Haiti, Debt, and the Tipping Point

  • Posted on: 25 October 2008
  • By: Bryan Schaaf
Blog Tags 3 Terms: 

During a recent visit to Haiti, World Bank President Robert Zoellick warned that Haiti is at a ''tipping point'' given the billion dollars of damage caused by flooding from tropical storms.  For the first time in years, Haiti has a legitimately democratic, albeit struggling, government.  Given the World Bank's problematic history in Haiti, the agency should help the government by forgiving its debt -with the caveat that funds would be subject to external oversight and directed to disaster preparedness and response as well as reviving the agricultural sector. 


Haiti presently has over 1.7 billion dollars in debt, 550 million of which is owed to the World Bank.  Haiti’s debt payments ammount to one million dollars a week. As Haitians say, “bourik chaje pa ka kanpe" (an overloaded donkey cannot stand up.) 


Much could be accomplished with this funding including the launch of a national reforestation program, the piloting of a subsidized propane gas/stove program as the Dominican Republic has long had, the expansion of public works programs, and building the capacity of communities to respond to disasters.


According to Zoellick, Haiti could potentially have its World Bank debt canceled by mid-2009 if it makes progress on addressing corruption and increasing public investment.  He noted that cancellation of Haiti's debt ultimately depended on World Bank shareholders.  Given that, advocacy with governmental officials, including our own, is needed.


Zoellick urged donors to give generously to Haiti, asking them to imagine Hurricane Katrina had affected almost all of a country with far fewer resources.  For its part, the World Bank has pleadged $25 million for emergency storm-relief grants to Haiti that are scheduled to be approved next month. 


While this assistance is welcome, far more could be accomplished by eliminating the rest of Haiti's debt, much of which was acquired under undemocratic governments.  The Haitian people should not have to suffer for decisions made without their consent.  It would be the best way to help the country stand up.



Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.