About Me

Th Labour Relief Campaign was created in the wake of the floods that devastated Pakistan in August 2010. It brings together 8 organizations: Labour Party Pakistan (LPP), Labour Education Foundation (LEF), Center for the cancellation of the third world debt (CADTM), Women worker's helpline (WWHL), Progressive youth front (PYF), National trade union federation (NTUF), Kissan Raabta Committee (KRC), Pakistanis for Palestine (PaksForPal). Our campaign has two separate fronts, the relief work and a political campaign for the cancellation of Pakistan's debt in favor of the flood victims

Friday, October 29, 2010

Debt crisis hits harder in Europe than in the emergent countries of South

Eric Toussaint interviewed by Ram Etwareea (Le Temps, Genève)

Eric Toussaint, a specialist of the third-world debt, considers that Greece should default and audit its debt to point to creditors’ responsibility and radically reduce the debt stock.
Europe’s current indebtedness is deeper than that of South American countries. In most cases the ratio between external debt and GNP has reached 40% in 2010 in South American countries; in Greece, Spain, Portugal or Ireland, it is well beyond 100%. Though governments and the European Commission focus on public debt, private debt is far higher. In Spain, public debt accounts for some 17% of the total debt. The increase in the European public debt is the consequence of three elements: the tax counter-reform that started in the 1990s and reduces state revenues by offering tax breaks to the wealthy and to private corporations; the cost of governments bailing out private banks from 2007 onward, and the fall in tax revenues due to the economic recession in 2009. While social expenditures of European governments have in no way increased public debt, these will be slashed by austerity measures. Moreover the huge debt of some private companies might be turned into public debt if we do not watch out.

This is the way Eric Toussaint, an economist and historian who has studied public finances in countries of the South since the 1980s, analyzes the situation. According to this Belgian expert who works within the Committee for the Abolition of the Third World Debt (www.cadtm.org ), Greece ought to default, set up an audit of its debt to determine creditors’ responsibilities and renegociate repayment while enforcing a radical reduction of its debt. While in Geneva to present his latest book[2], he emphasized that this solution would save the country from the austerity measures currently imposed by the IMF and the EU, which affect the whole population. Some ten European countries are currently ‘helped’ by the IMF.

‘Many of the loans were granted to Greece to buy military material from France and Germany,’ Eric Toussaint explained. ‘After the crisis became manifest, the military-industrial lobby even succeeded in maintaining the defence budget while social expenditure was slashed by more than 20%.’ He recalled that in the very heart of the Greek crisis at the beginning of the year Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Prime Minister of Turkey, i.e. a country with tense relationships with its Greek neighbour, went to Athens and proposed a 20% reduction of the military budget in both countries. The Greek government did not respond for it felt the pressure of the French and German authorities that wanted to support their arms sales. We should add the many loans granted by mainly German and French banks to private companies and Greek authorities in 2008-2009. These banks borrowed from the ECB at low interest rates and granted loans at higher rates, which made for juicy short term benefits. They did not stop to wonder whether the borrowers could repay the borrowed capital in the longer term. Private banks thus bear great responsibility for current over-indebtedness. Loans from EU member states and from the IMF are not granted with a view to serving the interests of the Greek population but to repaying German and French banks jeopardized by their own over-adventurous policies, Eric Toussaint claims.  

When Eric Toussaint recommands defaulting, he knows what he is saying. He was a member of a committee for the auditing of the Ecuadorian debt set up in July 2007. ‘We noticed that several loans contravened basic rules. In November 2008 the new government relied on our report and stopped repaying bonds that come to maturity in 2012 and 2030. Eventually the government of this small South American country was victorious in a tug of war with North American bankers that held bonds on the Ecuadorian debt. It bought back securities for one billion dollars that were valued at 3.2 billion. Ecuador’s public treasury thus saved some 2.2 billion dollars on its debt stock to which we must add $300 million of yearly interest that has not been paid since 2008. This gave the government the financial resources needed to increase social expenditure in health care, education and help to the poorer layers of the population,’ he explained. He also mentioned the example of Argentina that refused to repay its debt from 2001 to 2005 and pointed to the creditors’ responsibility. ‘Thanks to its unilateral moratorium on debt securities for about $ 100 billion, the country could invest its resources and turn to economic growth again,’ he added. ‘Argentina still has a $6 billion slate with the Paris Club. Since December 2001 it has not paid anything to Paris Club members and feels all the better for it. The Paris Club stands for the interests of industrialized countries and does not wish to make a fuss about Argentina not paying for fear that other governments might follow suit.’ Greece too defaulted for over 60 years in the 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century.

The IMF has got it wrong
Eric Toussaint further claims that the IMF is deeply wrong when it insists on imposing austerity on indebted countries in Europe, as had been the case for developing countries. ‘Slashing budgets and freezing purchasing power in some ten countries means sabotaging recovery plans. This is insane since in Europe consumption amounts to 70% of the GNP.’

Our expert further points out that not all countries can respond like Germany. Thanks to its industrial apparatus and a policy of wage squeezing, Germany managed to boost its exports. Eric Toussaint explains that the IMF and the EU enforce the Washington consensus –  deregulation – in Europe when it has already had disastrous consequences in developing countries. ‘I cannot see how measures that have failed elsewhere would yield different results in Greece, Spain or Portugal. Countries like India, China or Argentina have managed because of policies in which the state still plays an important part in economy. India, for instance, will not privatize its railways. Year after year the government spends huge amounts on them, but this also means saving a million jobs and good quality public services. The public railway company runs at a profit each year. Similarly, in spite of pressures, the Indian government has not deregulated the banking sector, which sheltered it from the 2007 financial crisis.’

Translated by Christine Pagnoulle in collaboration with Vicki Briault

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Norwegian artists donate 1.48 million Rupees to flood victims

Cultural Life Buoy Campaign to raise funds concluded in Norway

Press Release – Lahore

Several nationally known television and theater artists from Norway have collected rupees 1,480,135  (100670 NOK) in a bid to help the flood victims in Pakistan. The amount has been sent to Labour Education Foundation (LEF) one of the eight organizations that are part of Labour Relief Campaign, an umbrella relief organization of several trade unions, social and political organizations of Pakistan.

Cultural Life Buoy, a Norwegian cultural campaign to support flood victims in Pakistan was started on 1st September by Norwegian-Pakistani actor and Board Member of the Norwegian Actors’ Equity Association, Toni Usman. In a press statement, he said “We artists and culture workers have a special responsibility and opportunity to support people who are affected by natural catastrophes. We know that the UN estimates the death toll will exceed both the tsunami in 2004 and the earthquake in Haiti, we cannot wait to give support.  Flood victims need support now because it is a crisis with serious effects.  It is threatening death in the form of disease and hunger.”

As part of the campaign a theater show was arranged on 19thSeptember in Oslo where well known artists performed voluntarily. A variety of stage artists such as Kjersti Elvik, Janne Langaas, Tove Bøygard, Kjersti Fjeldstad , Sølvi Zuckermann Fellus, Shri Lal, Rohini Sahajpal, Jai Shankar, Urmila Berg-Domaas, Sunanda Sharma and Toni Usman took to the stage to raise donations for the flood victims in Pakistan. The show was directed by Kristian Lykkeslet Strømskag who normally works at the National Theatre.  He worked hard, day and night along with Toni Usman for the campaign and said “We asked ourselves why people do not donate enough money for flood victims.  Norway otherwise is a nation that contributes to a great extent during humanitarian disasters. Having that in mind we decided to do something ourselves.  One is completely shattered when you see television images of dying children and know that help is not coming.  Soon the freezing winter will be here. They need support now. Pakistan is part of the world and it is the whole world’s responsibility to help Pakistan now.”

Agder Theatre located in Kristiansand, a city in south Norway decided that instead of giving its employees a Christmas gift this year a contribution to Cultural Life Buoy would be made.  They have contributed in the amount of 30.000 NOK.When disaster strikes, emergency and life saving assistance is essential. Agder Theatre will therefore along with other Norwegian culture institutions be happy to be taking such a responsibility”, said Ingrid Forthun, Artistic Director. 

The Norwegian Actors’ Equity Association leader Agnete G. Haaland said “The flood catastrophe in Pakistan concerns us all.” The Association made a contribution of 10.000 NOK and urged all artists to support Cultural Life buoy.  

The National Theatre in Oslo and the National Stage (DNS) in Bergen also contributed to this unique campaign by starting a collection among its employees. Akershus Theatre, Norwegian Musicians’ Union (MFO), The Norwegian Dancers’ Union (NoDa) and Norwegian Theatre and Orchestra Union (NTO) contributed to the cultural campaign too.

Whilst the campaign was mainly supported by artists associations and performing artists, the Norwegian Transport Workers' Union (NTF), The Norwegian Union of Social Educators and Social Workers’ (FO) section in Hordaland and The State Workers Union (NTL) also gave a contribution to show their solidarity with the people of Pakistan said Toni Usman.
In addition, the campaign was supported by The Drama House, Gjerholm Design, Pax publishers, NILZ printing press and AOF Norway.

Qalandar Memon, coordinator of Labour Relief Campaign (LRC) appreciated the efforts of Norwegian artists and said the amount will be spent on the rehabilitation and relief work in different areas of Pakistan including Pir Sabaq, Noshehra Kalan, Matta in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Moro and Makli in Sindh and Sibbi and Naseer Abad in Baluchistan province.

The LRC is working in all 4 provinces: Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab. Several teams of local volunteers from people who are affected by floods are organized. Members of social organizations and trade unions are also part of the volunteer teams in these areas. The LRC has been doing relief work since the beginning of the floods. LRC teams have facilitated some international organizations too for their relief projects in some areas. At the beginning of the floods, LRC mostly focused efforts on distributing food, medicine and clothes. Now that the water level has gone down in most of the areas, it has commenced work in providing help in the construction houses and forming agricultural cooperatives in some parts of Pakistan.

“The campaign Cultural Life Buoy shows that artists are always able to think and react above the religious, cultural and geographical barriers and the Norwegian artists have set an unsullied model of international companionship for many internationally to follow” says Khalid Mehmood director Labour Education Foundation.    

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Land Reforms and Debt Cancellation: A post flood discussion

You are invited to a discussion and teach in session on the land situation post the catastrophic 2010 floods. The discussion will also focus on Pakistan's external and internal debt, Governments spending on development and rehabilitation of the flood victims.

The recent floods have exposed how the poor rural populations of Pakistan are highly vulnerable to natural catastrophes. Having lost their homes, belongings, animals and crops, and some of them landless and in debt, people in many parts in Sindh are suffering severely because of the floods and an unjust system.  At this time, debt cancellation and land reforms are essential for the rural population of Pakistan to emerge from a life of poverty and despair.  

Some of the questions, we had while planning this event were:

-- Why is it that after spending so much on rural development over 60 years, poverty and social indicators remain the same?
-- Why has social development so failed that a child from Sajawal has to travel to Thatta to attend school after 5th class?
-- Why are midwives the sole providers of maternity care in most rural areas of Sindh?
-- Why is there lack of access to adequate drinking water?
-- We have a debt of $54 billion, why then do we see no improvement in the social indicators -- in health, education, and infrastructure?
-- How can one man own 100,000 acres and others be condemned to landlessness, poverty and debt?

We will have a facilitated discussion with the participants after presentations on debt cancellation and land reforms. 

Organized by The Sindh Labour Relief Committee.

Date: Friday 29th October 2010

Time: 7:00 PM-9:00 PM

Location: The Second Floor (t2f), Karachi 

Meeting Minute 23-oct-2010

Qalandar Memon, Farooq Tariq, Nasir Mansoor, Farooq Ahmed, Sohail Javed, Younus Rahoo, Khalid Mahmood, Maqsood Mujahid, Murtaza, Ahsan Bhatti, Cindy Zahnd, Aman Kariapper, Kashif Aslam, Bakhshal Thallo.


- All introduced themselves. 
 - Khalid provided an update and break-down of finances. Around 33 lacs in general budget, the rest is project specific (community kitchen and on trade union members)
- Update from local areas: 
KP - Farooq Ahmad talked about the community kitchen and its organisation and service to people.  Mentioned the need to work in Swat. 

Sindh  Younus Rahoo, Bakhshal Thallo and Nasir Mansoor briefed about relief work in Sindh.  Sindh Labour Relief Committee worked in Moro, Hyderabad and collected money from Karachi.   The problems with WATAN cards and governments failure was noted.  Suggested that Sindh needs more funds and has been neglected. 

Punjab - A survey has been conducted in Siraiki areas and a report of it is to be send in the next two days. 
Balochistan - Aman outlined the present strategy of the work on going.  Rubina has been compensated for money she spent on medicine.  A new committee has been formed and we await their future proposals. 



Three projects were discussed: 

 - Kisan conference - 1.5 lac cost.
 - co-operative in Sajawal  - Detailed proposal to come and then final decision to be made. 15 lacs

 - Commune (buying land).  

- Need to work in Swat on agriculture cooperative idea

 - building houses for trade union workers and other workers who have lost their homes. 
- Long term projects that are self sustaining desired by all.  

Decisions taken: 

- 5 lacs to Sindh Relief Campaign to be spent on immediate relief efforts - food, clothing, medicine, etc.  Sindh committee to decide how to make use of the money. 

- Khalid to get approval from Apheda for funds for Kisan conference from existing contribution (1.5 lacs) 
 - 20, 000 to be given for the construction of two houses of trade unionists who have suffered in floods - one in Gilgit and another in Swat. (from general budget). 

 - 15, 000 for bags for children in KP to be taken from Apheda budget. 
 - Meeting called to discuss long term projects (co-operatives and communes) for Thursday 28th October at 6 pm (please suggest other times/dates if this does not work).  It was agreed that decisions would be made on long term projects by 4th Nov. 

Govt refuses WB, ADB loan

By Khalid Mustafa, published in "The News" the 21-oct-2010

ISLAMABAD: In a rare display of defiant courage, the country’s financial managers have turned down a $2 billion loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and another $1 billion loan from the World Bank (WB), which according to sources stunned the ADB in particular as it had already gone ahead with the stage of executive review having taken Islamabad’s erstwhile yes-sir approach for granted.
In the case of the ADB loan, a whopping $50 million portion had been earmarked for the ‘consultants’ alone, who incidentally would have been appointed by the lending institution itself. The multibillion credit lines were meant for the reconstruction of the public sector infrastructure destroyed by the recent floods.

According to sources, Finance Minister Dr Hafeez A Sheikh has conveyed to both the development banks that the government was not interested in using the said loans for the reconstruction of the public sector infrastructure adversely affected by the flood. He told the banks that Pakistan would prefer to use the approximate amount of $1.5 billion to $2 billion, being received from the UN and other sources, for relief and early recovery of the flood-affected areas. “And as far as rebuilding of the flood destroyed infrastructure is concerned, the government shall do it from its own resources,” was the minister’s message according to a source.

Talking to The News, Minister of State for Finance, Hina Rabbani Khar, confirmed that the “government has changed its policy”, under which it will not use the loans offered by the WB and the ADB for the reconstruction of the infrastructure, but would use the other grants of $1.5 billion to $2 billion for relief and early recovery of the masses hit by the flood. She said the federal and provincial governments would divert their resources from the public sector development to reconstructing the infrastructure suffered in the flood-affected areas.

“We have changed our mind following the meeting of the FoDP held in Brussels and meetings with other development partners,” the minister said. However, the federal government, she said, is yet to take the provinces into confidence over its decision not to use the loans of the ADB and the World Bank amounting to $3 billion for the reconstruction phase. “After taking the four federating units into confidence, the final decision will be made to this effect,” she said.

According to a source, in earlier parleys, Islamabad, Khyber-Pakhtunkwha and the Punjab had expressed their opposition to accepting these loans on the offered terms and stated purpose whereas Sindh was the only exception, which supported the loans.

“The government’s decision not to use the loan of $3 billion has really perturbed both the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as their targets to market their loans in Pakistan would suffer,” sources in both the banks confided to this scribe.

When contacted, Ismail Khan, who deals with the media in the ADB to confirm as to whether the government had refused to use the credit line of $2 billion offered by the Manila based bank, declined to either confirm or reject the news and only said that the ADB’s country director was not available for comments as he had gone to Manila.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Flood affected persons in hunger strike in front of the World Bank

Taunsa Barrage: Hunger Strike of Flood Affected Persons in front of World Bank, Islamabad (Pakistan)

About 70 men, women and children from Taunsa Barrage are holding three days (12, 13, 14th October) hunger strike in front of the World Bank Office, Islamabad.  The event will start at 10: 00 AM.

The focus of the hunger strike is to highlight the role of the World Bank financed Taunsa Barrage Rehabilitation Project in exacerbating the flood disaster in Muzaffargarh District. The rehabilitation project loan, totaling $123 million, was approved in 2005 and it was completed in early 2010.

The main demand of the flood affected people is to establish an independent inquiry commission to ascertain the facts with regard to the failure of Taunsa Barrage.
You are requested to show support and solidarity with the flood affected persons. 

Sindhoo Bachao Taralla

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Rural women of Pakistan mobilize against the debt

Press Release

Cancel all foreign debts of Pakistan now! Rural women of Pakistan join hands with civil society on the issue in Islamabad
ISLAMABAD (16th October 2010): “There is a visible relation between international debt politics and of IFIs and increasing poverty in Pakistan. Therefore, members of Pakistan’s civil society want all foreign debts of Pakistan, owed to bilateral and multilateral creditors to be canceled, besides an immediate freeze on foreign debt repayments. The lenders shall extend Pakistan grants in this need of the hour, rather than loans, which are essential for Pakistan to develop the means to withstand such disasters in future. Pakistan continuously goes deeper in the financial crises if the debt is not dropped it will do more damage than floods. The saved money shall only be used for rehabilitation of flood affected communities and the much-ignored social sector for real and sustainable development”.  This was the theme of a protest by rural women protest, taken out in Islamabad on 16th Oct, Saturday, by Sungi Development Foundation.   
The protest was in connection with the Global anti-Debt Week and to observe the International Day of Action for cancellation of Pakistan’s foreign debts. A number of civil society organizations, activist groups, social and political activists, representatives of flood-hit communities and rural women who were celebrating the International Rural Women’s Day on Oct. 15 here in Islamabad took part in the protest. Rural women from all over Pakistan came and decided to participate in the anti-debt protest against IFIs.
The protest was held at 4:30 pm at Lok Virsa in Islamabad. The protest participants were holding banners and placards with slogans in favor of foreign debt cancellation. The marchers shouted full throat slogans against IMF, World Bank and ADB throughout the way. The anti-debt week did not only mobilize Pakistani citizens, some foreigners also supported the protest.
They demanded the lenders to extend Pakistan grants in this need of the hour after the summer floods, rather than loans, which are essential for Pakistan to develop the means to withstand such disasters in future.
Released by

Aimal Khattak