Leach to speak about bill that would wipe out Third World debt

Stephanie Veldman

U.S. Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, authored a bill that intends to wipe out the debt owed to the United States by Third World countries, and he’ll be on campus today to discuss his ideas.

Leach will be speaking about the bill at noon in the Pioneer Room of the Memorial Union as part of the Institute on World Affairs lecture series.

He will discuss why he thinks the bill is important, what it does and what restrictions are being put on the countries the bill would affect.

The bill, colloquially known as the Debt Relief for Poverty Reduction Act of 1999, is being debated by Congress.

“Rather than attempt to pay back the United States, they can use the money they save for poverty reduction in their own country,” said Doug Wagner, press secretary for Leach.

Wagner said Leach decided to put the bill together after different international hunger relief groups such as Oxfam America and Bread for the World put in a request for him to write it.

“[Leach] has been aware that many countries have been paying over four times as much over debt service than education,” said Bill Tate, administrative assistant to Leach. “He realized that if they have any hope for economic growth and recovery, something had to be done.”

Wagner said about 45 countries, including Bangladesh and Nigeria, would benefit from this bill. “About $6 billion worth of debt would be marked down to around $350 million,” he said.

The bill was written in association with the Jubilee 2000 project. The goal is to inventory the planet’s natural and human resources and determine the most efficient way to apply those resources to the needs of the world.

“The Jubilee is an Old Testament concept that builds on the cycle of seven,” Tate said. “Every 50 years, or seven times seven, people are to reconcile and forgive all slights against their neighbor as well as their debts.”