It would cost roughly $375 billion to clear the debt of the world’s 49 poorest countries and $2.9 trillion to end all “Third World debt”, according to Jubilee Debt Campaign figures.
Usually these amounts of money can seem impossible to imagine, but in the current crisis it’s easier. The first figure is just over half the amount of last week’s US bailout. The second figure is comparable to the amount of money Western states have handed to the banks in the last month.
There is a more intimate link between banks and debt. The original debt crisis was created by aggressive Western bank lending in the 1970s and spiralled out of control in the ensuing recession. Poor economies were left devastated.
The current crisis calls into question the priorities of a system that can find money to protect banks, but not to challenge poverty.