Thursday, February 11, 2010

Haiti's Debt

One of the positive things to come out of the Haiti earthquake crisis has been the cancellation of that country's debt to other much more wealthy countries.

Hayley Hathaway explains the details in a blog post on the God's Politics site (also known as Sojourners). On Friday (last week) the U.S. Treasury Secretary Geithner responded to the call to relieve Haiti's debt (which has been crippling for more than a century), announcing: “Today, we are voicing our support for what Haiti needs and deserves – comprehensive multilateral debt relief.”

But it wasn't just 'voicing our support', which could have easily been a political statement and nothing more. The following day, the Group of Seven (G7) finance ministers announced that they agreed with Geithner – Haiti wouldn’t have to pay back its debts.

This isn't only a victory for Haiti, but also for all those people who've been campaigning for more than a decade to get the debts of various third world countries annulled. The Jubilee campaign really got off the ground in 1999, and since then over $100 billion of debt has been cancelled. This is not only an extraordinary amount, but also a huge gift not just to the nations who were suffering, but also to the peoples who were (mostly) unaware that their countries held such power over other nations.

You can read more about Jubilee and debt cancellation on the US site - which, curiously, doesn't seem to have been updated since Hathaway's post was published. The British site is more up to date, but warns that the G7 promise still has to be realised. Continued action by this group will ensure that it does go ahead.

The NZ version of Jubilee is called Jubilee Aotearoa Debt Action Network - which doesn't seem to have any recent information on it, the most recent items both being from 2008.

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