Canceling Haiti’s Debt Is A Global Moral Obligation

Today, Foreign Ministers are meeting in Montreal to discuss Haiti’s outstanding $890 million international debt. The repayment of this debt burden would undermine any possibility of long term recovery for Haitians, which were already already affected by a food crisis before the earthquake that has left Haiti dependent on imports for almost 50 percent of its food.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said that “it will work to cancel the debt”, and this needs to happen now. So far the IMF response to the earthquake was to offer a $100 million loan. This loan would increase Haiti’s debt burden and cripple  Haiti’s long term recovery in a time of extreme crisis. Haiti’s scarce resources and funds must be used to help people rebuild their lives not payback loans from the international community.

The head of the IMF, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, has said that he was working on a way to turn the $100 million loan already announced into a grant. The NGO Oxfam is taking the lead to put pressure on the IMF and the international community to promote a comprehensive plan to help Haitians rebuild their devastated country.

Strauss-Kahn has called for a multilateral aid plan to rebuild the shattered island on a scale similar to the Marshall Plan.

“My belief is that Haiti, which has been incredibly hit by different things-the food and fuel crisis, the hurricanes, than the earthquake- needs something that is big. Not only a piecemeal approach, but something which is much bigger to deal with the reconstruction of the country: Some kind of Marshall Plan that we need now to implement for Haiti,” said IMF’s Strauss-Kahn.

Meanwhile Oxfam is keeping the pressure up on the IMF and rich countries.

“Expecting Haiti to repay billions of dollars as the country struggles to overcome one of the worst natural disasters in recent memory would be both cruel and unnecessary. Immediate cancellation of foreign debt must be accompanied by urgent action to support farmers and prevent a man-made food crisis exacerbating the hardship faced by the people of Haiti. Haiti is a divided and highly unequal society so there is a real risk that, in the weeks and months after the earthquake, politically influential and richer Haitians will secure reconstruction resources at the expense of Port-au-Prince poorest,” said Oxfam International executive director Jeremy Hobbs.

Hobbs also recommends that the leadership of the relief effort, which has shown some serious lack of coordination, must remain clearly under the control of the United Nations and the Haitian government, and not foreign authorities.


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