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Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyz Protesters Target World Bank Debt Scheme
30 January 2007

YOUTH GROUPS ARE STRONGLY AGAINST HIPC

Representatives of some youth and human rights groups protested in front of
the parliament building in Bishkek, capital city, on 23 January 2007
against joining to the HIPC initiative. They promised they would offer their own plan of debt relief without HIPC.

Minister of Economy and Finances Akylbek Japarov
angrily responded on 26 January during a round table discussion that some
NGOs were “financed by foreign funds to do their campaign”, this caused
storms of laughter as the audience reminded him that since September 2005
(when Japarov had been appointed) his ministry received about $ 250 million
of foreign aid - both loans and grants, which only aggravated the debt
situation.

It became known on 26 January 2007 that an outgoing prime minister Felix
Kulov revoked his signature under the official letter (sent on 28 December
2006) to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, in which Kulov
had taken personal responsibility for participation in HIPC.

Kulov said that in a new situation he did not want his name to be associated
with HIPC initiative. This is going to create difficulties for a new cabinet
because growing opposition to HIPC is spreading while ministers will have to
begin a new round of persuasions.

HIPC continues to spark significant irritation in various layers of Kyrgyz society. There were two popular movements in December 2006 that included “anti-HIPC” pattern in their names. In January 2007 yet another anti-HIPC group announced the launch of a new movement called “For the Salvation of Kyrgyzstan”. They are more radically inclined.

All anti-HIPC movements coordinate their activities and have declared they are thinking about various options should the Kyrgyz government choose to continue proposing HIPC as the only economic strategy. These include court challenges, a return to mass public protests, acts of civil disobedience,etc.
Asked about a planned meeting in Brussels on 13 February of a Kyrgyz-European Cooperation Council to discuss, among other issues, a possibility for Kyrgyzstan to join HIPC, Aziza Abdrasulova, a leader of anti-HIPC coalition, said that the current unpopular government could not negotiate such serious issues without the risks of igniting massive unrest in the country. She likened acting premier Felix Kulov to a passenger in a train that can depart at any moment leaving the country in havoc. Aziza also said that if Felix Kulov was seeking fame for his loyalty to HIPC, he could only obtain a stigma of Augusto Pinochet in the eyes of many Kyrgyz citizens.

action against HIPC in front of the office of the World Bank in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.

BISHKEK, November 29, 2006 (RFE/RL) — Representatives of several Kyrgyz youth groups organized a gathering today outside the World Bank’s offices in Bishkek to protest tentative government plans to join the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program, RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service reports.

The several dozen protesters who turned out chanted slogans decrying international financial institutions.

Critics say HIPC requires countries to spend more money on servicing their debts, instead of developing poverty-reduction programs. Twenty-nine countries, most of them African, have joined the HIPC program.

Addressing a news briefing in Bishkek on November 28, Alisher Mamasaliev of the nongovernmental group Civic Platform said that most of his countrymen would like to know more about the conditions attached to the debt-relief assistance program, which is co-sponsored by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“The majority of the country’s population still does not understand [membership of the HIPC],” Mamasaliev says. “President [Kurmanbek] Bakiev himself once said that he does not understand the conditions [of this program]. How can we, not knowing the conditions, conduct entry talks?”

Members of the Kyrgyz parliament’s budget committee on November 22 expressed opposition to Kyrgyzstan’s participation in the HIPC scheme.
action against HIPC in front of the office of the World Bank in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.

WE DENOUNCE PRESSURE AND LACK OF TRANSPARENCY AROUND HIPC DEAL

In December 2006 the IMF and the World Bank plan to do further wrenching
of Kyrgyz government’s hands so that they accept HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor
Countries Initiative). Many civil society leaders are for debt relief but
absolutely not for achieving it through HIPC. There are deep divisions among
Kyrgyz ministers with regard to HIPC. Also we are receiving hopeful signals
from the presidential office requesting for more discouraging facts from
various countries where HIPC was implemented. Fortunately, some of our
newspapers started the anti-HIPC publications describing African countries’
failures.The public is meanwhile boiling with anger.

And in the course of the parliamentary hearing on our country’s human rights obligations (held in mid-September 2006) NGOs familiarized the public with a term “illegitimate debt” (projects approved by lenders with huge disrespect to their own safeguard policies had been used to aggravate situation in the area of economic and social rights instead of improving it), so now it is a part of political vocabulary despite visibly drawn faces of some officials from the Ministry of Finance. It is in the text of recommendations that the government will have to work on.

On 12 October 2006 there was a big public event, Second National Civic Forum (organized in BIshkek by a number of NGOs together with some political parties), the entire Cabinet of Ministers was present. Everybody applauded when a village activist suggested that rejection of HIPC and energy privatization should be included into the Forum’s resolution. In July 2006 more than 25 civil society organizations of Kyrgyz Republic handed their letter to the G8 summit protesting debt relief through HIPC.
action against HIPC in front of the office of the World Bank in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic.

Bureau on Human Rights and Rule of Law
17 October 2006