Tuesday, March 09, 2010

US Congress moves on Haitian debt relief

Haitian President Rene Preval will be in Washington DC tomorrow to meet with President Barack Obama. Ahead of the meeting, the U.S. Congress is moving to get the big lending banks to forgive all of Haiti's debt.

The Inter-American Development Bank actually holds the most Haitian debt out of the big lending organizations. The IADB holds 420 million dollars, followed by The International Monetary Fund with 165 million.

Haiti will need every single dollar it's been given to rebuild the country instead of paying off debts. Most of those loans were made to Haiti for prior disaster recovery efforts from recent floods and hurricanes.

From the IPS, writer Jim Lobe reports on the debt relief efforts.

The Senate Friday approved a resolution urging the U.S. representative at major international lending institutions to push for the cancellation of all of Haiti's outstanding multilateral debt – about 700 million dollars – or about two-thirds of the country's total outstanding debt of some 1.2 billion dollars.

The resolution also calls for Washington and other donors to provide significant assistance to help the country recover and rebuild from the earthquake, in which more than 200,000 people are estimated to have died.

In early projections based on other recent natural catastrophes released last month, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) estimated that reconstruction costs in Haiti are likely to range from eight billion dollars to 14 billion dollars. The same study predicted that the earthquake "is likely to be the most destructive natural disaster in modern times, when viewed in relations to the size of Haiti's population and its economy."

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is planning to vote on a similar resolution during Preval's visit here Wednesday morning, according to Congressional staff members.

The House's subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade approved the pending measure by voice vote last Thursday, and the House leadership has put it on a fast track for a floor vote, which is expected to be bipartisan.

Preval's visit, his first here since the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake, comes as U.S. troops have accelerated their withdrawal from the country where they helped deliver humanitarian assistance and maintain security, along with some 10,000 U.N. peacekeepers who were already stationed in Haiti and will remain there.

At their peak in early February, more than 16,000 U.S. soldiers and sailors were deployed in and around Haiti. "Our mission is largely accomplished," said Gen. Douglas Fraser in a press call Monday. He said less than 8,000 troops will remain in the area – most of them off-shore – by the end of this week.

Wednesday's White House meeting is designed in major part to demonstrate continued U.S. interest in the recovery of what was already, before the quake, Latin America's poorest country.

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