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$1.2 Billion in Haitian Debt Cancellation: A Welcome Victory

July 1st, 2009

Extended Campaign to Win Relief for Haiti Finally Pays Off

haitian_childrenThe Oblate JPIC Office joins other members of the Jubilee USA Network in welcoming the news that, at last, Haiti has reached “completion point” in the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program.

This step means the cancellation of $1.2 billion in external debt owed by the impoverished island nation to bilateral and multilateral lenders including the IMF, World Bank, and US government. The Boards of the World Bank and IMF met on June 30 to formally approve Haiti’s debt stock cancellation under HIPC and the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative.

“Today’s action to free Haiti of its unjust and unpayable external debt is a welcome and long overdue step. Debt cancellation will provide desperately needed relief for the people of Haiti,” said Neil Watkins, Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of religious groups, development agencies, and human rights groups that has campaigned for Haiti’s debt cancellation for more than five years.

Haiti suffered through a serious of humanitarian crises in 2008 and endured the devastating impact of four hurricanes. Sharp increases in food and energy prices have also led to an escalation of hunger among the poorest sectors of the population. And Haiti now faces the severe and negative effects of the recent downtown in the global economy.

Through this time of crisis for the island nation, a coalition of political leaders and organizations has pressed for the immediate cancellation of Haiti’s debt. US organizations including Jubilee USA Network, Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, TransAfrica Forum, the Quixote Center, Center for Economic and Policy Research, the Episcopal Church, and Partners in Health worked together to build the political will in the US for Haiti’s debt cancellation, in partnership with colleagues in Haiti, throughout the Americas, across Europe and around the world.

In the US, a bi-partisan coalition of 72 Members of Congress signed a letter to World Bank President Robert Zoellick in February 2009 urging immediate debt cancellation for Haiti. In April 2009, the Obama Administration announced it would cover up to $20 million in debt service payments from Haiti until Haiti reached completion point.

Haiti – the most impoverished nation in the Hemisphere – faced a long struggle to achieve debt cancellation, facing repeated delays under the World Bank/IMF Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. Haiti’s completion point date was repeatedly pushed back by the World Bank. Jubilee USA and its partners have long argued that much of Haiti’s debt should be considered odious, dating back to loans contracted and often stolen by the brutal Duvalier dictatorships.

For more information, read the World Bank press release on Haiti’s completion point.

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