Year

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Accounting and Finance, Faculty of Commerce

Abstract

This thesis uses a theological perspective to extend the literature on accounting and accountability as applied to a secular context and provides insights into the role of supranational institutions and poor, indebted countries. In particular, this thesis focuses on the joint International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) framework for debt relief specifically designed for a group of countries with unpayable external debt and extreme poverty, referred to as the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Debt Initiative. Despite continued intervention, the HIPC Debt Initiative has failed to deliver debt relief and achieve poverty alleviation. This thesis provides analyses of this failure from a theological perspective and provides new insights and possibilities. A theological perspective provides an alternate critique of the assumptions of the HIPC Debt Initiative. This thesis uses Jubilee Law as theory, as it explicitly focuses on the debtor/creditor relationship. In order to analyse the HIPC Debt Initiative, this thesis uses discourse analysis informed by Mannheim’s sociology of knowledge. This methodology enables an analysis of artefacts, in particular institutional discourse, such as that produced by supranational organisations (IMF and WB). This discourse is explored at three levels of meaning and provides distinct insights to understand the HIPC Debt Initiative and the resultant failure. The Jubilee Law has explicit themes of accountability, stewardship, intragenerational equity, intergenerational equity and notably still uses an economic rationale. These critical themes are used to offer insights into the HIPC Debt Initiative by redefining the debtor and creditor relationship. The redefinition places a new emphasis on the creditor’s responsibility for debt relief and poverty alleviation. This new perspective shifts the debtor and creditor relationship from one of dependence on the creditor to one of interdependence between the debtor and creditor. This shift does not abrogate the debtor’s responsibility but this concomitant shift of power offers emancipatory opportunities for poor, indebted countries hitherto not envisaged. The insight from this thesis offers an alternate set of propositions for the framework which offer emancipatory potential.

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