2010-02-12 / Top Stories

Weiner’s Haiti Debt Relief Call Answered

Immediately following the earthquake that devastated Haiti, Representative Anthony Weiner called on Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to work with the International Monetary Fund and the Inter-American Development Bank to forgive more than $600 million in loans to Haiti. Today, the Treasury Department announced it would do just that.

“I applaud Secretary Geithner’s decision to call on international development banks to forgive Haitian debt. At a time when Haiti is struggling to care for its wounded and rebuild its devastated island, the last thing this country needs is to worry about paying off its outstanding loans,” Weiner said.

The IMF and IDB are international institutions that provide multilateral low-interest emergency and economic development loans to developing nations. The United States is the biggest contributor to both of these banks and uses them to help alleviate poverty in some of the poorest nations in the world. Weiner also sent a letter to the U.S. representative to the IMF, Meg Lundsager, asking that IMF board of governors begin the process of forgiving Haiti’s debt.

In recent years, as Haiti’s government has begun to improve conditions and open the economy to foreign investment, these banks have realized that debt accrued by former dictators were holding Haiti back. The World Bank, IMF and IDB joined together to forgive $1.2 billion in debt last year, but more than $600 million still remains. With thousands of Haitians dead and even more homeless, and with Haiti’s government in ruins, Haiti’s ability to repay these loans is now nearly impossible.

More than 200,000 people are confirmed dead from the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Haiti last month. Ten percent of the homes in Port-au-Prince have been destroyed, leaving thousands homeless. Among the public buildings that collapsed were the main parliament building, tax headquarters and a prison, along with schools and hospitals.

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