A round-up of the activities of the network.
Local groups of ACiDe strengthen
The problematic of public debt is actually not trendy in Belgium. The interest rates are really low (because of ECB policy) and a lot of “leftists” conclude that it’s not a major issue. CADTM wrote an article about our vulnerability to financial markets.
A new law passed in October to “privatize” the federal debt agency. ACiDe is writing an article on that.
But the most important fact is the strengthen of local groups. They met last September and since then began a collective work on “CRAC” (a kind of local IMF in Wallonia). They also finally began to be present in various classic media and newspapers. The platform also launched a 6 months newsletter with 9 000 subscriptions.
Last but not least : the far-right government is amplifying its attacks and a lot of mass redundancies are taking place (ING, Caterpillar, etc.) but the action plan of trade unions is frozen.
Local Authority Debt Audits in the UK
Debt Resistance UK is undertaking an audit of local authority debt. Local authorities across the UK have been encouraged to borrow toxic loans from banks called LOBO loans. Debt Resistance UK has highlighted how LOBO loans are excessively expensive and risky for local authorities and contain derivatives which are potentially illegal.
In November 2016 The Scottish Greens published a report on local government debt referencing Debt Resistance UK’s work on LOBO loan debt. The report shows how on average Scottish local authorities are spending the equivalent of 42% of Council tax on interest and questions if such debt payments are legitimate. The report was covered by the BBC, The National, The Courier, Daily Record, Stv, Holyrood, Press and Journal and Dunfermline Press. Here is Debt Resistance UK’s press release.
On January 14, Debt Resistance UK held their second Hackday on LOBO loans. A hackday is an event where people are invited to work together on an issue for a day and produce material that can be useful for the campaign. There were around 20 participants who analysed the LOBO loan contracts Debt Resistance UK has obtained via FOI request. Others produced data visualisations and campaign videos. We plan to organise similar events in the future as we have found this kind of event very effective both from the point of view of the engagement of the participants and the results it produces. And most importantly it’s a step towards making the debt audit more participatory and citizen led.
Citizen Debt Audit Platform – PACD (Spain)
Working on debt & audits from the local level up
The #AuditFest meeting, held on the 14th and 15th of October in Barcelona, gathered more than a hundred people including local elected officials, municipal technical staff and social movements’ activists, from more than thirty municipalities in the Spanish state.
The main conclusion of the conference was the proposal to increase efforts and resources to help coordinate the construction of joint strategies among the new progressive municipalities. In this sense, the creation of a municipalist front to fight against the payment of illegitimate and illegal debts has been proposed, using tools such as citizen municipal debt audits. A common municipalist strategy that opposes the austerity imposed by the central government, prioritising peoples’ rights and social policies.
These two days ended with a plenary meeting at which the political and necessary organisational strategies were discussed and decided to promote a municipalist front, not only of municipalities but also of social movements, to coordinate the fight against Debtocracy and austerity from the local sphere.
Next steps have been a meeting in Oviedo, following the “Manifiesto de Oviedo“, where the front’s strategy was further worked on producing a calendar that will coordinate municipalities and social movements, and a workshop at the Mak2 event “Municipalism, self-government and counter-power” that will take place on January 20th-22nd.
Our last newsletter described the birth and history of the Forum of social and public finance (Italy) in 2013. At the present time, the forum has no coordination anymore (or at least not as before), but specific initiatives of local audit in Parma, Reggio Emilia, Naples, Milan, Rome, Livorno, Genoa, and Pisa continue to be active.
In the meantime, another structure has been established in Rome on September 15: CADTM Italy . Activists from academic groups, professors, members of local debt audit commissions (including from the local audit initiatives of Parma, Milan, Rome), Attac Italy, Communia, political parties (such as Sinistra anticapitalista), civil society organisations (Associazione culturale il Bradipo, Arci, Fair, Fondazione “Lorenzo Milani” Onlus di Termoli, Centro Nuovo Modello di Sviluppo etc.), trade unions, and Pax Christi, all came together to cherish the new born CADTM Italy.
A coordination committee has been also set up to facilitate the creation of CADTM Italy, and its aims will be: 1) start auditing the Italian public debt as reflected on the international experiences of Ecuador and Greece; 2) connect this broader analysis with the ones carried out by the local audit groups. On January 14, more than twenty people have officially formed a non-profit organization, which will now start to push the issue of the debt, as well as advocate for the abolition of illegitimate debts within the scope of broader demands brought up by other social movements. On March 4, a second popular assembly will be called for this very purpose: all those movements interested in the debt research are welcome, in order to try to build a network that can support CADTM’s action, and mobilise around the debt issue and its consequences on the social sphere.
The committee will also serve as a platform of reference in relation to a variety of audit activities in the country. The members of the committee will support and exchange pieces of information and best practices useful for the various local audit teams that have formed in the last few years. The audit in Parma, in particular, could probably be one of the best practices to share: its committee managed to attract the attention of civil society, as well as that of legal authorities, regarding a case of corruption and speculation linked to the increase in land prices – resulted in the subsequent austerity the local government imposed on the people of the city. The Parma group also scrutinizes PPPs (public – private partnerships), which manage basic public services such as water and gas utilities.
CADTM – PAKISTAN
The Pakistani economists and debt justice campaigners in the country have been warning that the country is heading towards a serious debt problem that will destabilise the economy. But the ruling elite and govt. financial managers least bothered to take the warning seriously. The opposition members also are calling for halt to further borrowing, but the current government of PML-N seems more obsessed with “feel good” projects that translate into votes and not economic activity, through loans from China under the CPEC (China-Pakistan Economic Corridoor) program.
The overall public debt of Pakistan is estimated at PKR. 12.7 trillion (over $ 200 billion) in Dec 2016. External debt, at $ 73 billion, which is around 67% of its GDP. Instead of halting the reckless borrowing spree the govt. intends to present to the world the adverse economic impact on the country’s economy as a result of its involvement in war on war on terrorism.
The most important problem is to mainstream the question of rising public debt and create public awareness on the issue of debt justice in Pakistan, for which CADTM-Pakistan is making efforts within its capacity through research and advocacy. In collaboration with Oxfam Novib-Pakistan and Islamic Relief -Pakistan ISEJ/CADTM-Pakistan have developed the studies ” Unlocking the Chains of debt ” and Tax Justice in Pakistan.