Campaigners call for UK government to enforce Ukraine debt deal

28 August 2015 by Jubilee Debt Campaign

The Ukrainian bonds are owed under English law. When a similar debt restructuring was undertaken of Greece’s bonds in 2012, 29% of holders of bonds under English law refused to take part in the agreement. Because the UK government refused to act to enforce the agreed debt restructuring, the Greek government paid them in full.

One owner of a $3 billion Ukrainian bond Bond A bond is a stake in a debt issued by a company or governmental body. The holder of the bond, the creditor, is entitled to interest and reimbursement of the principal. If the company is listed, the holder can also sell the bond on a stock-exchange. is the government of Russia, which has already said it will refuse to take part in the deal. This could lead to the Russian government suing Ukraine in London courts, unless the UK government takes action.

In 2010, the UK government passed the Debt Relief (Developing Countries) Act. This enforced the debt restructurings agreed under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Heavily Indebted Poor Countries
HIPC
In 1996 the IMF and the World Bank launched an initiative aimed at reducing the debt burden for some 41 heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC), whose total debts amount to about 10% of the Third World Debt. The list includes 33 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The idea at the back of the initiative is as follows: a country on the HIPC list can start an SAP programme of twice three years. At the end of the first stage (first three years) IMF experts assess the ’sustainability’ of the country’s debt (from medium term projections of the country’s balance of payments and of the net present value (NPV) of debt to exports ratio.
If the country’s debt is considered “unsustainable”, it is eligible for a second stage of reforms at the end of which its debt is made ’sustainable’ (that it it is given the financial means necessary to pay back the amounts due). Three years after the beginning of the initiative, only four countries had been deemed eligible for a very slight debt relief (Uganda, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, and Mozambique). Confronted with such poor results and with the Jubilee 2000 campaign (which brought in a petition with over 17 million signatures to the G7 meeting in Cologne in June 1999), the G7 (group of 7 most industrialised countries) and international financial institutions launched an enhanced initiative: “sustainability” criteria have been revised (for instance the value of the debt must only amount to 150% of export revenues instead of 200-250% as was the case before), the second stage in the reforms is not fixed any more: an assiduous pupil can anticipate and be granted debt relief earlier, and thirdly some interim relief can be granted after the first three years of reform.

Simultaneously the IMF and the World Bank change their vocabulary : their loans, which so far had been called, “enhanced structural adjustment facilities” (ESAF), are now called “Growth and Poverty Reduction Facilities” (GPRF) while “Structural Adjustment Policies” are now called “Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper”. This paper is drafted by the country requesting assistance with the help of the IMF and the World Bank and the participation of representatives from the civil society.
This enhanced initiative has been largely publicised: the international media announced a 90%, even a 100% cancellation after the Euro-African summit in Cairo (April 2000). Yet on closer examination the HIPC initiative turns out to be yet another delusive manoeuvre which suggests but in no way implements a cancellation of the debt.

List of the 42 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries: Angola, Benin, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoro Islands, Congo, Ivory Coast, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Kenya, Laos, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Niger, Rwanda, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia.
initiative on any claimants against those 40 countries in UK courts.

Tim Jones, economist at the Jubilee Debt Campaign, said:

“Once a Ukrainian debt deal is completed in September, the UK parliament should act quickly to ensure it is enforced on all creditors. The UK has to take responsibility for these debts issued under English law, and no longer accept the UK courts being used to bypass internationally agreed debt restructurings, whether by vulture funds Vulture funds
Vulture fund
Investment funds who buy, on the secondary markets and at a significant discount, bonds once emitted by countries that are having repayment difficulties, from investors who prefer to cut their losses and take what price they can get in order to unload the risk from their books. The Vulture Funds then pursue the issuing country for the full amount of the debt they have purchased, not hesitating to seek decisions before, usually, British or US courts where the law is favourable to creditors.
or other governments.”

“The successful implementation of the 2010 law shows it is possible to stop vulture funds and enforce agreed debt restructurings. Until there is a proper international legal framework for resolving government debts, the UK government has to bring in comprehensive legislation to stop the UK being a haven for vulture funds.”

In September 2014, the UN General Assembly voted by 124 votes to 11 to create an international legal framework for resolving sovereign debts. However, the UK, Germany and US were among the 11 countries which voted against.


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