The Anglican Archbishop of Kenya, David Gitari, has criticized Japan for what he called an inadequate response to the Jubilee 2000 message of canceling the unpayable debts of the world's poorest countries. Archbishop Gitari was speaking to Ecumenical News International (ENI) April 13 in London en route from Tokyo, where he and two colleagues from Tanzania and Uganda had urged the Japanese government to soften its stance on debt. In July Japan will chair the annual summit of the Group of Eight (the seven leading Western industrial nations plus Russia), and the visit was aimed at influencing the summit. Jubilee 2000 is an international movement in over 40 countries calling for a one-off cancellation of the unpayable debts of the world's poorest countries under a fair and transparent process. Archbishop Gitari acknowledged that his group had had mixed success when they met officials from the Japanese ministries of finance and foreign affairs."We were listened to very carefully, and then in most cases they were just giving us the official line," he said.The Japanese, according to the archbishop, argued that they had already written off about half of the bilateral loans to HIPC (heavily indebted poor countries). They proposed to reschedule the remaining debt over 40 years with a 16-year grace period for making payments. They would then match repayments with further aid.Dr Gitari said he did not accept the Japanese argument that this amounted to 100 percent cancellation of the original debts. (According to Jubilee 2000, under the Japanese procedure the new aid must be spent on imports, and so cannot be used for essential domestic spending on poverty reduction.)The archbishop praised the United States and Britain for their lead ...

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