|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:||CONTACT: CHRISTI HARLAN|
|Wednesday, October 18, 2000||202-224-0894|
Sen. Phil Gramm, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, addressed the Senate today regarding the need to require reform and accountability from the nations that are seeking debt relief. Here are excerpts from his statement:
"I read this morning that an agreement has been worked out on debt relief. I want to make it clear that I am not part of any such agreement. I hope an agreement will be worked out, and I would like to be part of an agreement, but I am not part of any agreement today.
"Even in this moment of a huge surplus, surely everybody realizes and remembers that, for every dollar we get, every dollar we spend, somebody worked hard to earn that money. I believe that money ought to be respected. So in return for billions of dollars of the American taxpayers' money, here are the conditions to which I have asked the administration to agree:
"No. 1, we cannot forgive debt for a country that we find in our most recent human rights evaluation engages in a gross violation of human rights against its own people. In other words, what we would say is: If you want this debt forgiven, then you have to quit killing, abusing, and raping your people. And if you do not do that, we are not going to forgive the debt. That is condition No. 1.
"I do not view that as unreasonable. Quite frankly, I would be ashamed to have my name affixed to a voting list for the forgiveness of this debt if we gave it to murderers, thugs, and rapists.
"The second condition has to do with the fact that these countries are poor because they are basically practicing socialism. They deny property rights and economic freedom, and, as a result, they are poor.
"Now, here are three economic conditions that, at a minimum, I believe we need. First of all, if countries are going to take our money, they should be required to open their markets so that we have an opportunity to sell American goods in their economy, and so that their workers have a right to buy goods competitively, instead of being forced to buy expensive, inferior goods from a government-run monopoly.
"Second, they would be required to set up a series of benchmarks, not just on opening up their economy, but also in those countries where government dominates the market, where huge numbers of people work for the government, and, in essence, the government runs everything, we would require, in return for the loan forgiveness, that they set up benchmarks for phasing out subsidies to these government-run enterprises.
"The third requirement is simply that in printing their financial and government records on how much money they are spending, how much they are taking in in taxes, how much they are borrowing, that we have transparency so that we and investors can know what is going on in the country and so that we can see whether they are taking actions that will actually improve the life of their people. And that would include transparency in their financial institutions and their banks.
"What this would say is, we do not forgive debt until these conditions are in place. And if at any point along the way countries do not live up to these commitments, then we stop the debt forgiveness.
"Some people think these are outrageous conditions. But when you have a line of credit with a bank, and you have told them you are using this line of credit to invest in your restaurant, and it turns out you bought a car for private use, they cut off your line of credit. When you do not tell the truth, you end up losing your line of credit.
"So I just want to urge, publicly, the administration to help Congress put together a program that will take this debt forgiveness and put it to work to help ordinary working people. If we do not do something like this, we are going to end up seeing this money spent on jet planes for government leaders; we are going to see the benefits of debt forgiveness go to the leadership elite; and 10 or 15 years from now, when these same countries have the same debt crisis, we will have someone like President Clinton who will be arguing that we could just fix all this if we just forgive this debt.
"I am willing to go along with the debt forgiveness. I am willing to go home and try to explain to people why these governments are treated better than citizens here are treated if I know the money is not going to be squandered or stolen or used to abuse the very people we are trying to help. But I intend to fight -- and fight hard -- to see that we do not take billions of dollars from American taxpayers to give to buy fancy airplanes for government officials, and that we do not use it to basically subsidize corruption and the abuse of the very people we are trying to help."