As many a college student can attest, including me, debt is hard to deal with. My student loan bills are in the neighborhood of $600 a month. The people reading this letter probably have their own debts– credit cards, loans and mortgages. Furthermore, I am making little money and can’t afford health insurance. Financially, I don’t know how I would survive a broken bone or serious illness and I’m sure there are other Americans with the same kinds of problems.
Now look at the plight of Haiti, a nation in a very similar situation on an international scale.
As the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti’s lack of infrastructure and acute poverty make what would have been a horrendous natural disaster even worse. In other words, Haiti also can’t afford that broken bone.
While the world has come together in an outpouring of support, the road to recovery will be a long and arduous one. To help Haiti not only in the short-term but in the long-term, the world should forgive Haiti’s international debt, which totals $890 million. To put it in perspective, the International Monetary Fund estimates that Haiti’s GDP is about 6.9 billion dollars– Haiti is in debt for about 13 percent of its income. The World Bank estimates that recovering from the earthquake will cost Haiti 15 percent of its GDP! Under that kind of pressure, it’s silly to think that Haiti will not only recover from this natural disaster but also someday become a productive member of a global economy.
We need to make sure that this devastated nation has every available chance to recover and secure a better future. The United States has already forgiven the debt Haiti owes us directly, but institutions that the United States has major influence with, like the International Monetary Fund, still have not forgiven Haiti’s debt. It’s time they do so.
Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has the power to convince these institutions to do the right thing. As a ONE member, I ask that Secretary Geithner use his influence to persuade international lending institutions and countries to drop Haiti’s debt once and for all.
Anthony Wojtkowiak is a UM alumnus and is a member of the non-profit organization ONE.