Brown backs protests on poverty

The Guardian

London, June 5:

Britain’s chancellor (finance minister) Gordon Brown issued a global call to action yesterday to ‘reverse the fortunes’ of Africa and transform millions of lives in the developing world.

Setting out the ambitious package of debt relief, aid and trade measures that Britain will take to next month’s G8 summit at Gleneagles, Scotland, the chancellor expressed confidence that progress could be made and said public protests could play a key part. He also revealed that the government would pick up the 500,000 sterling pounds tax and cleaning tab for the Live 8 concert in London’s Hyde Park, and gave what appeared to be tacit approval to calls for mass demonstrations in Edinburgh in the week of the summit.

“We are going to support people who want to make their views known,” he said, but tempered his comments later by insisting it was a matter for individuals and any rally should be properly policed. The coming week will see an intense round of lobbying and arm-twisting as Britain tries to sell the aid plan ahead of the G8 summit. Tony Blair will fly to Washington for tricky talks with George Bush, who is known to oppose some of the measures. Brown, meanwhile, will meet EU and G7 finance ministers. Privately, Brown believes a deal on debt relief is possible by the time finance ministers from the G7 meet in London next weekend. Protracted talks between Brown and the US treasury secretary, John Snow, have resulted in the two sides edging towards a compromise.

The US had proposed a plan under which the debts of poor countries would be written off, but the write-off would be funded by less generous aid payments. Brown has insisted that any agreement should be accompanied by extra resources, and the chancellor believes that has now been conceded. Brown and Blair believe an early agreement on debt relief will provide the chance for the UK to use the Gleneagles summit for an agreement on doubling world aid.