Golriz Ghahraman joins international call for poor nations' debts to be wiped

Golriz Ghahraman.
Golriz Ghahraman. Photo credit: Golriz Ghahraman/Facebook

New Zealand MP Golriz Ghahraman has signed onto an international call to cancel debts owed by poor countries to help them get by during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter, penned by US representative Ilhan Omar and former US presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, has been backed by more than 300 other lawmakers from around the world. 

"As a member of the global community, Aotearoa must speak up for countries suffering the worst impacts and with the least resource to tackle the COVID-19 crisis," said Ghahraman, the Green Party's foreign affairs spokesperson.

"Global banks have put in some short-term measures to ease the immediate pressure on these countries resulting from the pandemic, but those measures alone are not enough. We know the devastation and cycles of poverty created by debt are suffered most by nations with a history of colonisation and war. It's time to undo historic harm and build a truly equal global community in the wake of this crisis."

Seventy-six nations are named in the letter, which is addressed to the heads of the World Bank Group and IMF. They include Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Samoa, Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.

"Not only do we have a humanitarian duty to aid our petitioning countries in dire need, but we also have a common, vested interest to support comprehensive relief for effective recovery and resiliency," it reads.

"As a collaborative international community, we can only begin to move past this pandemic once this pandemic ends for everyone."

The pandemic began in China, but took off in relatively wealthy nations such as Italy, the UK and US. It's yet to hit poorer nations quite as hard, but health experts believe it's probably just a matter of time.

"Our Pacific Island neighbours are among those recognised as particularly vulnerable from the impact of the pandemic," said Ghahraman. "They face an impossible journey to recovery if they are being crushed by global debt."

The Pacific Islands have had few cases to date, with many of them still COVID-free - helped by their own quick responses, but also New Zealand's border closure. 

"In the face of a horrific pandemic and a worldwide recession, we cannot allow poor countries to dedicate money that should be going towards protecting the health and safety of their people to pay off unsustainable debts," said Sanders.

"We cannot allow these countries to be deprived of the resources they need to purchase food, medicine, protective gear, and medical equipment. The steps that our international coalition of lawmakers is proposing are not radical. It is the very least that these financial institutions should do to prevent an unimaginable increase in poverty, hunger, and disease that threatens hundreds of millions of people."

The full letter can be read on Sanders' website. Former UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is among the signatories.