Britain pays off WWII debt

Stephen Beard Dec 28, 2006
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Britain pays off WWII debt

Stephen Beard Dec 28, 2006
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MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Tomorrow Britain will pay the final installment of a long-standing debt to the U.S. Treasury. The UK will pay off a 61-year-old loan which saved it from bankruptcy at the end of World War II. But they’ll pay it off rather begrudgingly, as Stephen Beard reports from London.


STEPHEN BEARD: Britain played a key role in defeating Hitler — but at enormous economic cost.

In 1945, the UK was all but bankrupt. It could hardly afford to import sufficient food. In desperation the UK turned to its wealthiest ally and begged for help.

The U.S. offered $4.3 billion at 2% a year. That was unfair, says Martin Wolf of the Financial Times:

MARTIN WOLF: It was an unjust loan in my view in the sense that America should have recognized the price that Britain had paid in fighting the war, but they didn’t.

Two years later the U.S. donated more than $13 billion under the Marshall Plan to pay for the reconstruction of the war-shattered countries of Europe, including Germany.

Meanwhile over the years Britain has grumbled and steadily paid off its loan. The last installment, $84 million, will be paid to the U.S. treasury tomorrow.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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