US Congress passes Haiti debt relief bill

By Dialogo
April 16, 2010

The US Congress passed a bill Wednesday calling for easing Haiti's debt burden to help with reconstruction efforts in the wake of the devastating January 12 earthquake. The measure, adopted unanimously by the House of Representatives, now goes to President Barack Obama's desk to be signed into law. It directs US representatives to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other international lenders to act to relieve Haiti's external debt obligations and calls for future aid to be in the form of grants, not loans. The "Haiti Recovery Act" also urges the Obama administration to support the creation of an international trust fund for Haiti to support investment in infrastructure including the development of electricity grids, roads, water and sanitation facilities, and reforestation initiatives. The Group of Seven richest countries -- Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States -- announced in early February that they would cancel Haiti's bilateral debt. But that amounts to only a small portion of Haiti's overall debt, which ran about 1.88 billion dollars as of late September 2008, according to the Paris Club group of creditor nations. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates that Haiti's reconstruction will cost some 14 billion dollars.