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South Sudan should not be born into debt

If South Sudan secedes the new country should not start life with a debt burden.

The referendum on secession for South Sudan is due to start on Sunday 9 January. If the people of South Sudan vote to secede a key decision will be on what happens to Sudan’s external debt of $35 billion, $20 billion of which is interest on original loans.[1]

Tim Jones, policy officer at Jubilee Debt Campaign, said:

“No nation should be born into debt. The people of South Sudan need a fair start rather than taking on the burden of past unjust debts. If South Sudan does inherit any debt it should be immediately cancelled.”

“The history of debt is that it is used by the IMF and World Bank to force free market economic policies on countries. The people of South Sudan are voting for independence, not to become subservient to organisations in Washington DC.”

Much of Sudan’s debt dates back to the early 1980s from the dictatorship of Gaarfar Nimeiry, when western governments supported the regime during the Cold War and to gain access to Sudanese oil for their companies. In 1985 it was $9 billion but has since grown to $35 billion due to interest and charges, as well as new loans to the dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir.[2]

Tim Jones said:

“Sudan’s debt is illegitimate, coming from Cold War loans to dictator Nimeiry or more recent loans to the regime of Omar al-Bashir. The debt has served the interest of foreign powers, not the people of Sudan.”

Over recent years 32 countries have had debts cancelled through the official IMF and World Bank debt relief process. Both Sudan and South Sudan potentially qualify for this debt relief. However, this usually takes several years, requires countries to make repayments in the meantime, leads to new loans and debts being created, and requires countries to follow IMF and World Bank conditions such as privatisation and deregulation.

The UK government claims Sudan owes it £650 million as a result of past failed export projects.[3] However, the UK government has not revealed what projects this debt ultimately supported. If and when any or all of this debt is cancelled, the UK government will count this as ‘aid’.[4]

Contact:
Tim Jones, Policy Officer, +44(0)7817 628196

Notes

Breakdown of Sudanese government debt (end-2009): [5]

Creditor Amount 
Multilateral, primarily IMF and World Bank $5.3 billion
Rich country governments $11.2 billion
Other governments $13.3 billion
Private banks $4.5 billion
Private companies $1.4 billion

 

[1] World Bank and IMF. (2010). Sudan: Joint IMF/World Bank 2009 debt sustainability analysis. IDA and IMF. 07/06/10.

[2] Leo, B. (2010). Sudan debt dynamics: Status Quo, Southern Secession, Debt Division, and Oil – A Financial Framework for the Future. Centre for Global Development Working Paper 233. December 2010.

[3] ECGD. (2010). Response to freedom of information request. Export Credit Guarantees Department. 26/04/10.

[4] Mitchell, A. (2010). Parliamentary Answer to Mark Lazarowicz MP. Hansard Column 915W. 18/11/10.

[5] Leo, B. (2010). Sudan debt dynamics: Status Quo, Southern Secession, Debt Division, and Oil – A Financial Framework for the Future. Centre for Global Development Working Paper 233. December 2010.

John Gai Yoh, Head of the Southern Sudan mission in South Africa, has said: “We believe the best option is for the two parties to convince the international partners to cancel these debts.”[6]

[6] Singh, A. (2010). Splitting Sudan: Questions and Answers. Financial Mail. 23/12/10.


Countries

South Sudan
Jubilee Debt Campaign is a company limited by guarantee, number 3201959
Jubilee Debt Campaign's registered charity number is 1055675