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Debt, Poverty and Environment

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Abstract

The burden of external debt carried by the Third World stood, in 1990, at an aggregate figure of $1319 billion.1 The flow of repayments, of both interest and capital on this burden, has created, since 1982, a net transfer of resources from the South to the North, variously estimated at between $228 billion, on Miller’s figures for net transfers 1982–90, or the $418 billion estimated by Susan George for the same period. The latter estimate is the difference between the OECD figure of $927 billion flowing to the developing countries in all forms, including aid, that is, Official Development Assistance (ODA), as well as public and private sector loans, and debt servicing of $1345 billion, paid by developing countries in that period.2 Both Miller and George exclude from their calculations a number of probably unknowable factors such as capital flight and transfer pricing on the part of multinational corporations (that is, overcharging for internal transactions to achieve lower tax liabilities in higher-tax jurisdictions). They also exclude an illegal flow of capital which benefits the developing countries, namely dollar flows arising from trade in narcotic drugs. George highlights the magnitude of the net flow from the poor to the rich, in a striking parallel with the much-admired Marshall Plan. As part of its commitment to the postwar reconstruction of Western Europe, the United States government made available $14 billion at 1948 prices and exchange rates.

Keywords

Real Interest Rate Transfer Price Debt Crisis Secondary Market Debt Relief 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Morris Miller, Debt and the Environment; Converging Crises (United Nations, 1991), p. 11.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Susan George, The Debt Boomerang (Westview, 1992), pp. xv–xvi. Miller, op. cit., pp. 14–15; figures are based on longer-term debt.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    George, op. cit., pp. xv–xvi.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Miller, op. cit., p. 11.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    World Resources Institute, World Resources 1992–93 (UNEP-UNDP-Oxford University Press, 1992), p. 82.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Quotation from Paul Vallely, Bad Samaritans (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1990), p. 190. See also Richard Jolly, ‘The Human Dimensions of International Debt’, in Growing Out of Debt, A. Hewitt and B. Wells (eds) for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Overseas Development, Overseas Development Institute, 1989, pp. 51–2.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    World Resources Institute, op. cit., pp. 82–3.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., pp. 84–5.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    The release of 40 tonnes of methyl isocyanate from the Union Carbide plant on the night of 2–3 December 1984 caused the deaths of 2500 local residents, and injury to 30 000 more. See David Weir, The Bhopal Syndrome (Earthscan, 1987).Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Ibid., pp. 99–101.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    The final declaration of the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, included Principle 21, ‘States have, in accordance with international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own natural resources pursuant to their own environmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other states or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction’. Report of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, United Nations, A/CONF. 48/14/Rev. 1.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See Conservation and Development of Forests, United Nations, A/CONF. 151/PC/65 11 July 1991, p. 4. Indonesia objected to the provision of specific language on this question, claiming that equal civil-rights provisions in that country made special language unnecessary.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Agenda 21, The United Nations Programme of Action from Rio, UN, 1993, Chapter 26, pp. 227–9.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    George, op. cit., p. 25.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    For two succinct contributions by Norman Myers, see in particular ‘Tropical Forests’, in J. Leggett (ed.), Global Warming, The Greenpeace Report (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), pp. 372–99, and ‘The Anatomy of Environmental Action; The Case of Tropical Deforestation’, in Andrew Hurrell and Benedict Kingsbury (eds), The International Politics of the Environment (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 430–54.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    George, op. cit., p. 10.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Myers, op. cit., 1992, pp. 445–7.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    George, op. cit., pp. 12–13.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    George, op. cit., p. 23Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    See M. Imber, The USA, ILO, UNESCO and IAEA, Withdrawal and Politicization in the Specialized Agencies (London: Macmillan, 1989), pp. 122–36.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    J. Williamson, The Open Economy and the World Economy (Basic, 1983), p. 307.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Miller, op. cit., p. 52.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Williamson, op. cit., p. 295.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Ibid., pp. 295–6.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Miller, op. cit., p. 56.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Ibid., p. 26.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Ibid., pp. 54–5.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Ibid., pp. 64–5.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Ibid., p. 66.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    J. Williamson, op. cit., p. 111.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    J. T. Rourke, International Politics on the World Stage (Dushkin Publishing, 2nd edn, 1989), p. 380.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    World Resources Institute, op. cit., p. 42.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    George, op. cit., passim.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Miller, op. cit., pp. 294–333.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Both Miller and Vallely discuss a wide range of plans for debt relief and debt swaps. See Miller, op. cit., pp. 118–24, 145–58 and p. 185. Also Vallely, op. cit., pp. 303–6.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    See Miller, op. cit., pp. 297–8.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Ibid., p. 122.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Ibid., p. 126.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Ibid., p. 128.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    J. Williamson, op. cit., p. 365.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Miller, op. cit., p. 114.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Mark F. Imber 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of St AndrewsUK

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