May 16th 1998 was a pretty important day for me. I’d been skiving off university to help out on a campaign called Jubilee 2000 and that was the day that we knew something pretty special was going on. 70,000 people showed up to an event we’d been organising to form a human chain around the G8 leaders in Birmingham calling on them to cancel the debts of some of the world’s poorest countries.
While debt is still a problem for developing countries, its effects have also become a first world problem. Back then ‘austerity’ wasn’t the word that was used, but the way that the IMF would go into developing countries and demand swinging cuts to public services — including any health care or education that existed — was exactly the same. It didn’t work then and I can’t see it working now.