#AidMonitorPH should check corruption – and expose aid with strings attached

20131205-115205.jpg Aside from #ReliefPH, #TracingPH and other social media-based disaster-related efforts, the netizens’ response to Yolanda now includes a laudable crowdsourcing project called #AidMonitorPH.

The objectives of #AidMonitorPH are pretty straightforward: To identify and list of foreign aid donations and pledges and to monitor how these would be used and spent.

#AidMonitorPH is clearly an offshoot of the ongoing anti-pork barrel campaign and an expression of netizens’ determination to make sure that each dollar donated for Yolanda relief and rehabilitation would actually be spent wisely and transparently.

#AidMonitorPH honors both Yolanda survivors and the many countries and international organizations that have swiftly and compassionately come forward as soon as word came out about the devastation wrought by the world’s strongest typhoon.

No to aid with strings attached

But aside from ensuring that corruption does not steal away much-needed and much-appreciated foreign aid from intended beneficiaries, #AidMonitorPH should identify, expose and reject “aid with strings attached”. I’m referring here to so-called “aid” from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank. These are not aid and totally different from what others are sending. These are loans with interest. Just imagine the interest on a $500 million World Bank loan and the length of time we would need to repay it.

If we do not expose and stop such loans will only bloat the country’s foreign debt obligations. Some may not know it but a big portion – between a third to half of the total – of the annual budget of government consists of automatic appropriations for our debt obligations. This, alongside corruption and misplaced priorities, deprive funds for essentials like education, health, housing and disaster response. The Yolanda-related offers of loans from the World Bank and ADB would make this problem worse.

According to lawmakers Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, the Aquino government should ask creditors to write-off interest payments and declare a moratorium on debt payments. I am sure that you would agree if you have an idea of the obscene amounts that go to the non-productive expense of debt payments.

The heavy burden of debt

A GMA News report says that the Philippines’ total foreign borrowings for 2013 amount to P2 trillion. The 2013 budget for debt servicing alone reaching P333.9 billion.

It also said that from Jan. to Sept. 2013, the government spent P470.14 billion for debt payments. The figure for the same period last year was P483.79 billion.

The same report further explained that out of the P470.14 billion, the government paid a total of P212.05 billion in principal including P108.02 billion in domestic debt and P104.029 billion in foreign loans.

How about the interest? P171.96 billion was paid for the interest on domestic loans and P86.13 billion interest on foreign debt.

What could the entities like the World Bank, ADB and the International Monetary Fund do instead of offering loans? We ask that they condone some of our obligations, especially those that are fraudulent and onerous in nature. We also wish that creditor-countries with whom we have obligations seriously consider condoning some of the longstanding loans. ###

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