The Debt Threat: How Debt is Destroying the Developing World by Noreena Hertz (Harper Collins), 257 pages, $34.95 cloth. Rating: NNNN
Rarely do books about debt, environmental sustainability, Third World poverty and economics challenge both establishment nostrums and left-wing conspiracy theories. But that's exactly what The Debt Threat does.
Author Noreena Hertz, in town tomorrow (Friday, February 25) to speak at the Speakers Forum Economic Summit, goes beyond fashionable sloganeering to propose real remedies.
Typical is her call for the use of national regeneration trusts to manage debt relief. The these trusts is to deal with the key - and legitimate - conservative worry that the funds will feed megalomaniacal dictators seeking to build polluting white elephants and oppressive armies.
Hertz's trust remedy creates transparent and accountable boards that administer the trusts so that the monies saved from debt relief meet the needs of the sick, uneducated and poor, and are not siphoned off into foreign bank accounts.
One such trust was implemented in 1950s Iraq, then ruled by the British-allied Hashemite dynasty. The trust ensured an effective use of oil revenues, and Iraqis all across the country's diverse political and religious spectrum are seeking to revive it.
Refreshingly, Hertz, an American, shows an impressive knowledge of Canada. She gives plently of detail on, among other things, how Canada's Export Development Corporation keeps our nuclear industry on life support by subsidizing the export of the deadly technology to nations with lower environmental standards.
Hertz also exposes the phony war of rhetoric between Europe and the U.S. on Kyoto. The Europeans have signed the agreement to reduce fossil fuel emissions. But while they denigrate the U.S. resistance to the protocol, European export development corporations still finance schemes to lock in higher emissions in the developing world.
Hertz's book is a timely contribution to a key political debate.
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