ministers for Finance and Foreign Affairs and all Fianna Fáil backbenchers. He is opposed to the Government making contributions to the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility of the IMF which has had the effect of deepening poverty and the debt of the countries which it is claimed it seeks to help. The Government should agree to withdraw the Bill and argue for the necessary reforms to ESAF before it will consider making contributions to it.
The Jubilee 2000 Campaign indicates that 1 billion people are trapped under a mountain of debt; that African countries spend four times more on interest repayments on loans than on health care; that spending per person in the world's 37 poorest countries has fallen by 50 per cent on health and 25 per cent on education; that debt fuels the drugs trade as poor farmers turn to growing high value cash crops such as opium and cocaine; that the rain forests are being destroyed to provide timber and beef to earn foreign currency to repay debts; that for every £1 given by rich countries poor countries repay nearly £4 in debt repayments; that an estimated 250,000 jobs have been lost in Europe because countries impoverished by debt have been unable to buy our goods, and that more than 500,000 children die each year because of cutbacks in health services.
That is an appalling litany in the modern world in which the resources are available to ensure every person has enough to eat and every child can survive into old age. While the contribution Ireland makes is relatively small, it is important to maintain a principled position on how the World Bank, the IMF and other agencies which seek to help poorer developing countries operate.
The external evaluation of ESAF early last year indicated that its programme was deficient in many critical respects. It has had the effect of making many poor countries poorer by ensuring social, health and education services would have to be cut to meet the criteria established. What is even more galling is that the decision of the Government to contribute to ESAF has resulted in a reduction in the amount paid in direct aid to poor countries. It has been shown that the direct aid programmes operated by organisations such as Concern Worldwide, Trócaire and GOAL are much more effective.
This is the second U-turn the Government has made on international affairs issues. It has reversed the decision made by the Government of which I was a member which refused to make a contribution to ESAF until such time as it was reformed to ensure it did not impact adversely on developing countries. The Government decided recently to join Partnership for Peace, about which I have spoken. These are ominous signals that there is a fundamental shift in the approach of the Government to international relations. I will return to this aspect on another occasion.
The Minister argued that to encourage reform we must get involved and make a contribution to ESAF, that this will enable us to advocate certain courses of action. There is, however, no commitment that if reforms are not introduced we will withdraw our contribution. There is a statement by the IMF that it welcomes the external review of ESAF but there are no proposals to introduce reforms. In their report dated 23 March 1998, vol. 27, No. 6, the directors stated that they agreed that it would be desirable to review the effects of the adjustment measures on poor groups as part of the regular ESAF programme reviews and that they had asked management and staff to explore the feasibility of these suggestions, including the availability of the necessary data, and to assess the ability of the World Bank to provide the envisaged services and to come back to them with operational proposals. That is a weak acceptance of the reality as a result of the ESAF programme.
On a recent programme on Mozambique broadcast by RTE, Myles Dungan made the point to an IMF spokesperson that the debt of poor countries should be cancelled. The response was that it appeared to be a good idea and that he must talk to his bank manager about cancelling his mortgage. If senior IMF officials are of the view that the minor inconvenience of their mortgages is comparable with the appalling deprivation in Africa and other parts of the developing world, I can understand how they can construct programmes which are designed, on the face of it, to ease the situation but which make it worse. They are committed to an ideological stance that nobody should be allowed to get away with debt.
The poor of Africa are not the ones who took on the debt; it was not their decision that bankers would pour billions of pounds into their countries. Much of it has gone on arms sales. In Mozambique much of the debt was built up in fighting a war generated by the apartheid regime in South Africa to protect its flank. Yet, the people of Mozambique are being asked to pay the price by watching their children die because money is not available for health services, for a clean water supply next to their homes or to educate them about hygiene. People have to walk 50 miles daily to get clean water.
It is not acceptable for an Irish Government, which I accept is committed to the idea of ending poverty in the Third World, to pretend the decision to make a contribution to ESAF is of no great importance. It is relatively small in money terms, but the underlying thinking is wrong. Even at this late stage, the Government should withdraw this Bill and insist the IMF reform ESAF before it makes a contribution, not after the fact.
It is extraordinary that the IMF takes into account all the macro-economic indicators; it looks for growth, balance of payments, debt reduction but it does not take into account the literacy levels in a country and how they can be raised; it does not take into account the infant mortality rates in a country when it assesses its progress and it does not take into account the unemployment levels. For example, the IMF insisted that the Mozambique Government sell off all the companies under its control. This was a purely ideological decision and had no basis in real economics. One hundred thousand jobs were lost because of that decision enforced by the IMF. If the Government had not carried it out, the IMF would not have provided any assistance.
This is happening with a nod and wink from this Government. I am not prepared to accept that; I am prepared to vote against this Bill on Second Stage. I urge those in Fianna Fáil who have said in this House they do not agree with this Bill to vote against it. I particularly urge Deputy Cooper-Flynn who took a principled stand in this House last night to do the same on this Bill. Lives are at stake; not reputations, but lives. Deputy Cooper-Flynn and the four Independents who support this Government should make it clear to Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats that they will vote against this Bill if it insists on pushing it through. It is not a question of reputations or us being good guys in Europe, with the IMF or the World Bank; it is a question of seeking to put in place policies which will save lives in the Third World.
I urge the Government to withdraw this Bill. If it does not, the Independents and the Fianna Fáil Deputies – Deputy Roche made a strong speech against the Bill – should stand up and be counted on this issue. It is not right that the continuation of a dogma of neo-liberalism which is rapidly becoming discredited is being used to cause more death and poverty in the Third World.
I urge the Government to withdraw this Bill and to get its act together once and for all. It should listen to the organisations on the ground who have written to every Deputy in the House, saying this Bill is bad, for example, the Irish Missionary Union, which represents dozens of religious organisations who operate in the Third World. They see the effects of the ESAF programme on a daily basis and speak from experience. I urge the Government to take on board what they have to say.
I also urge it to take on board what the Debt Coalition has to say – a body which is representative of many organisations who think it is necessary, as a matter of urgency, to deal with the question of debt. It is urging that debt be cancelled to enable these countries to provide health and education services and water, the only basis on which these countries can develop. I appeal to the Government to withdraw the Bill and to the Fianna Fáil Deputies to stand up and be counted when it comes to the vote on Second Stage to ensure this Bill is defeated.