By Nelson A. King
March 8, 2010
The United States Senate on Friday unanimously passed a resolution supporting calls for Haiti debt relief in the wake of the Jan. 12 devastating earthquake.
“The people of Haiti face a long and difficult road ahead,” said Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd, lead author of the “Haiti Recovery Act” and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee.
“But today (Friday), the United States Senate made it clear that they will not have to walk that road alone,” he added.
In February, the world’s richest countries, otherwise known as the Group of Seven, said they will cancel Haiti’s debt. Those countries comprise Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States.
Haiti owes an estimated $1.88 billion dollars to international creditors. The Washington-based Inter-American Development Bank said about $14 billion will be needed to rebuild Haiti in the wake of the earthquake.
The Senate measure would permit United States representatives on the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other international lending agencies to work towards relieving Haiti’s debt obligations.
The measure comes as Haitian President Rene Preval was expected on Monday to make his first official visit to the United States since the earthquake ravaged the impoverished, French-speaking Caribbean country.
The White House said Preval was expected to hold discussions with President Barack Obama, who plans to ask legislators for more than $1 billion in aid for Haiti.
Preval, ahead of his U.S. visit, that he planned to press Obama to help address some of Haiti’s more immediate concerns.
“There is an urgency. The urgency is that we have entered into a rainy season,” he said, stating that the country needs at least $93 million immediately to fix drainage pipes to prevent flooding.
“We need to put jobs in the provinces; and, for that, you need roads, electricity, education, health,” Preval added.
The talks with Obama came weeks before a major donor conference on Haiti, at the United Nations, on March 31.
The State Department said on Friday that the U.S. and the U.N., in cooperation with the government of Haiti, and with the support of Brazil, Canada, the European Union, France, and Spain, will co-host theministerial “International Donors’ Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti.”
“The goal of the conference is to mobilize international support for the development needs of Haiti to begin to lay the foundation for Haiti’s long-term recovery,” the State Department said.
“The government of Haiti faces enormous challenges following the devastating earthquake of Jan. 12. Meeting these challenges will require a sustained and substantial commitment from the international community, in support of the government and people of Haiti,” it added.
“At the donors’ conference, Haiti will present its vision for Haiti’s future and how international support can assist. Donor countries, international organizations, and other partners will have an opportunity to pledge resources, to coordinate in support of Haiti’s long-term recovery, and to commit to a sustained effort to support Haiti,” the State Department continued.
Meantime, Brooklyn Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke has called for continued close collaboration with Haitian authorities and support in addressing the nation’s plight in the wake of the massive earthquake.
“After witnessing firsthand the destruction caused by the Jan. 12 earthquake, it is clear that we must continue to work alongside the Haitian government to rectify social and economic problems facing Haiti,” Clarke, representative for the 11th Congressional District told Caribbean Life.
She was part of a United States Congressional delegation that has just returned from Haiti “in order to assess the impact of the ongoing relief effort and analyze the prospect for future development.”
The nine-member delegation also included Democratic representatives Elliott Engel, of New York, and Donald Payne, of New Jersey.
“I have spent considerable time speaking with Haitian leaders and citizens alike.We must develop a long term strategy in order to foster sustainable development in the devastated nation,” Clarke said.
“As a representative of the second largest Haitian immigrant population in the United States (behind Miami), this devastation has hit close to home for many of my constituents,” she added, disclosing that she is “examining avenues to provide Haiti with more than just humanitarian relief.”
“The U.S. must develop long-term rebuilding efforts, reunite Haitian families, and create sustainable economic opportunities for all Haitians to enjoy,” Clarke continued.
“I look forward to working closely with the Haitian government, the Obama administration, my colleagues in the Congress, and my constituents to create long term solutions for Haiti,” she said.