Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-35) sent a letter to President Obama, urging him to include debt cancellation for the world’s poorest countries as part of his plan to achieve the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The Congresswoman’s letter was signed by 48 Members of Congress, including Rep. Barney Frank, the Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, and Rep. Michael Castle, a senior Republican member of the Financial Services Committee. Many of those who signed the letter are also cosponsors of the Jubilee Act (H.R. 4405), which Congresswoman Waters introduced last year to expand debt cancellation for poor countries.
The MDGs were adopted by world leaders in the year 2000 and set to be achieved by 2015. These goals include the eradication of extreme poverty, universal primary education, the empowerment of women, reductions in maternal and child mortality, efforts to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases, environmental sustainability, and a Global Partnership for Development. The President announced his intention to develop a plan to achieve the MDGs and present it at a United Nations Summit on the MDGs next month.
Many of the world’s poorest countries cannot afford to invest in programs to achieve the MDGs because they are burdened with international debts. The Congresswoman’s letter urges the President to expand debt cancellation programs to include additional needy and deserving low-income countries, thus allowing these countries to invest more of their resources in programs to eradicate poverty. The text of the letter follows:
Dear President Obama:
As you know, the global economic crisis has devastated low-income countries. The World Bank has reported that 64 million additional people have been pushed into extreme poverty, and 1.2 million children under five may die between 2009 and 2015 because of the crisis. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has reported that 27 low-income countries are in debt distress or face a high risk of debt distress. As we work to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we share your desire to mitigate the impact of the crisis on low-income countries.
We support your efforts to exercise leadership on global poverty issues and applaud your commitment to create a plan to achieve the MDGs by the 2015 deadline. As you prepare to bring your MDG plan before the United Nations Summit on the Millennium Development Goals in September, we hope you will consider the following policy approaches.
1) Expand the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI) to make eligible all of the countries that qualify for International Development Association-only (IDA-only) support from the World Bank. Debt relief is an effective means of fighting poverty in low-income countries. Resources from the MDRI helped reduce Ghana’s poverty rate from 40% to 29% in less than a decade and are saving Burundi up to $50 million a year for investment in health, education, and agriculture. Therefore, expanded debt relief is an essential piece of an overall MDG plan. Over 20 of the poorest countries in the world have been left out of past debt relief initiatives – such as