1 in 3 of the world’s poorest countries spend more on debt repayment than on education

A report released this week by Save the Children found that a third of the world’s poorest countries spend more on repaying debt to rich countries and investors than on educating their own children.

“Education systems desperately need more and better funding in low- and lower-middle-income countries.”

The UK-based charity’s report, titled Fixing a Broken System: Transforming Education Financing— shows that 21 of 70 low- and lower-middle-income countries for which data is available spent more on external debt repayment than on education in 2020. According to the publication, interest payments are expected to represent on average 10% of the annual budget in this category of countries by 2024, compared to 7% in 2015.

Meanwhile, nearly one in three children in low-income countries still does not complete primary school.

“Education systems desperately need more and better funding in low- and lower-middle-income countries. Instead, they are reduced to servicing unmanageable debt,” said Hollie Warren, Head of Education. Save the Children UK Global Education Policy and Advocacy. statement.

“It is a mistake that the poorest children in the world are suffering because of a debt crisis that is not their fault,” she continued. “The world has a moral imperative to ensure that it funds education adequately to ensure that all children are in school and learning.”

The new report notes that “education is a fundamental right for every child under Article 28 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and one of the best investments that can be made for the future of children”.

“Yet the world is at serious risk of seeing enormous setbacks in the progress made to ensure that all children enjoy a quality education,” the document continues. “The education of millions of children is at risk due to factors such as climate change, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, displacement and attacks on schools. Every day a child is not schooled, it becomes more difficult for them to catch up on the learning they have lost, and they become more vulnerable to hunger, violence, child marriage and child labour.”

The authors of the report asserted that “there is a clear moral imperative for the world to act now to ensure that all children are in school and learning”.

“But there is also an economic imperative,” they explained. “Realizing children’s right to education is one of the best tools governments have for economic development and poverty eradication.”

“For every dollar invested in girls’ education, developing countries can receive $2.80 in economic and social return, and achieve 100% secondary school completion rates for girls by 2030 could raise the GDP of emerging economies by 10% compared to the status quo. scenarios,” the report said.

“Now the intersecting threats of Covid-19, conflict and climate change threaten to set us back even further,” the report warns. “In many low- and lower-middle-income countries, these crises are occurring simultaneously and compounding each other, with the greatest impacts being felt by the most marginalized households and communities.”

In order to fix a broken system, Save the Children urges “governments in low- and middle-income countries to increase their education spending to at least 20% of their budget”.

Importantly, the charity says “donors can support governments in urgently increasing the share of official development assistance (ODA) going to education, offering to share expertise in generating revenue and budgeting, and by mobilizing other forms of financing that can be channeled to low- and middle-income countries, including the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) – a reserve asset created to provide liquidity and make the global economy more resilient.”

The new report follows a protest on Tuesday by two members of the peace group CodePink, who held a debt restructuring panel at the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in Washington, D.C. to demand that financial institutions cancel all debts.

Also on Tuesday, the United Nations Development Program published a document urging rich countries to provide desperately needed debt relief to 54 developing countries where more than half of the world’s poorest people live.

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