Accountability of Political Leaders pettifor

Ann Pettifor, 10th IACC, Speech, Governance

 

Ann Pettifor:

Jubilee 2000 agrees with Ron Noble that actually we cannot solve this problem in a quick, cheap and easy way. We are calling for a new international insolvency process. We are saying that it must be possible for debtors to declare their inability to repay their debts. And in all circumstances there must be a legal process for investigating what liabilities the debtor should bear and what liabilities the creditor should bear.

In the domestic field, when a company goes bankrupt, for example when Robert Maxwell's business went bust, the creditors lost money. And when they had lost their money, they went to the court and demanded that the sons of Robert Maxwell should repay the debts. However, the court argued that the sons of Robert Maxwell enjoyed something called "limited liability" and were not responsible for the sins of their father. However, in the case of Argentina, the sons and daughters of the military, of the regimes of Argentina do not enjoy limited liability. They are responsible for the unlimited liabilities of their regimes.

We want a process that would introduce discipline into the international lending and borrowing system, as well as transparency and accountability. And we believe that amendments to the international financial architecture which will allow countries, if you like, to declare themselves insolvent is a way of disciplining both borrowers and also international lenders.

This has happened in the past. It happened in Germany in 1953, when Germany cold not repay its foreign debts and an independent judge was appointed to oversee the resolution of Germany's debt crisis. This was done in the interest of Germany, and particularly also in the interest of foreign creditors because Germany was given a fresh start. It happened also in 1971 in Indonesia, when the same judge went to Indonesia to annul many of Suharto's debts.

We are calling for that process to happen in all countries which are effectively insolvent, but with this difference: We want a system where a judge will sit at a table with the debtor on the one hand and the creditor on the other, and consider who should bear the losses and liabilities for bad lending and borrowing decisions. Present at the table must be civil society. These, after all, are public debts, not private debts. So we want at the table the representatives of civil society, the opposition political parties, the media, the churches, the trade unions.

Wherever there is civil society, even where it is weak, we find that there are churches, there are mosques, there are temples, there are representatives of society that can be present at these negotiations. Only then, we believe, will it be impossible for elites and for the regimes to corruptly incur foreign debt that consequently ends up as a cancer in the economies of their countries. I thank you for your attention.

docAccountability of Political Leaders pettifor

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