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Congresswoman Maxine Waters Introduces Legislation to Cancel Poor Country Debts

December 28, 2009
Press Release

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) introduced the Jubilee Act (H.R. 4405) before the House of Representatives adjourned for the holidays on December 16th.  The Jubilee Act expands debt cancellation for impoverished countries, provided that they commit to use the savings to reduce poverty.  Joining the Congresswoman as original cosponsors of the Jubilee Act are Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ranking Member Spencer Bachus (R-AL) as well as other prominent Members of Congress with an interest in international development and poverty alleviation.

"The Jubilee Act will free up resources for poverty reduction in some of the poorest countries in the world.  I am proud to introduce this bill to help people out of poverty," said Congresswoman Waters.

The House passed the Jubilee Act (H.R. 2634) by an overwhelming vote of 285 to 132 last year during the 110th Congress; however, the Senate failed to complete action on the bill.

"Debt cancellation allows poor countries to use their own money to address the needs of their people.  It is simple, effective, and the right thing to do," said Congresswoman Waters.

Congresswoman Waters has been a leader on issues of poor country debt relief for the past decade.  In 1999, she worked with her colleagues and the Clinton Administration to authorize the debt relief program known as the "HIPC Initiative."   The following year, she offered an amendment on the House Floor to the Fiscal Year 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill, which increased funding for debt relief from $69 million to $225 million.  The amendment passed the House, thereby ensuring full funding for the program.

"Debt cancellation saved Zambia more than $23 million in 2006, which Zambia used to increase spending on agricultural projects and eliminate fees for healthcare in rural areas.  Debt cancellation saved Cameroon more than $29 million the same year, which was used for infrastructure, social sector and governance reforms.  The Jubilee Act will allow more impoverished countries to benefit from the cancellation of their debts," said Congresswoman Waters.