Customer Review

5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Blueprint for change, endorsed by rock stars, 26 Oct 2004
This review is from: IOU: The Debt Threat and Why We Must Defuse It (Hardcover)
Few exhortations to action manage to blend a detailed objective analysis of the facts; a practical, well thought-out agenda for change; and the true passion that comes of moral certainty. Dr Hertz's book somehow pulls it off.
Her central case is that developing country debt is the legacy of bad decisions - bad on the parts of the lenders, and of the borrowers. The consequences are awful at the human level, on a massive scale, just as Bono eloquently described at the Labour Party conference. IOU goes some way down the same path, successfully mixing the pure statistics of poverty with anecdotes of uneducated children, needlessly untreated HIV/AIDS sufferers, and women forced into prostitution. One of this book's strengths, however, is that it brings to the fore something far less obvious: namely, that the consequences of debt are malicious for the lenders in the rich world too. The debt quagmire entrenches much of the world's unrealised economic potential in a spiral of corruption, dampening demand for western goods and limiting investment, breeding ill-feeling towards lender nations, and ultimately contributing to the existence of failed states in which terrorists can thrive.
She goes on to explain exactly how to break the spiral, and anticipates and overcomes the practical objections. In a nutshell, she proposes applying strict criteria to debt relief, and an ingenious series of controls to ensure that money freed up benefits people rather than corrupt politicians.
Dr Hertz's breathless writing style conveys her passion for the subject rather well. Colloquialisms, run-on sentences, and a strange eye for the physical characteristics of her protagonists all give the sense of being on the receiving end of an intense face-to-face monologue rather than reading a dry book about development economics. Male characters "probably used to be good looking"; women are "hose clad". But the facts and figures to buttress the case are never far behind. If there is perhaps one area in which she stretches the case a little too far, it is in the impact of debt on the environment. The reader gets the sense that because both debt and climate change are important, there must somehow be a causal link. But this section does little do dilute the impact of the whole.
All in all, an engaging and important piece of work that deserves the plaudits. As Bob Geldof says: "everyone should read this book".
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