Thursday, April 02, 2009

G-20 Summit and Haiti

The following commentary is a Letter to the Editor in the April 2, 2009 edition of The Washington Post. Linnea Nilsen Capshaw and her husband, Dan, are friends of Haitian Ministries. Dan Capshaw travelled to Port-au-Prince this winter with Haitian Ministries and stayed at our Norwich Mission House.

What the G-20 Can Do for Haiti

While President Obama and the other most powerful leaders in the world meet at the Group of 20 summit this week in part to decide the roles of new players such as China and Brazil, they should remember that Haiti, which is the poorest and least developed country in the Western Hemisphere and lies just 500 miles from the United States, remains teetering between failure and the possibility of development and progress.

I hope this opportunity at the G-20 summit to make a real difference to Haiti is not lost. Cancellation of Haiti's roughly $1.5 billion in foreign debt would strengthen the elected government, allowing it to improve health care, education and other essential services, thereby allowing for greater economic development, which would bring jobs and reduce poverty. Further, the United States would benefit through a reduction in illegal immigration, greater regional stability and homeland security, and reduced importation of illegal drugs.

U.S. taxpayers have given $180 billion to bail out American International Group (AIG), but AIG will give $1.2 billion in bonuses companywide this year. The money spent by AIG to pay bonuses would nearly wipe out Haiti's debt. Similarly, U.S. taxpayers have spent $45 billion on the bailout of Citigroup, with a further debt guarantee up to $306 billion.

In light of the relatively small amount of money needed to relieve Haiti's debt, and with the benefits that Americans, Haitians and the world would receive, Mr. Obama should make cancellation of Haiti's debt a top priority at the G-20 summit.


Washington, D.C.

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