By Marc Lacey, New York Times
MEXICO CITY — Haiti received a boost to its balance sheet on Monday when the Inter-American Development Bank, meeting in the Mexican resort city of Cancún, agreed to forgive $479 million of the country’s $1.2 billion in foreign debt.
To draw attention to Haiti’s long-term needs, meanwhile, former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush met Monday with President René Préval on the grounds of the toppled National Palace in Port-au-Prince and toured the central plaza, which has been transformed into a sprawling squatter camp.
The development bank’s debt was the biggest slice of Haiti’s international obligations, but Haiti still estimates that it needs $11.5 billion over the next three years to recover from the Jan. 12 earthquake, which flattened much of the infrastructure in the capital and left an estimated 1.3 million people without homes.
The development bank, which is based in Washington and has 48 members, said it would also offer $2 billion in new financing to Haiti over the next decade.
The European Union also announced that it would provide $1.36 billion in the coming years.
Debt forgiveness for Haiti has been widespread since the quake. The Group of 7 countries — Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States — announced in early February that they would cancel Haiti’s bilateral debt, although relatively little was left after earlier cancellations.
Venezuela announced recently that it would forgive an estimated $200 million in debt.
A critical donors conference for Haiti is scheduled in New York next week. The country’s needs, which were great before the earthquake, are now extreme. The government puts the death toll at 230,000.
Earlier this month, the United States Senate approved a resolution directing American representatives to the International Monetary Fund and other international lending institutions to relieve Haiti’s external debt and ensure that future aid is in the form of grants.