Agence France Presse

London, June 3:

Britain threw down a challenge to its Group of Eight partners on Friday, proposing 100 per cent debt relief to pay for free education for millions of children in the world’s poorest countries. Speaking ahead of next month’s G8 summit in Scotland, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown proposed a matching of relief on bilateral, country-to-country debts to relief on debt owed to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and African Development Bank. The savings for poor countries, most of them in Africa, would go towards free elementary and high school education for many of the 100 million children who now cannot afford schooling, the British finance minister told reporters in Edinburgh. Without such multilateral relief, he said, the world’s poorest nations could find themselves struggling to

pay up to $15 billion in principal and interest payments to international institutions by 2015.

His bold proposal was part of a bundle of ideas — dubbed a “modern Marshall plan for Africa”

— that is to be put to G8 leaders when they gather on July 6-8 at the posh Gleneagles golf resort. Other steps would see an international facility to pay for vaccinations in poor countries,

a doubling of development aid, and an end to trade-distorting farm subsidies in the rich world.