MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Kyrgyz Activists Protest Debt Relief

Published by MAC on 2006-12-06

Kyrgyz Activists Protest Debt Relief

Associated Press

6 December 2006

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) - Protesters burnt down an effigy symbolizing an international debt relief program for the world's poorest countries and threw eggs at the World Bank
office in the Kyrgyz capital Wednesday to protest the ex-Soviet republic's accession into the project.

The protest, a second in one week, comes as the impoverished Central Asian nation's government prepares to join the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative -- a World Bank and International Monetary Fund program to help poor nations by writing off part of their debt.

About 150 activists from political parties, youth movements and rights groups picketed the World Bank office in Bishkek, arguing the program would enable foreign companies to gain control of the country's energy sector.

They held signs reading "Down with Foreign Thieves" and "Down with the IMF."

"Behind the screen of writing off debts, they will privatize our energy and mining sectors," said Zharkynbek Kasymbekov, of the Forum of Young Politicians group. "It's all in the interests of superpowers."

Police said the protest organizers would be charged with hooliganism.

The mountainous nation of 5 million people has limited reserves and is one of the poorest former Soviet republics. Its debt amounts to almost $2 billion -- nearly six times the country's annual budget, according to the Financial Ministry.

The ministry said between $250 million and $400 million of debt could be written off if Kyrgyzstan joins the program.

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