U.S. Congress Approves Debt Relief

Congress approves debt relief measure for Haiti

By JIM ABRAMS (AP) – Apr 14, 2010

WASHINGTON — Congress is calling for the United States to take the lead in relieving earthquake-shattered Haiti of its estimated $828 million debt to international institutions.

The House approved by voice vote Wednesday and sent to President Barack Obama legislation that instructs U.S. directors at the International Monetary Fund and other global development institutions to use their votes and influence to cancel Haiti's debt.

Debt relief is one of several approaches to helping Haiti recover from the January earthquake that took an estimated 230,000 lives.

Congress is considering legislation that would provide some $2.8 billion in new aid and the United Nations recently hosted a donors' conference where nearly 50 nations pledged about $9.9 billion in assistance.

The debt relief bill, passed earlier by the Senate, would urge the immediate and complete cancellation of all debt owed by Haiti to multinational institutions. It would also recommend that for the next five years aid to Haiti be provided as grants rather than loans.

"There are many of us who look at this earthquake as opportunity," said Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., sponsor of the measure. "We believe that there is now a real commitment by the world community to come to the aid of Haiti."

Currently, Haiti owes some $447 million to the International Development Bank, $284 million to the International Monetary Fund, $39 million to the World Bank and $58 million to the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

The bill is H.R. 4573.