Who Owes Whom? Citizens’ Audit as a Response to the Sovereign Debt Crisis
15 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2012
Date Written: June 1, 2012
At the level of public discourse the debate surrounding European sovereign debt crises has become polarised between the need for greater levels of public spending cuts and privatisation (‘austerity’) and the need to use government investment or reductions in regulatory policies to bring about renewed economic growth. This effectively sidelines a whole range of the most important questions from the point of view of the citizens of Europe: How was the debt acquired? How are the gains and losses caused by the crisis to be shared between debtors and creditors? Are there alternatives to the repayment of the debt, which demands such a high social price? In order to begin to answer these questions, citizens and campaigners in a number of European and North African countries have established campaigns for ‘Citizens’ Audits.’ They are demanding full access to government accounts and full details of how destructive debts were acquired in their names. These campaigns are organised around the concept of ‘odious debt,’ first developed by the US and later used by countries of the majority world to challenge their external debts. This paper offers some theoretical background to the idea of a Citizens’ Audit and provides thumbnail sketches of the activity of audit campaigns in a number of European and North African countries.
Keywords: sovereign debt crisis, financial crisis, public debt, Eurozone crisis, Citizens Debt Audit
JEL Classification: E61, E62, F34, H63, H87
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