COVID-19: Speakers of Parliaments in Africa push for debt cancellation
By Our Reporter
August 17, 2020 - Some African Speakers of Parliaments have called for an urgent need to push for debt cancellation for the continent from multilateral and bilateral partners in view of the negative effects of COVID-19.
The Speakers among whom was Nigeria's House of Representatives Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, pledged to advance the African development agenda within and outside the continent in conjunction with both the executive arms of government as well as African regional institutions.
A statement issued in Abuja on Monday by Lanre Lasisi, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Gbajabiamila, said that the speaker convened a virtual meeting of African Speakers of Parliaments seeking to establish the Conference of African Speakers and Heads of Parliament (CoSAP).
The virtual meeting had in attendance Hon. Tagesse Chafo, Speaker, House of Peoples Representatives, Ethiopia,Mr Aaron Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament, Ghana, Mr Justin Muturi, Speaker, National Assembly, Republic of Kenya.
Others were Mr Donatille Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda and President Moustapha Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Senegal.
According to Gbajabiamila, development across the continent has become stunted due to the heavy burden of the debts.
He also said that the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) had compounded the issue for the continent, considering the socio-political and economic consequences of the disease.
“We all agreed that Africa’s debt burden had become an existential threat to our societies, our economies and the future and we need to do something about this and treat it as a continent-wide priority.
“It is safe to say that the burden of debt servicing, vis-à-vis spending on education and health care for example, is a threat to our continent’s stability and development, especially in the era of COVID-19.
“When we find ourselves having to make policy choices between paying debts or saving lives, we know something is not morally right.
“As democratically elected representatives of our people, we cannot be silent, we must speak up and we must act. And the time to act is now,” he said.
Also, Mr Aaron Oquaye, Speaker of Parliament, Ghana said that the debt burden was essentially a common challenge on the continent, as most African countries had to depend on foreign loans to execute their national budgets.
He, however, noted that the Speaker’s group, in its efforts to push for debt cancellation must be able to convince the creditors about accountability if they hoped to succeed.
“Donor agencies are interested in accountability because they are confounded about the issue of corruption, and we must be able to give the assurance and that is why the speakers Conference is critical,” he said.
He added that if nothing was done, there may be no economy to service the loans.
On her part, Mrs Donatille Mukabalisa, Speaker, Chamber of Deputies, Rwanda, noted that already, African countries depend on and were heavily burdened by loans even before the pandemic.
She, however, added that the group must be clear about the kind of debt it was seeking to address and from which partners.
While President Moustapha Niasse, AFP, President, National Assembly, Senegal, regretted that the pandemic had affected all economies on the continent negatively, he suggested that opinions of members of the forum must be sought on how to solve the issues between suspension or cancellation of debt.
“We must be convinced that we have a job to do at the level of parliament”, he added.