Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Haiti, the poorest nation in America need international community support for debt cancellation.

Coming to the rescue of Haiti Published on: 1/27/09.
HAITI, as the poorest nation in the Caribbean-Latin America region, is attracting increasing support to secure cancellation of its estimated US$1.5 billion
(BDS$3 billion) external debt, with current debt service payments costing it between US$50 million to US$80 million annually.
Earlier this month, the World Bank rejected a recent appeal from the Barbados-based Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) – umbrella body of the network of regional non-governmental organisations – for cancellation of Haiti's external debts, servicing of which is simply unsustainable.
Hurricanes and other natural disasters in 2008 have worsened its nightmare of poverty, and international NGOs have been intensifying their lobbying effortsfor governments and the international financial institutions to include that Caribbean nation among priority cases for special and urgent treatment.
As CARICOM's most populated and poverty-stricken member state of some eight million, Haiti needs concerted action by governments and civil society organisations to engage in sustained lobbying initiatives to secure cancellationof its external indebtedness.
Last year, when it finally made some progress in compliance arrangements for accessing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), it also became the newest non-borrowing member of the Caribbean Developoment Bank (CDB).
It currently benefits from minimal grant aid for people-focused projects which the bank rightly acknowledges can hardly make any significant difference to the country's challenging endemic poverty.
Latest efforts by the region's NGO networks are designed to secure urgent attention from the Barack Obama administration in Washington to include Haiti as one of its priority cases among foreign nations for humanitarian assistance and, hopefully, followed by the more substantial issue of debt cancellation.
In this context, noted West Indian economist and social commentator Dr Norman Girvan has included Haiti among a five-point "Caribbean wish list for President Obama" in which he has placed debt cancellation as a core requirement.
Girvan feels that the Obama administration should "undertake full and unconditional cancellation of Haiti's bilateral debt to the USA"; and also for the US to use its influence with other bilateral and multilateral donors,including the World Bank, to do the same.
Haiti's battle to deal with its challenges resulting from recent natural disasters, that have worsened problems of hunger, poverty and crime, as well as difficulties in honouring debt payments, are expected to be among agenda issues for this week's meetings of CARICOM ministers of financeand planning and for action by the community's heads of government

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