After a grand slam of hurricanes devastated Haiti in 2008, relief agencies promptly pitched in to clean up. But the most crucial form of relief for the impoverished nation—debt relief—has finally arrived following Haiti’s completion of the World Bank’s required policy changes under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. In September 2009, Haitian and U.S. diplomats signed an agreement to erase the last of Haiti’s external debt, which totaled more than $1 billion. Although natural disasters like the 2008 hurricanes compounded Haiti’s financial troubles, some of the worst debts the country was forced to pay were racked up decades before by the Duvalier dictatorship. “It was more than time!” Claudette Werleigh, former prime minister of Haiti, told Sojourners. “A large part of the debt was due to cumulative interest that often surpasses the amount of money actually borrowed. It was cruel and inhumane to ask a population fighting for bare survival to pay such a sum.” In achieving eligibility for debt relief, Haiti joined more than 20 countries that have completed the HIPC program so far.
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