COVID-19 is accelerating the debt crisis: many low-income countries saddled with debt are diverting vital funds away from crucial public services like healthcare, and women and girls are paying the highest price.
The COVID-19 pandemic is widening the cracks in the global economy. Yet it also presents an opportunity to reset our global economy with bold and just solutions that advance gender equality and put people and the planet above profit.
On Monday 7 September, ActionAid hosted a discussion on ‘Ending the Debt Crisis for Women’. Moderated by ActionAid Australia’s Head of Campaigns and Policy, Katherine Tu, we were joined by an international panel of experts from across the world: Lidy Nacpil, Dr Claire Slatter, and ActionAid’s Wangari Kinoti.
Lidy Nacpil, Coordinator of Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development, opened the conversation exploring the debt crisis’ origins in colonialism and continuing unfair global economic relations.
“This isn’t about the Global South begging to be lent money, it’s about the Global North, financial institutions, private banks and even governments, aggressively pushing loans,” said Nacpil. Low-income countries urgently need to free up funds to respond to COVID-19, but are being forced to divert money away from essential public services like healthcare, so they can meet external debt payments.
New loans are not the answer to the economic fallout caused by COVID-19, she argued, and will only trap countries into more debt and deepen poverty. Canceling debt and implementing a long-term solution to resolve the debt crisis is the only just solution.
International women’s rights activist, Wangari Kinoti stated that women worldwide undertake an extra 16.4 billion hours of unpaid labour, every day. When governments fail to provide healthcare, education and other public infrastructure, they exploit the unpaid labour of women. By extension the burden of debt repayment is falling on women in the Global South.
“Feminist activists have been stressing that women are both debt lenders and spenders,” said Wangari.
Feminist academic, Dr Claire Slatter, based in Fiji, said that while the Pacific region is defined as having moderate debt, one in four Pacific Islanders still live below the poverty line in their respective countries. Mounting debt is pushing communities further into long-term poverty.
She explored the political nature of debt and loans in the region and urged governments to support locally led decisions on debt, infrastructure and self-determination on public spending.
If you missed the webinar, you can watch a recording of the webinar below.
Join ActionAid in calling on the Australian government to step up and support low-income countries to cancel the debt. Sign the petition now!