Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

The Rt. Rev. Jean Zach� Duracin, Episcopal Bishop of Haiti

Jubilee Prayer Breakfast Speech

October 16, 2007

I would like to thank very much Jim Curry, Secretary of Bishops [of the Episcopal

Church], working for a just world, and his invitation to me to take part in this meeting of

Bishops working for a just world and your campaign.� I also thank the staff of the

Episcopal church � Episcopals of all traditions. And I thank all of you, bishops,

Congressmen and women, ecumenical partners, brothers and sisters in Christ � for this

opportunity you�ve given me to talk to you about Haiti � especially about debt relief,

debt cancellation.

Haiti has the greatest incidence of economic poverty in the Americas. With 80 percent of

the population living in abject poverty, life expectancy is 53 years and 1 out of 9 children

dies before reaching his fifth birthday.

Despite the urgent need for government spending to reduce poverty and a government

committed to the health and well being of its people, Haiti is forced to spend $56 million

from its national budget each year to reimburse rich countries and international financial

institutions like World Bank, IMF, and Inter-American Development Bank.

For debts are caused as a result of loans to past governments. More than half of Haiti�s

$1.3 billion dollar debt was amassed because of irresponsible loans to Haiti�s

dictatorships, particularly the regimes of Francois and Jean-Claude Duvalier. Immediate

and full debt cancellation is necessary for Haiti�s new government to work with its

citizens to combat poverty, grow jobs, and achieve the Millennium Development

Goals.

Haiti�s legacy of debt began shortly after the country won independence from France and

abolished slavery in 1804, becoming just the second independent non-native state in the

Americas and also the first black republic in the world.� Following threats by the French

to reinvade and reestablish slavery, Haiti compensated the French for lost property,

including slaves. Haiti agreed to pay France 150 million francs, which amounts to 21

billion dollars in today�s money.

I have to say so many things about Haiti, but time is almost up. This enormous debt

equaled to ten times Haiti�s export revenues or the price of surrendering [to the

French] and it plunged the world�s first black republic into a cycle of debt and

underdevelopment that detracted from investment, infrastructure, education and

public services.

From 1957 to 1986, when Haiti was controlled by the father-son Duvalier dictatorship,

the government wasted foreign assistance payments on fur coats and brutal death squads

like the tonton macoutes. The subsequent report revealed that in his last six years of

power, Jean Claude Duvalier diverted at least 500 million dollars in foreign assistance to

illegitimate purposes.

So, in contrast to the approach taken by the international financial institutions, the

very organizations responsible for Haiti�s debt in the first place, strategy for

immediate debt cancellation would free much needed Haitian resources for the fight

against poverty.

As now, we have a new government in Haiti, with Ren� Pr�val as the president, and

Jacques-�douard Alexis as our prime minister.� They are making a fresh start and raising

hopes for an end to the political unrest that has plagued Haiti since the February 2004

coup d�etat.

100 percent debt cancellation and an end to economic conditionalitywould not only

heighten spending on poverty, health and education, but would also give the new

president and the people of Haiti a fair opportunity to stable and strengthen

democracy.

Let me finish to say that, as I know, that Representative Maxine Waters and a bipartisan

group of lawmakers has introduced this legislation in the U.S. Congress to win 100

percent debt cancellation to Haiti along with an end to the harmful economic

conditionalties imposed by the international financial institutions.

This legislation would make a vital contribution to democracy in Haiti and the

health and wellbeing of the Haitian people. So I would like that lawmakers who are

interested in co-sponsoring the Haiti debt cancellation resolution should contact

Representative Waters or her staff. Thank you very much.

Contact IJDH

Institute for Justice & Democracy In Haiti
15 Newbury St
Boston, MA

Telephone: (617) 652-0876
General Inquiries: info@ijdh.org
Media Inquiries: media@ijdh.org