International Debt Relief
James Hayes-Bohanan, Ph.D.
Most material from February, 2002  or earlier
Slight revisions January 2007

Some men rob you with a six gun; others with a fountain pen.
(Woody Guthrie)

This page includes materials related to my presentation, "Global Recession and the Future of Debt Relief," which I presented in February 2002 as part of the Earth Sciences and Geography Club Lecture Series.

The page was originally prepared as a supplement to my March 2, 2001 presentation entitled "The Effects of International Debt on International Development." The presentation was part of a workshop series entitled How Two-Thirds of the World Lives: Teaching About International Development Issues at Clark University Teachers Center for Global Studies in Worcester, Massachusetts. (See PowerPoint version of the talk and Excel file containing country data.)

I welcome suggestions for additional links. Please contact me at or (508) 531-2118.

International development news

The following U.S. debt and GNP figures can be used to put the debt figures in perspective. The U.S. has a total debt of approximately $6 trillion with a GNP of $8 trillion. Most of the U.S. debt is internal, so these numbers are probably not the best to use for direct comparisons. For further comparisons, I recommend  the external debt rankings (note that you need to add six zeros to the figures in this table) and the GDP per capita rankings, both available from

General Resources

Economics Professor Harry Cleaver at the University of Texas provides an exhaustive bibliography for his course, Political Economy of International Crisis.

My 1999 Jubilee 2000 talk, in which I described the religious origins of the Jubilee movement and the growing support (at that time) for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

The IMF web site and the World Bank web sites contain a lot of information from the point of view of the institutions that make most of the decisions about debt repayment. Particularly important is the original HIPC proposal from IMF.

Jubilee 2000 Coalition is a British NGO that mobilized religious and political support for debt relief in 1999 and 2000. Its analysis of President Clinton’s proposal regarding unilateral debt relief is still relevant background.

Summary statistics from J2000 is a clear presentation of debt-related statistics by country, but it is no longer the most current information.

Policy papers from Oxfam describe the shortcomings of recent international aid efforts, among other issues.

Odious Debts is an excellent book on the debt crisis. A summary, ordering information, and the complete text are available.

Structural Adjustment -- a Major Cause of Poverty describes how structural adjustment policies (SAPs) serve the interests of consumers and commerce in wealthy nations.

Walden Bello's Reaganism and Rollback examines connections between World Bank/IMF policies and Ronald Reagan's economic agenda. It includes some details of the 1980s Baker Plan.

s11 originated around the September 11, 2000 protests of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne. Its web site has evolved so that it serves as a clearinghouse for anti-globalism activities throughout the world. This movement has no relationship to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

President for a Day provides information about a CD-ROM simulation of the choices faced by a hypothetical African president. I have a beta version of the CD for BSC people who are interested in previewing it.

Learn more about population and landscape change in the Amazon region at my Rondônia Web.

Post-September 11 Resources

The following links were used to prepare my talk, Global Recession and the Future of Debt Relief, presented as part of the Bridgewater State College Earth Sciences and Geography Lecture Series on February 5, 2002. These links relate to changes in the world debt situation in the context of global recession (which actually began a bit before September 11) and changing priorities among donor countries.

In To Start a Corner Shop You Need Two Roads,Ethel Hazelhurst explains how the current structures of global trade and debt relief limit the development potential of the neediest countries.

Debt Relief from Global Policy Forum provides access to a number of relevant analyses.

Abolish the debt to free the development, by Eric Toussaint and Arnaud Zacharie, makes an historical case for complete debt cancellation.

Jubilee Plus (the successor of J2000) is now calling to end the HIPC process.

The Business Recorder article "Debt relief will give fiscal space" details the concessions Pakistan has negotiated in conjunction with its cooperation in the war against the Taliban. A press release from the Paris Club details the part of the package negotiated with that organization.

The Guardian reported in November 2001 that "the International Monetary Fund has called on the world's richest countries to boost aid budgets and debt relief efforts to prevent the gathering downturn in the global economy pushing millions more people in the developing world into abject poverty."

Tanzania was the first country to reach its HIPC targets following September 11. Jubilee 2000 argues that the process did not do enough to stabilize Tanzania's debt, partly because the terms of the IMF settlement were calculated prior to September 11, even though they took effect later. Meanwhile, global recession had reduced Tanzania's flow of foreign exchange.

James K. Galbraith, writing in the American Prospect in October 2001, describes "A War Economy... But without the Usual Wartime Stimulus?"

Think Again: Debt Relief by William Easterly (a World Bank consultant) was published at the end of 2001 by Foreign Policy. Easterly argues that debt forgiveness might actually harm some of the poorest people it is intended to help.

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