Urge President Obama to Seek Cancellation of Haiti’s Foreign Debt

While two-thirds of Haiti’s debt ($1.2 billion) was cancelled in June 2009 thanks to the efforts of faith groups and debt activists, the country still has $641 million in debt on its books. This is because the debt relief agreements from the IMF and other creditors only covered debts acquired up to 2004. So, new loans Haiti has received since then have been adding to its debt. Half of this total of $641 million is owed to the InterAmerican Development Bank and the IMF, with the other half owed to other countries like Venezuela and Taiwan. In 2010, Haiti is projected to pay around $10 million to the IMF and IDB – and this is money Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, simply cannot pay in the wake of the catastrophic earthquake.

The U.S. has substantial voting power on the Boards of the IMF and the IDB and should use its influence to secure immediate cancellation of these debts. If cancellation cannot be granted immediately, President Obama should call for a moratorium on all debt payments from Haiti with no accrued interest until cancellation can be agreed on, as it was for countries hit by the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. Haiti’s limited resources should be directed at recovery, not repayment.

The Haitian earthquake has caused horrendous loss of life and unimaginable destruction. Massive humanitarian and reconstruction assistance is needed. This should come as grants, not loans, so that Haiti does not become saddled again with large debts through no fault of its own.

Just as a gracious and compassionate God extends unlimited mercy and forgives debts, so the human family is called to cancel debts and extend aid to those in need without seeking repayment. Jesus says, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” And, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” And, “if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you” (Luke 6:34-38). The tragedy occurring in Haiti must call forth our country’s most compassionate response.

For more information and to take action see the Church World Service Website

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