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HR 4573 - Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery in Haiti

April 14, 2010
Floor Statement
Congresswoman Waters gave the following opening statement on the House floor today in support of her legislation to extend debt relief to Haiti:

"Mr. Speaker,

I would like to thank the Majority Leader for bringing this bill to the Floor promptly following its passage in the Senate.  I thank my colleagues on the Financial Services Committee, especially Chairman Barney Frank, Ranking Member Spencer Bachus, and Subcommittee Chairman Gregory Meeks, for their support for this bill.  I also thank my Senior Legislative Assistant Kathleen Sengstock, and the Financial Services Committee's Senior Professional Staff Member Daniel McGlinchey, for their work on this bill.

I first introduced this bill after the terrible earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12th.  I have visited Haiti twice since the earthquake, and I have seen the widespread devastation it caused.  According to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), 230,000 people were killed and 1.3 million people were displaced from their homes.  There is a desperate need for clean water, food, shelter, and basic sanitation.  Three million people – one third of the country's population – were affected by the quake.

According to the U.S. Treasury Department, as of March 1st, Haiti owed $828 million to multilateral development institutions.  This included $447 million to the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), $284 million to the IMF, $39 million to the World Bank Group's International Development Association (IDA), and $58 million to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).  In addition, Haiti owed approximately $400 million to other individual countries.

H.R. 4573, the Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery in Haiti Act of 2010, would free Haiti from the burden of international debts.  The bill directs the Secretary of the Treasury to instruct the U.S. Executive Directors at multilateral development institutions to use the voice, vote, and influence of the United States to seek to achieve three things: 

1) the immediate and complete cancellation of all debts owed by Haiti to these institutions,
2) the suspension of Haiti's debt service payments until such time as the debts are canceled, and
3) the provision of emergency, humanitarian, and reconstruction assistance to Haiti in the form of grants so that Haiti does not accumulate additional debt.

The bill also directs the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of State to use all appropriate diplomatic influence to secure the cancellation of all remaining bilateral, multilateral, and private creditor debt owed by Haiti.

This bill passed the House on March 10th, and the Senate passed it with an amendment on March 26th.  The amendment specifies that Haiti should receive aid in the form of grants until February 1, 2015.  After that time, multilateral development institutions may resume aid in the form of new loans.  I believe five years is a reasonable amount of time for Haiti to be able to recover without the burden of debt service payments on new loans.  I therefore support the Senate's amendment.

There has been considerable progress mobilizing international support for Haiti since the introduction of this bill.  Multilateral development institutions have already begun to take steps to reduce or cancel Haiti's debts.  And on March 31st, the United Nations hosted the International Donors' Conference for Haiti, where leaders of the world's nations pledged $9.9 billion in aid, including $5.3 billion for the first two years.  I am encouraged by this progress, and I am inspired by the outpouring of support for Haiti from the international community.

The people of Haiti are poor, but they are physically and spiritually resilient.  I know that with the support of the international community, they will recover from this tragedy and create a brighter future for their children. 

I urge my colleagues to support the Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery in Haiti Act of 2010.

And I yield back the balance of my time."