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H. Res. 1021, Resolution Expressing Condolences for the Earthquake in Haiti

January 20, 2010
Floor Statement

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) delivered remarks on the House floor today, expressing condolences to the people of Haiti following the devastating earthquake of January 12th, 2010. Her remarks as prepared are below:

I thank my good friend from California [Rep. Barbara Lee].

I rise to support this resolution, which expresses the condolences of the House of Representatives with the people of Haiti following last week's devastating earthquake.  I especially appreciate the fact that this resolution urges multilateral financial institutions to immediately suspend further debt payments from Haiti, and to develop processes to cancel all of Haiti's remaining debt.

Haiti cannot begin to recover from the earthquake while continuing to make payments on debts owed to multilateral financial institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank.  Even before the earthquake occurred, debt payments were a tremendous burden that interfered with the ability of Haiti's government to meet the needs of its people. 

Haiti worked very hard over the past several years to qualify for debt relief.  In order to qualify, the Government of Haiti successfully developed and implemented a comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, under the direction of the IMF and the World Bank.  As a result, multilateral financial institutions provided Haiti $1.2 billion in debt relief last June.  Nevertheless, Haiti still owes a total of $664 million in debts to multilateral financial institutions:

• $447 million to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB),
• $165 million to the IMF,
• $39 million to the World Bank, and
• $13 million to the international Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The IMF offered Haiti a new $100 million loan for earthquake recovery efforts.  Unfortunately, new loans that will add to Haiti's debt burden are not what Haiti needs at this critical time.  I was encouraged to learn that IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn expressed support for canceling all of Haiti's debts, including the new loan, and I look forward to working with him to do so.

I am introducing legislation to require the United States Secretary of the Treasury to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States within the multilateral financial institutions to cancel all of Haiti's remaining debts, and I hope all of my colleagues will support it.  Canceling Haiti's debts will free up the country's meager resources, allowing it to begin meeting its immediate and long-term needs. 

I thank my good friend Barbara Lee for introducing this resolution, and I join my colleagues in expressing my deepest sympathies for the people of Haiti.