To Help Rebuild, Cancel Haiti's Debt

Haiti earthquake victimsNations and individuals around the world have generously offered emergency and humanitarian relief in the wake of the January 12 earthquake. While rescue and recovery efforts are still being conducted, we must begin to ask how the world can help Haitians rebuild their country in the long term. 

The best way the global community can help Haiti pay for its extensive reconstruction needs will be to cancel Haiti’s remaining international debt.

Much work has been done already to help relieve Haiti from its paralyzing debts. In June 2009 the country qualified for the cancellation of $1.2 Billion dollars in debt through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) program. Even now Haiti is still scheduled for more than $100 million dollars in loan repayments to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) in the next decade.

With such extensive destruction to Haiti’s infrastructure and economy, it would be near impossible for Haiti to pay for rebuilding costs on its own, much less generate the extra income necessary for debt repayments. Even worse, the IMF just offered a $100 million loan for emergency expenses. This would nearly double the debt burden on Haiti.

Haiti needs debt forgiveness and aid in the form of grants, not more loans!

The U.S. has the most influential votes on the Boards of both the IMF and the IDB. The U.S. Treasury Department should move now to cancel not increase Haiti’s debts. The Haitian people need all their country’s resources to rebuild, not to pay off foreign debtors.

Urge Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to support debt cancellation as an important step on the road to Haiti’s recovery.

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