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Congresswoman Maxine Waters Introduces Legislation to Cancel Haiti’s Debt

February 4, 2010
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced the Debt Relief for Earthquake Recovery in Haiti Act of 2010 (H.R. 4573), legislation to cancel Haiti's debt to multilateral financial institutions so that the nation can focus its limited resources on rebuilding after the devastating earthquake and not be burdened by payments to the World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other creditors.  The bill has more than thirty bipartisan cosponsors.

"I'm introducing this legislation to cancel the $709 million owed by Haiti to the multilateral financial institutions," said Congresswoman Waters. "Considering the enormous toll from the earthquake, we must ensure that all of Haiti's remaining debt to these institutions and other international creditors is cancelled so that Haiti can make both short- and long-term investments in relief, recovery, and development."

Congresswoman Waters' legislation would require the Treasury Department to use the voice, vote and influence of the United States in multilateral financial institutions to:

1) cancel immediately and completely all debts owed by Haiti to such institutions;

2) suspend Haiti's debt service payments to such institutions until such time as the debts are canceled completely; and
3) provide additional assistance to Haiti in the form of grants so that Haiti does not accumulate additional debts.

The bill also requires the Treasury Department to begin immediate efforts to ensure that other bilateral, multilateral, and private creditors cancel immediately and completely all debts owed by Haiti to such creditors.

In addition to introducing legislation, Congresswoman Waters sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner urging him to help cancel Haiti's debt.  The letter was signed by 94 Members of Congress, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank, and Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

"The array of problems that Haiti faces right now is compounded by foreign debt," said Congresswoman Waters. "I am encouraged by initial statements by World Bank President Robert Zoellick and IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn that they are already considering measures to cancel Haiti's debt. I encourage their prospective debt cancellation plans to also include providing grants so that Haiti can begin the arduous process of rebuilding."

Congresswoman Waters has been a longtime advocate for Haiti and a leading proponent of debt cancellation for Haiti and other poor countries. Just last year she was instrumental in getting the World Bank and the IMF to cancel $1.2 billion of Haiti's debt. The Congresswoman introduced this latest legislation following her recent return from Haiti, where she saw the untold levels of death, destruction, and destitution caused by the earthquake several weeks ago.

"Haiti had been making progress since suffering extensive damage by a series of hurricanes in 2008, and last year's debt cancellation helped to move Haiti in the right direction.  Unfortunately, it seems like one step forward, three steps back.  We cannot allow Haiti to bear the additional burden of expensive debt payments following this most recent tragedy," said Congresswoman Waters.

More information about work that Congresswoman Waters has done related to Haiti can be found here.