Translation: SnakeArbusto & Vicki Briault
23 October by CADTM international
The CADTM is pleased at the prospect of collaboration between Tunisia and Ecuador to audit Tunisia’s debt.
At the request of the President of Tunisia, Ecuador’s President, Rafael Correa, has just announced that he will be sending a team of economists to Tunisia to provide advice and share his country’s experience with debt auditing. The assistance comes after a member of Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly introduced a bill to set up a debt audit commission.
The CADTM, which participated in the audit of Ecuador’s debt and actively supports the campaign against odious debt being conducted in Tunisia by RAID (a member of the CADTM and ATTAC networks), is pleased at the prospect of collaboration between Tunisia and Ecuador. As in Ecuador, the audit could lead to concrete results and liberate the Tunisian people from a debt that is largely odious and illegitimate. The country today is still in the stranglehold of debt largely inherited from the Ben Ali era. The amounts devoted to reimbursing this debt represent eight times the country’s budget for social affairs, three times the health budget, and nearly six times that of employment. An audit of Tunisia’s debt, like the one conducted in Ecuador, to identify the odious and illegitimate share – which must be written off unconditionally – is clearly of vital importance for the Tunisian people.
We should recall that Ecuador, between 2007 and 2009, was engaged in a struggle with its creditors over its decision to audit the entirety of its public debt unilaterally. The audit was conducted by an international commission appointed by Rafael Correa and made up of representatives of the State, social movements, and international networks working on debt – including the CADTM. On the basis of the audit’s conclusions, Ecuador suspended payment of a large share of its illegitimate debt and forced its creditors to buy back their bonds at a quarter of their value. The operation resulted in the country’s saving 7 billion dollars, freeing up financial resources that instead of debt payments, can be used for social expenditure on health, education and the development of communications infrastructures.
Tunisia could be the next country to follow Ecuador’s example; but we should remain vigilant. The Tunisian bill, which has not yet been debated by the National Constituent Assembly, has several limitations. As provided for in the bill, the audit concerns only debt contracted under the dictatorship of Ben Ali, whereas large loans were contracted with the World Bank and the IMF after the popular uprisings of 2011. The new debts include conditions that violate sovereignty and the social rights of the people. Also, suspension of debt payments is not provided for in the bill, despite the fact that the social and economic situation is extremely critical. Tunisia could invoke such principles of international law as the state of necessity or fundamental change of circumstances to immediately declare a moratorium on its debt. Finally, although the bill calls for participation by representatives of “civil society,” as was the case in Ecuador, vigilance is called for regarding the makeup of the commission given the task of auditing the debt.
The CADTM therefore expresses its critical support for the Tunisian legislative bill on debt audit and calls on creditors to refrain from taking any measures aimed at influencing the choices of Tunisia’s elected officials. For example, debt-swap programs like the one announced by French President François Hollande in July must be suspended immediately. This is because the debts involved in these swaps may be odious and illegitimate.
What took place in Ecuador can also happen in Tunisia and elsewhere, provided that peoples mobilize together against odious and illegitimate debt in their countries and create a united front against the creditors, as called for by the late president of Burkina Faso, Thomas Sankara. The CADTM joins in the call for worldwide mobilization against illegitimate debt during the Global Week of Action Against Debt, 8 to 15 October.
Renaud Vivien, CADTM legal specialist, +32 (0)497.04 79.99
Fathi CHAMKHI, spokesperson for RAID (member of Attac and Cadtm), + 216 79.325.158 / + 216 126.96.36.199 (GSM)