Here’s a nice Friday news dump. Tim Geithner just announced support for a full cancellation of Haiti’s debt, and the IMF will join him:
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Treasury today announced the United States will work with its partners around the world to relieve all debts owed by Haiti to international institutions and to ensure grant financing to support Haiti’s reconstruction and recovery from the devastating earthquake in January.
“The earthquake in Haiti was a catastrophic setback to the Haitian people who are now facing tremendous emergency humanitarian and reconstruction needs, and meeting Haiti’s financing needs will require a massive multilateral effort,” said Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. “Today, we are voicing our support for what Haiti needs and deserves – comprehensive multilateral debt relief.”
Secretary Geithner also welcomed International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s call to provide full relief for Haiti’s outstanding IMF debt, including the $102 million emergency loan approved on January 27, 2010.
In addition, Geithner stressed that future aid to the ravaged island nation should come in the form of grants and not loans, to reduce the burden on a suffering people.
Haiti actually owes no debt to the United States, after a September 2009 agreement on debt relief. Their total outstanding debt to other international institutions equals around $1.3 billion, a paltry sum for the world but an impossible sum for Haiti after the earthquake. Haiti’s debt troubles go all the way back to French colonization, and the 150M in francs it demanded after Haiti secured independence. No other country required former slaves to pay such a debt for their freedom.
The ONE campaign gathered over 200,000 signatures in their effort to convince the Treasury Secretary to call for debt cancellation.
This also represents another policy victory with respect to Haiti for Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who urged Geithner to support debt relief on Jan. 22. I’m sure Harold Ford would have joined her in that request, but if his knowledge of world geography is anything like his knowledge of the geography of New York City, he may not know where Haiti is.