Haiti and the IMF

It has taken no shortage of time for neoliberal reformists to call for using the Haiti earthquake as a way of imposing even further devastating financial policies on the country. As reported in The Nation, on Thursday a new $100 million loan was announced by the IMF, adding to the existing $165 million owed to it by the country. This new loan came with conditions such as “raising prices for electricity, refusing pay increases to all public employees except those making minimum wage and keeping inflation low.”

It has to be emphasized that Haiti’s history of poverty and destitution dates back right to its immediate post-independence years in the early 1800s. It was then that the country agreed to pay 150 million francs to the French as compensation to former slave owners who had lost their sources of income. Not doing so would have resulted in an embargo – a devastating situation for a newly independent, impoverished nation. Although about 60% of this sum was paid off by 1947, the postwar spread of neoliberal policies continued to saddle the developing country with further debt. For example, “A 2008 report from the Center for International Policypoints out that in 2003, Haiti spent $57.4 million to service its debt, while total foreign assistance for education, health care and other services was a mere $39.21 million. In other words, under a system of putative benevolence, Haiti paid back more than it received.

Although $1.2 billion in debt owed by Haiti was recently cancelled, the country still owes $891 million – accrued only from 2004 onward. Not only the earthquake but also the conditions of the ongoing financial crisis have now made the paying off of this money little more than a pipe dream.

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