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ARGENTINA | 05-06-2024 16:46

Pope Francis warns against imposing debt burden on ordinary people

Argentine pontiff, speaking before an audience that included former economy minister Martín Guzmán, says “no government can demand its people suffer deprivations incompatible with human dignity.”

Pope Francis on Wednesday warned governments struggling with debt not to impose upon their populations "deprivations incompatible with human rights.”

"After a poorly managed globalisation, after the pandemic and the wars, we find ourselves facing a debt crisis that affects mainly countries in the south of the planet," the 87-year-old said in Spanish during a Vatican meeting on debt in the Global South.

This was "generating misery and anguish and depriving millions of people of the possibility of a decent future," he added.

"Consequently, no government can morally demand that its people suffer deprivations incompatible with human dignity," he said, without naming any specific country.

Nevertheless, the remarks from the Argentine head of the Catholic Church, whose compatriots are suffering from poverty in their millions, was interpreted by some analysts as a coded message to the government.

President Javier Mieli’s administration has faced a crisis this week after it emerged that the Human Capital Ministry was sitting on thousands of kilos of undistributed food aid.

The Pope called for a new “multinational mechanism” offering "shared responsibility" between those who grant funding and those who receive it, and taking into account the economic, financial and social implications of debt.

“The absence of this mechanism favours an ‘every man for himself’ philosophy, where the weakest ones always lose,” in a context where “ecological debt and foreign debt are two sides of the same coin,” stated Francis.

The pontiff's home country of Argentina has suffered decades of economic instability marked by debt and inflation that have brought its population to its knees. President Milei took office in December vowing to halt the decline and to slash public spending.

New data this week found that more than half of Argentines now live in poverty, with levels rising non-stop since a year ago and quickening since Milei took office. Poverty affected 55.5 percent of the population at the end of the first quarter of the year, said the study.

The country is in a deep recession and social deprivation is skyrocketing. All economic indicators are pointing to a crushing impact on the population of Milei's austerity measures, with falling employment and annual inflation exceeding 200 percent.

Pope Francis, who became head of the Catholic Church in 2013, regularly calls for the cancellation of debt for the poorest countries, citing the need for social justice and solidarity. 

These latest remarks took place at the debt crisis conference. The gathering was organised by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, together with the Initiative for Political Dialogue, a body led by Nobel Prize for Economics winner Joseph Stiglitz and his protegé, Argentina’s former economy minister Martin Guzmán.

In addition to Guzmán, the event was attended by several other Argentines, such as Guido Sandleris (former governor of the Central Bank during Mauricio Macri’s administration), Gustavo Beliz (an academic member of PASS and Alberto Fernández’s former strategic affairs secretary), Sebastián Ceria (founder and president of Fundar) and Maia Colodenco (director of the Department of Global Initiatives of Suramericana Visión, and former international affairs secretary at the Economy Ministry).


– TIMES/AFP/NA

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