Towards a shackle-free development trajectory: Trade Unions Support Ongoing Negotiations to Secure Debt Relief for Somalia

The Federation of Somali Trade Unions (FESTU) – the umbrella organization of independent trade unions – welcomes the ongoing negotiations to secure debt relief for Somalia under the Heavily-Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) initiative of the IMF & World Bank. Somalia is saddled by historical debt burden that it cannot manage, which also impedes the country’s long-term economic growth, social development and political stability.

For many years, Somalia has felt the crushing weight of debt obligations it has been unable to meet for decades. The country’s severe internal social and political instability have been both the cause and the result of the country being unable to meet its financial commitments to lenders.

Debt relief will firmly set the country on a trajectory that will see the country improve its socio-economic outlook, nurture peace and stability, and improve governance and the delivery of basic services. If Somalia secures debt relief, considerable financial resources would be freed up and become available for use under social spending. In addition, other benefits would be injected into the country’s economy.

The debt cancellation therefore holds enormous and exciting potential for workers in Somalia. With the country relieved of its debts, more funding from multilateral loans, concessions, grants and direct foreign investments to support infrastructure development and basic social services will become available again. Our economy needs such financial inflows to spur growth and create more job opportunities and better working conditions for the Somali labour force.

The ongoing debt relief negotiations are also a boon to our country – more thought is now going into establishing sound policies and in initiating public sector reforms, as preconditions for the debt cancellation. We hope that these reforms and policies will also create a climate of greater accountability, meaningful engagement, commitment to human rights and ethical working conditions. These are all values that workers’ organisations are based on and actively foster.

Somalia is at a crucial stage in its national and political development; we are in the process of developing a permanent constitution that is underpinned by principles of democracy, human rights, fairness and rule of law. Holding successful elections in 2020/21 is an important milestone in Somalia’s democratic development. More than ever, Somalis want to vote and participate in the democratic process to shape Somalia’s future. The debt relief will therefore complement and facilitate these processes enormously.

We urge Somali politicians from various positions along the political spectrum to unite under a shared vision of nation-building, one key aspect being robust economic development. We strongly encourage politicians to refrain from politicizing the debt relief process and work together to transcend partisan differences for a greater, common good. We also urge the technocrats and negotiators in this process to work in earnest to ensure that our country secures debt relief from international financial institutions.

We encourage the Somali people to see this opportunity as a new chapter in the country’s journey towards social and economic stability. We should each, in our individual lives, be prepared to take advantage of this opportunity of debt relief and work to rebuild Somalia as a trusting, principled, peaceful and investable nation, committed to equality and social justice for all.

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