Friday, January 15, 2010

As various units from various nations sail or fly towards the unfortunate country of Haiti it is perhaps time to look at what is one of the root causes of the incredibly poor infrastructure that will make their relief efforts so difficult. For several years now there has been a move afoot to cancel the external debt that helps to keep Haiti so poor. See this Wikipedia article for an overview of Haiti's indebtedness. The issue is also well explored at the website of the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti.
In the wake of the recent humanitarian crisis there is now a move afoot to cancel Haiti's external debt with all due speed. The ONE organization (see article below) has an online petition that you can sign in support of this effort. Such a cancellation is hardly a leftist pipe dream. France is pressing for an immediate cancellation of Haiti's international debt, a move that drips with historical irony given the history of Haiti. While not offering any immediate relief in the crisis such a move is worth the dispatch of hundreds of aircraft carriers in terms of the long term prospects for Haitians as they struggle to recover. ONE is a small l liberal global anti-poverty group, but whatever my own disagreements with their politics this seems like an eminently sensible thing to in tomorrow. Here's the article.
The harrowing images and stories coming out of Haiti are devastating to watch. Though I spend every day with the statistics and stories of extreme poverty, the scale of this tragedy is heartbreaking. Times like this remind me of our common humanity and the need to do all we can to help...

So here’s our goal as ONE: $890 million for Haiti. That’s how much Haiti owes to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and a handful of others.

Sign the petition below to ask Haiti’s creditors to act quickly and cancel Haiti’s debts:
Petition text:
Dear finance ministers, IMF, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and bilateral creditors:
As Haiti rebuilds from this disaster, please work to secure the immediate cancellation of Haiti’s $890 million debt and ensure that any emergency earthquake assistance is provided in the forms of grants, not debt-incurring loans.

Haiti’s debt was largely accrued under the corrupt Duvalier regime, which borrowed money recklessly and spent it selfishly for 30 years. The new government has struggled with debt payments. And now, as the nation tries to recover from one of the worst disasters in recent years we can help by lifting this debt.
Thank you for doing your bit,
Roxane Philson,

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