CADTM South Asia workshop

25 November 2022 by CADTM

Committee for Abolition if Illegitimate Debt (CADTM) South Asia
Law & Society Trust (LST, Sri Lanka) and the Movement for National Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR, Sri Lanka)


The coronavirus pandemic and its cascading economic consequences pushed numerous countries into a debt crisis. This is nowhere more pronounced than in Sri Lanka, lingering in a debt trap since the beginning of this year. The country defaulted on its debt for the first time in its history as it struggled with its worst financial crisis in more than 70 years.
Since then, the country has witnessed mass protests against the worsening living conditions with opinions divided about the resolution of the crisis and the future of the country. While for ordinary people, the current situation in the island nation owes its lot to the “failure of governance” with the Rajapakse family which was at the helm of the nation as the face of this “failure”, the civil society is divided about the way forward.

Real also : ‘The Canary in the Coal Mine’: Sri Lanka’s Crisis is a Chronicle Foretold

Sri Lanka has recently obtained a staff-level agreement with the IMF IMF
International Monetary Fund
Along with the World Bank, the IMF was founded on the day the Bretton Woods Agreements were signed. Its first mission was to support the new system of standard exchange rates.

When the Bretton Wood fixed rates system came to an end in 1971, the main function of the IMF became that of being both policeman and fireman for global capital: it acts as policeman when it enforces its Structural Adjustment Policies and as fireman when it steps in to help out governments in risk of defaulting on debt repayments.

As for the World Bank, a weighted voting system operates: depending on the amount paid as contribution by each member state. 85% of the votes is required to modify the IMF Charter (which means that the USA with 17,68% % of the votes has a de facto veto on any change).

The institution is dominated by five countries: the United States (16,74%), Japan (6,23%), Germany (5,81%), France (4,29%) and the UK (4,29%).
The other 183 member countries are divided into groups led by one country. The most important one (6,57% of the votes) is led by Belgium. The least important group of countries (1,55% of the votes) is led by Gabon and brings together African countries.
for an Extended Fund Facility (EFF) of US$2.9 billion spread over four years. This comes after several months of negotiation by the Sri Lankan government which saw the bail-out as the only way to rescue the nation’s economy. While the experts, state managers, policy specialists, and media are unanimous in their pro-IMF position, this bailout comes at a cost. The beleaguered economy is mandated to significantly increase State revenues through revenue-based fiscal consolidation measures, that is to increase revenue while reducing expenditure in order to show a primary surplus of 2.3 per cent of GDP GDP
Gross Domestic Product
Gross Domestic Product is an aggregate measure of total production within a given territory equal to the sum of the gross values added. The measure is notoriously incomplete; for example it does not take into account any activity that does not enter into a commercial exchange. The GDP takes into account both the production of goods and the production of services. Economic growth is defined as the variation of the GDP from one period to another.
by 2025 from the projected -4.0 for this year.

In the meantime, the Sri Lankan opposition including members of the civil society remains divided over an IMF programme and responses to it. Their positions can be roughly classified into three broad categories:

  • The IMF bailout is the only solution to rescue the economy.
  • The terms of the bailout are harsh and therefore, GOSL needs to bargain better.
  • No to IMF loans and repudiation of odious debts.
Real also : Sri Lanka: No agreement with the IMF!

While a full-fledged debt crisis has engulfed the island nation, other countries in South Asia are not far behind. Factors contributing to the Sri Lankan crisis have also had a significant impact on Pakistan, whose economy faces similar challenges. According to reports, Pakistan has requested China to rollover its $6.3 billion debt that is maturing in the next eight months as part of its overall plan to arrange $34 billion in the current fiscal year to meet its debt and external trade-related obligations. Bangladesh is the third South Asian country to look forward to IMF loans, after Sri Lanka and Pakistan. While an IMF team is in the country to start negotiations, Bangladesh’s foreign currency reserves dipped to $35.98 billion - a steep drop from $48 billion in August last year and the lowest level in 28 months. While the Indian debt scenario is reportedly easier to sustain, the debt ratio is projected to be 84% of its GDP by the end of 2022, undoubtedly higher than many emerging economies.

Photo of the participants of the 7th CADTM South Asia workshop which took place from 6 to 8 April 2018 in Colombo, Sri Lanka

According to the World Bank World Bank
The World Bank was founded as part of the new international monetary system set up at Bretton Woods in 1944. Its capital is provided by member states’ contributions and loans on the international money markets. It financed public and private projects in Third World and East European countries.

It consists of several closely associated institutions, among which :

1. The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, 189 members in 2017), which provides loans in productive sectors such as farming or energy ;

2. The International Development Association (IDA, 159 members in 1997), which provides less advanced countries with long-term loans (35-40 years) at very low interest (1%) ;

3. The International Finance Corporation (IFC), which provides both loan and equity finance for business ventures in developing countries.

As Third World Debt gets worse, the World Bank (along with the IMF) tends to adopt a macro-economic perspective. For instance, it enforces adjustment policies that are intended to balance heavily indebted countries’ payments. The World Bank advises those countries that have to undergo the IMF’s therapy on such matters as how to reduce budget deficits, round up savings, enduce foreign investors to settle within their borders, or free prices and exchange rates.

, the number of people who were forced into poverty due to Covid-19 has gone up sharply in South Asia with other regions. The region has witnessed a significant build-up of household debt. In Sri Lanka there have been many struggles around microfinance loans usually led by women. As per reports, the pandemic-induced financial stress and high inflation Inflation The cumulated rise of prices as a whole (e.g. a rise in the price of petroleum, eventually leading to a rise in salaries, then to the rise of other prices, etc.). Inflation implies a fall in the value of money since, as time goes by, larger sums are required to purchase particular items. This is the reason why corporate-driven policies seek to keep inflation down. is pushing higher household debt in India, especially loans related to consumer durable credit card payments and loans against fixed deposits. the total household debt in India has risen dramatically from $8.6 billion in March 1998 to $392.9 billion in March 2021, the highest ever recorded. The debt grew dramatically from $335 billion in the year April 2020-March 2021, the sharpest ever spike of 17 percent in a year. The situation is similar in other countries of the region. The inflationary spiral and especially, the rise in food prices are pushing thousands and thousands across the region in debt and poverty. It is apprehended that private debt – both household and corporate – could hamper the region’s economic recovery.

Real also : Unitedly we fight against debt and all other oppressions!

In this context, the CADTM South Asia workshop to be held in Colombo from Friday 2nd – Sunday 4th December 2022 will primarily attempt to deal with the following issues:

  • Deepening global debt crisis and its causes and consequences
  • South Asian scenario of external and private (including household) debt
  • Sri Lanka’s debt crisis and lessons from/for South Asia
  • The IMF as lender of last resort
  • What is Illegitimate Debt and What are Debt Audits?
Friday 2 December
0900 – 0930 Welcome, Objectives and Introductions
Herman Kumara (SAAPE), Chintaka Rajapaksa (MONLAR)
0930 – 1100 The Global Debt Scenario: Causes and Consequences (with particular reference to Sri Lanka debt default)
CADTM International
Moderator: Pakistan Kisan Rabita Committee
1100 – 1130 Break 1
1130 – 1300 South Asian external debt, International Financial Institutions, Peoples Movements
Bangladesh Krishok Federation
CADTM Pakistan
South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication, Nepal
1300-1400 Lunch
1400 – 1600 Sri Lanka: What is this crisis? How did we get here?
Sumanasiri Liyanage (political economist) on origins and contours of our present crisis
Ramindu Perera (Open University of Sri Lanka) on debt crisis and sovereign debt Sovereign debt Government debts or debts guaranteed by the government. default
Vimukthi de Silva (MONLAR) on agrarian crisis and rural women
Moderator: B. Skanthakumar (Social Scientists’ Association, Sri Lanka)
1600 – 1730 Break 2
1730 – 1900 Public Seminar
Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee on Climate Disaster and Debt Justice in Pakistan
Hemantha Withanage (Chair, Friends of the Earth International) on COP27 and Debt Justice
Moderator: Nalini Ratnarajah (South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication, Sri Lanka))
Saturday 3 December
0900-1100 What is the International Monetary Fund, and what is it for? What is the role of the IMF in debt crises? What is an IMF programme? What are IMF conditionalities, and can they be human-rights friendly? What are our alternatives, including the debt audit?
CADTM International
Moderator: Swasthika Arulingam (Commercial and Industrial Workers Union/United Federation of Labour))
1100 – 1130 Break 1
1130 – 1300 Private Debt in South Asia & North Africa
Chinmayi Naik, Working Peoples Coalition, India)
Renuka Karunarathne (Microfinance Victims Collective, Sri Lanka)
1300-1400 Lunch
1400 – 1600 Sri Lanka: Debates and Strategy on Debt, IMF, and Our Alternatives
Chintaka Rajapaksa (MONLAR)
Madhulika Gunewardena (Feminist Collective for Economic Justice)
Dhanusha Gihan Pathirana (political economist)
Moderator: Sandun Thudugala (Law & Society Trust)
1600 – 1630 Refreshments
1630 – 1700 Close of Workshop
Reflections by participants
Closing Remarks: Sakuntala Kadirgamar (Law & Society Trust);
Chintaka Rajapaksa (MONLAR);
CADTM International)
Sunday 4 December (CADTM Members)
0900 – 1100 CADTM in South Asia: Way Forward and Next Steps

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