Ecumenical Leader Lauds G7 for Canceling Haiti's Debt

( [email protected] ) Feb 09, 2010 11:54 AM EST

The head of a global ecumenical body praised a G7 decision to cancel Haiti’s debt, and urged other financial institutions to do the same.

In a letter Monday to the finance minister of Canada, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, said he shared the same deep concern for the people affected by the devastating quake in Haiti and thus welcomes G7’s decision.

But he hopes that the debt cancellation does not stop with G7 nations, and that other countries and lending institutions will also be encouraged to forgive Haiti’s debt.

In late January, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) head expressed hope that the institution would be able to cancel all of Haiti’s debt, including the latest interest-free loan of $100 million. But more recently, other IMF officials have shown less enthusiasm for debt relief for Haiti.

“Your Excellency, the decision of the IMF approving more loans to Haiti after the earthquake will only add to Haiti’s burden, nearly doubling the country’s debt to that institution, as there is no clear willingness or definitive moves yet to cancel the country’s current debt,” Tveit writes in his letter to Canadian Finance Minister James Flaherty.

Tveit noted in the letter that WCC member churches are currently helping with relief efforts in Haiti and are committed to the country’s long-term recovery and reconstruction.

“We will continue to be engaged with extending such support to Haiti, particularly through the ACT (Action by Churches Together) Alliance, a WCC-partner representing many of our member churches,” Tveit said.

The WCC general secretary sent similar letters to the other finance ministers of the G7 countries, which include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom and the United States. Canada hosted the G7 meeting that took place this past weekend.

On Saturday, U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown applauded the G7 decision to cancel bilateral debt with Haiti, saying “a nation buried in rubble must not also be buried in debt.”

A 7.0-magnitude earthquake devastated Port-au-Prince on Jan. 12. More than 200,000 people died and more than a million people were left homeless.