Forgive Haiti’s debt

By Rev. Steven D. MartinExecutive Director, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good Imagine your best friend borrowing your credit … Continued

By Rev. Steven D. Martin
Executive Director, New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good

Imagine your best friend borrowing your credit card and maxing it out. Then imagine him taking the loot and skipping the country. Now you can’t buy new tires for your car. That’s the story of the Haitian people and illustrates the obscure topic of third-world debt.

While Pat Robertson blames Haiti’s devastation on a pact with the devil, the roots of Haiti’s problems actually lie in the cruel history of slavery, Napoleon, and yes, debt. Mountainous debts buried Haiti as the price of liberation in 1803. Only in 1947 were these founding debts paid off.

And then came the Duvaliers, who padded their own pockets with loans given for the benefits of good government: roads, sewers, services, electricity, among other things. When Papa and then Baby Doc left, the debt remained, and payments of $50 million came due each year in a country where per-capita income is somewhere around $2 a day. Later leaders did little to improve on the Duvaliers’ record. No wonder that Haiti’s streets, pre-earthquake, were littered with old cars, long abandoned, stripped of their salvageable parts: there’s no place to take them when they stop running.

Haiti’s problems are deep, her woundedness now visible to all. The earthquake by itself would have been bad enough, but Haiti’s structural poverty and lack of infrastructure has added devastating insult to centuries-old injury. No one thing is going to make it all right overnight. But there is something that will make a long-term difference: forgive the rest of Haiti’s debt.

For those Christians who believe that real life is found in love of God and neighbor, just as Jesus said it would be, this is a no-brainer. Estimates are that Haiti still holds somewhere between $400 million and $1 billion in debt owed to other nations and to the Inter-America Development Bank. In September, the United States forgave $12 million, the last of its bilateral loans to Haiti. Other countries have followed suit. Now that this horrible, almost apocalyptic destruction has come, it’s hard to make a case against doing everything possible to give Haiti a boost.

A new Christian organization, The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, has just launched with a call for total cancellation of Haiti’s debt. A remarkable number of influential evangelical leaders have joined in this simple plea: forgive Haiti’s debt and make all future assistance in the form of grants, not new loans.

Now is the time for the world to act.

We applaud the United States’ leadership in coming to the aid of the Haitian people. We commend the outpouring of resources from people worldwide through charities. We ask that we all join together in finding long-term ways to help rebuild Haiti, and the answer is right there in front of us in the Lord’s Prayer: “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

A nation buried in rubble should not also be buried in debt.

Rev. Steven D. Martin is a pastor and documentary filmmaker. The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good is led by Rev. Richard Cizik, Dr. David Gushee, and Rev. Steven D. Martin.

  • ccnl1

    Rev. Martin noted: “A nation buried in rubble should not also be buried in debt.”The USA’s debt is today, $12,300,163,248,044.69 as in $12 1/3 trillion!!!!!!Better we take care of our own debts before forgiving Haiti theirs.And rebuilding Port-au-Prince will add even more debt to include ours to a bottomless pit that gets deeper with each earthquake. Rebuild in that part of Haiti that does not lie on faults and build no structure higher than one story with said buildings being both tremor and hurricane-proof.

  • greg3

    Haiti has been a basket case since it threw out the French in 1803. What national interest does it serve to help them? The mistake was loaning them any money in the first place.

  • infantry11b4faus

    i dont care how poor the country is – they could remove the junk and garbage from their streets. but that would require getting off their lazy butts and actually take care of themselves instead of looking for others to do it for them.i have been in some darn poor countries and i saw how they got up every morning and using a bucket washed down the area in front of their shop and home – one in the same. then they used poor excuses for brooms and swept everything.if i remember correctly we put down the white mans burden and that includes haiti.

  • cloudyone

    Why does Haiti NEED big buildings and high human populations??? Are they going to PROMISE not to build any more of this nonsense and lower their population to reasonable levels? A reasonable level would be zero humans. Humans need to go away because they are the most dangerous creatures on the planet. We cannot encourage any more to keep breeding, no matter what their idiotic religions claim is ‘right.’

  • snapplecat07

    Always easy to spend other peoples money, always easy to tell someone else to forget about what people owe them. I would though forgve if I knew they(the forever corrupt and inept gov, not the people although they elect these clowns) woudnt piss away the next billion they get.

  • george32

    how much debt relief was provided to the residents and evacuees after katrina hit?

  • DD163

    May be the Rev should help raise charity to toward their debt…words and using other peoples money seems like the lazy mans way to garner good will.No-brainer? You have a lot of nerve and a seeming lack of respect for people who work for a living.

  • atrepos1

    Nearly 85 percent of Haiti’s debt was canceled or scheduled for cancellation BEFORE the earthquake. Haiti was $1.9 billion in debt in 2008. It was making no payments on that amount beyond a token 2.5% interest. Two thirds of the debt was forgiven that year. Of the remaining $700 million, $228 million was forgiven last year by the Inter-American Development Bank. There is also an outstanding debt of about $91 million owed to Taiwan, and $167 million to Venezuela. The IADB has now called for canceling all the money Haiti owes it. That leaves just Taiwan and Venezuela. I expect some lenders will want SOMEONE to pay them back. Any religious folks want to do that?Bear in mind that it’s nearly certain that any money lent to Haiti will never be paid back, and any donations will be squandered, wasted or stolen. So what should we do next time? Haiti has no resources, too many people, an uneducated populace, no functioning government and no infrastructure. Any suggestions for a long-term solution?

  • rat_race_escapee

    It’s not my loan to forgive. Funny how easy it is for A and B to get together to force C to pay for X’s problem.Anyone stupid enough to lend money to Haiti deserves to lose it.

  • thecomedian

    They’re never going to pay it back anyway.

  • rcubedkc

    How about forgiving the debt of the millions of American students who were suckered into believing that there were good jobs waiting for them if only they would put themselves into debt. Now there’s no jobs, and none on the horizon, yet the debt keeps piling up. Take care of our own first and let Haiti come to terms with their own problems.BTW, how much is France kicking in?

  • Straightline

    Forgiving Haiti’s debt shouldn’t be a problem. It isn’t like they were paying it anyway…

  • neraksmar

    Cloudyone: if you think humans should just go away, why don’t you set an example for the rest of us and be the first?

  • usapdx


  • Aurellano

    How about canceling the debt of all countries with privately-owned central banks? The international banking cartel controls almost everything, including most politicians and the media. This fact is so obvious and yet so few people are awake to the reality. Most Americans don’t even know that the Federal Reserve is a private bank that never has been audited by Congress, which relinquished its power to coin money to the bank in 1913. That is when the republic fell. Let’s talk about basic human rights. Is it any wonder that 40 million Americans lack health insurance despite spending more on health care services per capita than any other country in the world? The United States is a representative democracy only in form, not in practice; for, corporations have seized control of the political process to advance their own interests. According to Mussolini, this is the essence of fascism.

  • heyazzjack

    Gee lets bail out others before our own country. You bible beaters kill me. Heres a thought let them fend for themselves, once again were being the great humanity country again. Start at home then worry about others fkin morons.

  • Aurellano

    P.S. to my post below. See the point? Evidently, the only time Jesus Christ became violent was when he overturned the tables of money changers in the temple. The grand contradiction of so-called conservative Christians is their pandering to our capitalist system, which inherently is unethical. They are blind minions of the Illuminati.

  • chatard

    Should we forgive their debts with the understanding that they will accept more Baby Docs, more Aristides, more dictators and communists. Are all of you on board with picking up the tab for your children for the rest of your lives regardless of their choices?

  • wickedpheonix

    Mr. Reverend, I understand that you are a Christian soul, and thus it is in your nature to forgive.But most of us realize that you can’t just throw money at problems to make them go away. Haiti is a filthy country with virtually no work ruled over by an ineffective government. Those are the real problems – not their debt. They could very easily appeal to the nations of the world to set-off their debt to be repaid in a couple decades and use the little money they have to attract foreign investment without wiping the debt slate clean entirely.

  • rd3

    Finally, a sensible suggestion from the religious side that doesn’t reek of xenophobia. Maybe there’s some hope for this country yet…

  • Vipda

    A new Christian organization, The New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, has just launched with a call for total cancellation of Haiti’s debt.So let the clear headed americans do the thinking.American are debt laden too. So why don’t evangilicals and christian knock on the doors of CEOs of financial organizations and fat cats and command them to write off the debt of americans first. Why did President George W. Bush/Dick Cheney create laws that makes it difficult for poor debt laden americans to file bankruptcy?I for one am of the view that Haiti and such islands are not the places where people can live en masse, because there are not sufficient resources on the islands to sustain their populations.If Haitians feel that the Creditor’s heat is too much to bear and they cannot survive without monetary assistance from world, they are more than welcome to migrate to greener pastures in Africa or Mideast, where they came from. And let fat cats of the worl buy their islands, so Hatians can pay their debts. Atleast Africa or Mideast has enough natural resources to sustain their masses.I empathize with the plight of Haitian, Mr Steven D. Martin, as any god fearing human would, but I cannot sit pat and allow drunk evangilicals to strum their guitars to the tune of their fancy, to take it upon themselves to make monetary decisions of this world, forgiving the debts at their fancy, when I know that a large number of heavily debt laden americans slog their ass every day in blistering cold just to put enough food on their kid’s plate at end of a tiring day.

  • drzimmern1

    Its kind and generous to help those in distress. Realism helps though. Haiti has received l6 billion dollars in aid in the past, and its poverty rate INCREASED in the past ten years. 75% of the population remains unemployed. Of course, help Haiti. But why can’t the same energy be expended toward Mississippi, rural Louisiana, and the American Indian tribes?

  • marahnatha

    Look at all of the organizations that were down there helping even before the earthquake. These are the organizations that we should support, as individuals. Our government did the right thing by sending water, rescue operations and peacekeepers. I can’t see why we send millions of dollars before we even know

  • oryssman

    By all means the United States ought to take the leadership role in working toward loan forgiveness for Haiti on one condition: that the Haitian government is never again loaned a dime until they can prove themselves responsible with the money loaned to them. Yes, this is a terrible natural disaster, but this disaster and the misery that has followed has been multiplied a million fold due to factors the Haitian government and citizens have control over. To pretend that Haiti cannot be held to account is to foster a paternalistic attitude that can only be described as racist.

  • Ombudsman1

    If they forgive the debt, that is one thing, and I’m okay with it.But you realize once that happens, no one will ever loan them money again? It’s why you can’t get a loan once you declare bankruptcy. Now, just between you and me, I think Haiti would be better off in the long run without the loans, but you’ll be the first person in line to urge businesses to loan Haiti money again, and you’ll act all confused why no one will do it.You’ll claim it’s immoral, but you still won’t understand the law of unintended consequences.

  • chatard

    It is absolutely amazing, the number of commenters here who are saying the exact same things that Rush Limbaugh has been saying about Haiti. Wonder if all these people think of themselves as being evil and without a conscience,as Rush is being portrayed?

  • ccnl1

    A MUST READ FOR ALL BLOGGERS ESPECIALLY THE ONES WHO USE ALIASES:From the January, 2010 edition of Smithsonian, p. 47-”The Qumran controversy took a bizarre turn last March when Golb’s son, Raphael was arrested on charges of identity theft, criminal impersonation and aggravated harassment. In a statement, the New York District Attorney’s office says that Raphael “engaged in a symptematic scheme on the Internet, using dozens of Internet aliases, in order to influence and affect debate on the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in order to harass Dead Sea Scrolls scholars” who disputed his father’s findings.”

  • paris1969

    Just as these evangelicals have missed Jesus’ point about “pick up your bed and walk” they are missing the fact that if you give charity to people who are judging them as deficient to take care of themselves. The U.S. has been very generous with this country and perhaps the evangelicals who want the government to subscribe to their religious reasoning should instead give from their own treasuries.

  • US-conscience

    This is the most ignorant colleetion of comments I have ever read. May the Lord be as gracious to you as you seem to be to this lost and struggling nation.I pray that your blind eyes will be open and your selfish nature will be transformed into love before its too late.

  • vmonroe_valnesio

    Where are the Haitians?

  • rcubedkc

    How about slapping a 30 percent tax on all properties and incomes of all the religious organizations in the United States.The $BILLIONS collected could then be used to help Haiti and other overcrowded economic and social basket cases. This way the religious fanatics could put their money where their mouths are.

  • moorehoney

    Charity begins at home! God helps those who help themselves!Enough is enough!!We have homeless hungry people here! Who is helping them.??? Where is that money coming from??

  • mhoust

    What Haiti needs is a group like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Monroe, Samuel Adams, etc. Residents with education, vision, and a will to take their pissant little country and make it into a place that everyone would want to live in.Unfortunately, the only resource I know of that Haiti has is a large number of uneducated people.

  • samxstreampools

    RE: Pat Robertson”Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples saying, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments; And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues; And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi! Rabbi!! But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in Heaven.Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves’.”

  • TheyCallMeBruce

    Debt forgiveness is the right thing to do, absolutely. But by itself it will do nothing to solve the problem. If someone paid off your credit card but left the card with your deadbeat friend, he’d only run it right back up again and you’d still have no tires.Haiti is at this time not capable of competent self-governance or economic planning. How it got that way and whose fault it is are questions for the historians; none of that changes the current situation. The only thing that will help ordinary Haitians is debt forgiveness “in kind”: direct aid for economic development projects, managed by the donors and without going through any organ of the Haitian government. Paternalistic? Sure. But that’s the only way anything is going to change.

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