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Former Presidents Bush, Clinton In Haiti; IADB Forgives $479M Haiti Debt

“Former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton clasped hands with residents of one of Haiti’s massive tent cities Monday” during a tour of Port-Au-Prince, the Associated Press reports. “At a news conference with President Rene Preval on the grounds of the collapsed national palace, Bush said he was struck by the devastation caused by the Jan. 12 earthquake. ‘It’s one thing to see it on TV, it’s another to see it firsthand,’ said Bush, who was making his first visit to Haiti. ‘Hopefully our visit will remind people that Haiti needs help,'” the news service writes.

“Clinton and Bush later greeted quake survivors camped on the Champ de Mars, the national mall filled with 60,000 homeless people. Secret Service agents and Haitian police surrounded the men as they waded into a fenced-in section of the mall where dozens of families have pitched blue, orange and silver tarps,” according to the AP.

Bush departed on Monday afternoon, while Clinton, U.N. special envoy to Haiti, stayed on for “meetings with business leaders and officials.” Of the rebuilding effort, Clinton said coordination between NGOs and the Haitian government’s long-term plans is the “most important thing in the short run.” He added, “They can’t be a self-sufficient country unless we both are transparent in this aid and build the capacity of the government” (Katz/Melia, 3/22).

During his visit on Monday, Clinton told CNN that the U.S. Congress should expand trade preferences to allow Haiti to increase the amount of textiles it can export into the U.S. “Because if we do, and we say we’re going to do it for a longer period of time, we can get massive investment here (and) create tens of thousands or perhaps even 100,000 jobs,” he said. “Clinton also said he supported the development of Haiti’s domestic agriculture industry as a key to development and recovery,” CNN writes (2/23).

Also on Monday, the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IADB) governing board agreed “to raise $70 billion in new capital and give $479 million in post-earthquake debt forgiveness and other relief to Haiti,” Reuters reports. The IADB “needs more capital to respond to the Haiti emergency and refill coffers depleted by its response to the recent economic crisis, officials said. The new funds will significantly increase the bank’s reserves from the $100 billion now on hand and allow the IADB to offer $12 billion in lending a year,” Reuters writes (Rucker/Sarmiento, 3/22).

The IADB debt was the largest share of Haiti’s $1.2 billion debt, owed as of late January, according to information from the International Monetary Fund, the AP/BusinessWeek reports.

The IADB will also offer Haiti $2 billion in financing over the next decade, said Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno. “This commitment is good news for all Haitians, and will help heal the wounds caused by the earthquake,” Moreno said during the bank’s annual meeting in Cancun, Mexico (Pacheco, 3/22). The New York Times notes that the EU “also announced that it would provide $1.36 billion in the coming years” (Lacey, 3/22).

According to Reuters, the U.S. “pushed the 48-member development bank to adopt new rules for accountability, transparency and reporting that some members found needlessly constricting.” Marisa Lago, the U.S. Treasury’s chief for development issues, said, “We started from the beginning with a goal… to do double the amount of lending per year than (the bank) had done before the (financial) crisis” (3/22).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.