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Congresswoman Waters & 71 Other Members of Congress Urge Debt Cancellation for Haiti

July 21, 2009
Press Release

Today, Rep. Maxine Waters (D?CA) sent a letter to World Bank President Robert B. Zoellick, urging him to grant complete debt cancellation to Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere. 

The letter was signed by 72 members of the House of Representatives, including Barney Frank (D-MA), Chairman of the Financial Services Committee; Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Ranking Member of the Financial Services Committee; Howard Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.  Copies of the letter were sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner.  The text of the letter follows:

We are deeply concerned about the urgent humanitarian needs of the people of Haiti and the difficulties Haiti has faced in qualifying for the cancellation of its debts.  We urge you to suspend immediately all further debt service payments from Haiti and grant complete debt cancellation to this impoverished nation.
We were disappointed to learn that Haiti's progress through the HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) Initiative has been delayed as a result of recent natural disasters, economic shocks, and political developments – together with a number of conditions from the IMF.  At this time last year, it was expected that Haiti would reach the "completion point" for the HIPC program and receive complete debt cancellation in the last quarter of 2008.  Now, however, Haiti's expected "completion point" date has been pushed back to as late as July of 2009.  We understand that Haiti is scheduled to send approximately $20 million to the World Bank in 2009.  Clearly, this money would be better spent on basic infrastructure and poverty reduction for the Haitian people.

As you recognized when you traveled to Haiti last October, the loss of life and the destruction of infrastructure in Haiti after last year's string of hurricanes and tropical storms has been devastating.  Sharp increases in food and energy prices have also led to an escalation of hunger among the poorest sectors of the population.  Moreover, Haiti can expect to be severely and negatively affected by the recent downturn in the economy of the United States.  Not only does the United States serve as a valuable market for Haiti's exports, Haiti is also heavily dependent on remittances from Haitians living in the United States.
Given these circumstances, we feel that the people of Haiti would be better served if the government was freed to use its limited resources to improve Haiti's democratic institutions, environmental conditions, basic infrastructure, healthcare, education, and justice system.  Haiti's government has already acknowledged that the savings from debt relief would contribute significantly to its efforts towards these purposes.

We therefore urge you to grant Haiti complete debt cancellation as soon as possible.  In the interim, before such cancellation takes place, we urge you to suspend immediately Haiti's debt service payments and allow the Haitian government to focus its attention on the needs of its people.  We appreciate your continuing support for debt cancellation and we look forward to your response.