‘This is fantastic news’ Geldof told reporters, ‘but it’s been a long time coming. Do you have any idea how crippling these debts are to countries like the UK? The British government has to pay a staggering £120 million a day in interest charges. That’s £120 million a day that could be spent on building schools and nuclear powers stations, or on funding wars in the Middle East, or on a really hard-hitting TV and poster campaign to get quite tubby people out jogging. We have to wipe out these debts NOW or the civil servants of Britain are going to suffer.’
The agreement follows months of hard work and campaigning by Geldof and the Make Poverty History charity that has galvanised support around the world. Children in Africa have been wearing Make Poverty History bracelets to show their support for the West, and thousands of singers and bands pledged their support for the campaign by playing a series of simultaneous concerts at 10 venues around the world. Nelson Mandela even addressed the crowd at one of the concerts, telling supporters ‘We have to act now. Wipe out the debts now or we will be remembered as the generation that stood by and watched as British quangos got cautiously closed down or merged.’
Global protests have also been taking place, culminating in a march on the headquarters of the World Bank by bankers from New York, London, Frankfurt and Tokyo, waving ‘Drop the Debt’ placards and linking hands for a candlelight vigil in a show of international unity. However the move has not been welcomed universally, with many developing world governments sceptical about the supposed benefits of canceling obligations.
‘It’s a lovely theory, but really you don’t know if the money’s going to make it through to the people that really need it,’ said a senior government official in Zimbabwe, becoming increasingly emotional. ‘These governments make these grand claims but I have a letter here from one brave English granny, and for all the fine words, she’s telling me there’s still going to be dozens of butlers that aren’t even going to be getting a proper Christmas party this year. I mean really, is it any wonder that some people can be cynical?’