Congolese President Pascal Lissouba has said that the lending policies of development institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are "deadly" for the heavily indebted nations of Africa because of the social costs of their tough economic reform programmes. Lissouba's own nation is reeling under one of the world's heaviest per capita debt burdens: more than US $5 billion for a population of 3 million.

The IMF's Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) -- meant to foster macroeconomic stability, export growth and sustainable development -- have not improved matters. According to the United Nations Children's Fund, 3- quarters of the countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America (where SAPs are in place) have actually experienced marked declines in their per capita incomes.

The SAPs require drastic cuts in state spending on social programmes, abolition of price controls, interest rate hikes, wholesale privatisation of state enterprises and devaluation -- leading to, among other things, steep rises in key imports. Requests to the IMF for debt restructuring and humanisation of development have fallen on deaf ears.(IPS)

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