Cancellation of Haiti's international debt is necessary for the proper rehabilitation of the country, the head of the World Council of Churches (WCC) said.
In a statement released on Monday, the Rev. Olav Tveit said that , "authentic development for Haiti will take some bold steps by the international community in addition to the current emergency efforts," with the first of them being "the immediate and unconditional cancellation of the country's foreign debt."
Tveit added that "it would be morally untenable to do otherwise at this time of extraordinary hardship and destruction."
One of the most impoverished nations in the Western hemisphere, Haiti's current international debt amounts to nearly $900 million with the country paying $50 million a year just on interest. Analysts have estimated that it will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to rebuild Haiti's broken infrastructure.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) initially offered Haiti a $100 million loan to assist in recovery efforts – a move which brought protests from several charity and advocacy groups. The IMF is now making efforts to turn the loan into a grant.
A statement from the IMF read: "The most important thing is that the IMF is now working with all donors to try to delete all the Haitian debt, including our new loan. If we succeed-and I'm sure we will succeed-even this loan will turn out to be finally a grant, because all the debt will have been deleted."
Tveit said that the international community as a whole needs to show moral leadership in making sure that "any financial assistance to rebuild the country comes as grants rather than loans," and that "those grants cannot be tied to the detrimental conditions that international financial organizations tend to impose on poor countries."
"This is not just about helping Haiti," the general secretary said, "but about empowering and working with its people towards a sustainable society, one that is based on justice."
Tveit, who will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week, intends to communicate to delegates there that, "The time has come for the international community – politicians, business and civil society organizations – to focus on how Haiti can become sustainable."