Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Congress approves debt relief measure for Haiti


WASHINGTON — Congress is calling for the United States to take the lead in relieving earthquake-shattered Haiti of its debts to international institutions.

The House approved by voice vote Wednesday and sent to President Barack Obama legislation that instructs U.S. directors at the International Monetary Fund and other global development institutions to use their votes and influence to cancel Haiti’s debt.

Debt relief is one of several approaches to helping Haiti recover from the January earthquake that took an estimated 230,000 lives.

Congress is considering legislation that would provide some $2.8 billion in new aid and the United Nations recently hosted a donors’ conference where nearly 50 nations pledged about $9.9 billion in assistance.

The debt relief bill, passed earlier by the Senate, would urge the immediate and complete cancellation of all debt owed by Haiti to multinational institutions. It would also recommend that for the next five years aid to Haiti be provided as grants rather than loans.

“There are many of us who look at this earthquake as opportunity,” said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., sponsor of the measure. “We believe that there is now a real commitment by the world community to come to the aid of Haiti.”

The Treasury said that at the beginning of March Haiti owed $828 million to multilateral development institutions. Since then, the Inter-American Development Bank, which Treasury said was owed some $447 million, announced it would forgive all of Haiti’s debt and convert undisbursed loans to the country into grants.

The World Bank has said it is canceling the remaining $38 million in debt as part of a World Bank Group package of $479 million being made available to support Haiti’s recovery and development. Since 2005 all World Bank aid to Haiti has been in grant form.

The International Monetary Fund said after the donors’ conference in New York that it was preparing a proposal to organize debt relief for Haiti’s total outstanding debt of $271 million.

The bill is H.R. 4573.

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