Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

U.S. Senate Approves Measure Encouraging Relief of Haiti Debt

By James Rowley

The U.S. Senate approved legislation to encourage canceling Haiti’s $1 billion debt to international organizations and creating a trust fund to reduce poverty in the earthquake-devastated nation.

The legislation directs the Obama administration to advocate for debt cancellation before such international agencies as the International Monetary Fund. The Senate passed the measure by unanimous consent.

It also directs that U.S. representatives advocate creation of an international trust fund to make grants to build roads, electricity grids, sanitation facilities and finance soil conservation and reforestation in what was already the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere before the Jan 12. earthquake.

“The people of Haiti face a long and difficult road ahead,” the measure’s sponsor, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, said in a statement. The legislation makes clear “they will not have to walk that road alone.”

“Dealing with Haiti’s crippling debt burden is an important initial step” to helping Haiti “develop greater stability,” Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, a co-sponsor of the measure, said in a statement.

The earthquake may have killed as many as 300,000 people and rebuilding the poorest country in the western hemisphere may cost as much as $13.9 billion, according to the Inter-American Development Bank.

According to the IMF Web site, the IDB was Haiti’s biggest creditor last year. The Washington-based IDB said Jan. 25 that it is owed $441 million by Haiti and is “considering a mechanism for the further alleviation” of the debt after providing $511 million in relief in 2009.

–With assistance from Sandrine Rastello in Washington. Editors: Ann Hughey, Mark Rohner.

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