Date: Wed, 11 Mar 98 00:38:42 CST
/** reg.honduras: 150.0 **/
Let those who have never been heard, be heard
From Francisco Machado Alexis Pacheco, Association of Non Governmental Organizations - Asociacin de Organismos No Gubernamentales (ASONOG), 7 March 1998
Mr. James Wolfensohn
Dear Mr. Wolfensohn:
We are aware that your stay in Honduras is short, however we would like to take this opportunity to invite you to a constructive dialogue concerning the structural adjustment and debt policies being carried out by the World Bank and other multilateral, bilateral, and private credit institutions in our country.
The Honduran Social Forum on External Debt and Development (Foro Social de la Deuda Externa y Desarrollo de Honduras - FOSDEH), which groups important sectors of civil society, cannot let your presence here go unnoticed since the policies you approve are vital for our people.
The bank you direct is the second most important in the list of our multilateral lenders. The amount of the public external debt of Honduras with the World Bank was 700 million dollars up to December, 1997. As is well known, approximately 50% of the national debt was suscribed with multilateral organizations, most of which are inflexible in the face of many requests presented for eventual condonation, reduction or alleviation policies in the service of the debt. In total, our external debt surpasses four billion dollars; an amount that grows automatically on its own, due to the need to finance the payment of the interests through new loans.
It is possible that the World Bank holds the view that, international debt is no longer a priority problem, but in countries like Honduras it continues to lessen the possibilities of true development and equity. Honduras has paid in interest just to the World Bank, 128 million dollars in the last five years, an amount that could have served to construct and equip 100 hospitals in rural areas, provide literacy for the entire country, create thousands of permanent jobs or reduce the destructive impact of infant malnutrition.
Mr. Wolfensohn, it might be useful to remind you that each year we pay approximately 500 million dollars for the total service of the debt and that this payment erodes our scarce systems for sanitation, education and production, degrading the quality of life of the majority and deteriorating towns and cities, as well as polarizing society in violent extremes.
From the perspective of the civil society, the only real possibility to continue "honouring" the debt is sacrificing the wellbeing of all Hondurans and of our environment. We consider it a tragic result that Honduras is now considered a "country with a sustainable debt" when the only thing that grows as rapidly as the debt is the surrounding poverty. Eight out of every ten Hondurans today confront serious problems of survival.
It is clear that the loans that have produced the debt have not promoted development and that their misuse (in great part a victim of the corruption which you have tended to condemn is a responsibility both of those who have provided the credit as well as those who have administrated it.
The official "sustainability" of the debt condemns thousands of Honduran people to die, therefore more than an economic problem, it is rather a fundamentally human and ethical one. The World Bank, as well as the multilateral, bilateral, and private banks must understand that this sacrifice is unsustainable and that we must seek a solution.
This is the central objective of the FOSDEH, the search for sustainable alternatives in the management of the debt and the promotion of true development policies. As a civil network, we reject limiting the role of the excluded to pay the debt with their scarce resourses.
Due to the above, the FOSDEH forms an active part of the worldwide campaign, Jubillee 2000, in favor of condoning the external debt. FOSDEH also advocates the establishment of national policies which are fair, transparent and effective in the management of the debt and other financial resources. We do not want to eliminate the burden of the current debt so that other governments in the near future can place the country in debt once again and gain a profit in doing so.
Mr. Wolfensohn, we would like to take advantage of your visit in the following concrete terms:
1. We request the initiation of a dialogue with the World Bank to include Honduras in the Structural Adjustment Participatory Revision Initiative (SAPRI), with tripartite participation of the World Bank, the government under Carlos Flores Facuss and organized Honduran civil society. The basis of the dialogue should be the revision of the external debt policies including the HIPC initiative, seeking modalities of reduction, alleviation or extinction of the debt compatible with the fundamental right of our people to live in dignity and development.
2. To promote programs and projects of external debt exchange for development, in which Honduran Civil Society has concrete experience and capacity to mobilize and invest resources in favor of the communities which are most affected by adjustment and poverty.
No sacrifice by the people of Honduras, no matter how intense, will achieve the payment of this unpayable debt. There is no way of paying it off just through our own efforts and any attempt to do so would end up holding us permanently in dependence and poverty.
The FOSDEH looks forward to your response to this request, and at the same time we request that Mr. President Carlos Flores Facuss provides his personal support to our citizenship initiative in the private meeting that will be held today and in the following bilateral contacts between the Government and the technical missions from the World Bank.
FORO SOCIAL DE LA DEUDA EXTERNA Y DESARROLLO DE HONDURAS:
- Association of Non Governmental Organizations - Asociacin de Organismos
No Gubernamentales (ASONOG).
Francisco Machado Alexis Pacheco