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Sunday, September 25, 2005

Letter from the editor

While the 184-nation members of the International Monetary Fund this week took a final step toward implementation of its plan to forgive the debts of the world's poorest nations, many of them in poverty stricken Africa. The United States increased its own debt from the 2 storms to more than $40 Billion. That same amount -$40 Billion - loaned to the world's poorest 18 nations will be forgiven when IMF and World Bank executives meet within a week. That final step was enabled when the big 8: Canada, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States agreed to underwrite the entire amount.

This unprecedented debt relief will do more to improve life for a third of the world's population living in extreme poverty than any other single effort in recent history. The world's wealthiest nations can make a difference simply by absorbing the debt of the poorest. This costs almost nothing to the industrialized nations who simply readjust their own debt repayments with an incremental rate increase. It provides, on the other hand, a miracle for poor nations struggling to gain a foothold out of poverty by relieving them of a terrible burden and allowing them to spend the money on much needed medicine, education and land redevelopment. The working model for the relief program came during the economic summit in Scotland this past July and had been promoted extensively by Irish rocker Bono who lobbied world leaders and conference executives through his debt-relief group DATA.

The damage done to our own Gulf coast by 2 powerful storms is almost unimaginable and provoked for the first time comparisons to conditions in third world countries like those of war torn Africa. The comparison may be more than visual; the storms revealed a truth that underlies America's glossy veneer, that of our own wrenching poverty in places like Mississippi, Louisiana, and in truth anywhere-America when people are not paid a livable salary, paid only the $5.50 an hour minimum and forced to carry burdensome debt loads just to stay even. If every cloud has a silver lining then maybe this storm's "silver lining" is that it points the way to a much needed debt forgiveness for our own. The Fed should use this opportunity to refurbish the Gulf Coast with $40, 50, or even 200 Billion of guaranteed loans to manufacturers, suppliers, builders, property owners with this one condition, the monies must be paid out to Americans in the form of a decent wage, enough to build a life equal to the expectations of the average American's dream to own a home, send their children to college and pay for medicine, healthcare and secure a golden retirement. Those debts we can forgive.

H Weikle, Managing editor