Thangmang Doungel and Kuki Rokhum from EFICOR India write about how debt and inequality is exasperated by the climate crisis.
'EFICOR Workshop on Creation Care with Pastors working in different parts of North India.'
The impact of climate change affects everyone including the community, state and continent, but the highest price is being paid by those who are poor and marginalized. Even though they are the least responsible for the problem. In most of the UN climate conference negotiations, one of the most common recurring themes is the issue of inequality with respect to the impacts of climate change. However, no strong commitment is in place, and so millions of vulnerable people continue to face challenges from climate-induced disasters and extreme weather, health effects, food security, livelihood security, water security, cultural identity etc.
A combination of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic is a key driver of risk in the world today and this calls for heightened attention. For the first time in history, inequality might increase in every country at the same time. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it took just nine months for the fortunes of the top 1,000 billionaires to return to their pre-pandemic highs, while for the world’s poorest, recovery could take more than a decade. Inequality is seen most acutely in the issue of sovereign debt. There are currently 52 countries in the midst of a debt crisis.
We need to tackle the spiralling debt issue to give poorer countries the financial breathing space to recover from the pandemic. As a first step to resetting inequality, we need our governments and leaders to cancel all poorer countries' debt payments due in 2021 and 2022 - to free up funding for essential healthcare and provide extra funding to release emergency cash and food for the most vulnerable. By cancelling all poorer countries' debt payments that were due in 2021 and 2022 we can free up funding for healthcare and provide significant extra funding to release emergency cash and food for the most vulnerable.
A debt cancellation package would allow:
- Developing economies to rebuild healthcare systems and keep paying health workers’ wages.
- The strengthening of social protection schemes.
- The increased resilience of nutrition and food systems.
- The support of small businesses (SMEs), the informal sector, and key industries like the manufacturing and the renewable energy sectors. This will protect jobs and livelihoods.
- Government finances to stay healthy enough to provide the basic services of a state and also ramp up services needed to rebuild after the pandemic.
Here is a story of how inequality is compounded by debt on a personal level in India
Mr Suresh Gound from Manpura village in India’s Madhya Pradesh state took a loan of INR 90,000/- from a bank to construct a ring well on his farm. He hoped to repay the loan amount in another four or five years. Unfortunately, there was a continuous drought for three years after he took the loan and his crops did not produce much harvest. Hence, he couldn’t repay his loan amount and the interest amount kept adding up. His debt today stands at Rs. 150,000/- with no means in the foreseeable future to repay the amount. The story of Mr Gound is one of the many cases farmers experience in India. There are many more farmers who aren’t able to repay the loans owing to crop failure.
Some resort to suicide.
Farmer suicides account for 11.2% of all suicides in India. One of the main reasons according to activists and scholars is the high debt burden, corruption in subsidies and crop failure. Many communities that we work with whether in rural or urban areas have the same story to tell – people have to resort to borrowing money for education, medical needs and family events like marriages. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the problems affecting not only the farmers who are already distressed due to extreme weather events but for small petty shops, domestic workers and daily wage labourers. The pandemic has not only made the poor poorer, but a whole group of ‘new poor’ have emerged. According to a report compiled by a University in India, “230 million Indians pushed into poverty amid Covid-19 pandemic”.
Let's take action together and ask world leaders at COP to take action on inequality. Sign our #Reset21 petition today.