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Donors pledge aid for Haiti

WASHINGTON, April 15 – A donors conference of international lending institutions and countries pledged a two-year, 324-million-dollar aid package for impoverished Haiti, the Inter-American Development Bank said.

Forty-one million dollars of the aid package is for budget support in 2009, the IDB said in a statement.

"This fresh assistance complements the financing previously committed by international community partners, who are currently supporting projects totaling three billion dollars in Haiti," it added.

The international donors conference organized by the IDB and the Haitian government in the US capital drew about 20 countries and multilateral institutions, including the 185-nation World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Haitian Prime Minister Michele Pierre–Louis presented donors her government\’s two-year plan to right the economy after last year\’s devastating hurricanes and crippling rise of staples and gasoline prices, on top of the global economic crisis.

The recovery plan "could generate as many as 150,000 jobs over the next two years" through projects in infrastructure, energy and to make Haiti agriculturally self-sufficient, the statement said.

Haiti, however, needs an urgent injection of cash to offset a 125 million dollar budget deficit this year.

Haiti is the poorest country in Latin America, with 70 percent unemployment, according to figures provided at the conference.

World Bank President Robert Zoellick said his institution will give Haiti an extra 20 million dollars in aid this year and is working to speed up the impoverished nation\’s debt cancellation.

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Earlier at the conference, US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, announced a total of 57 million dollars in aid for Haiti.

France increased its aid to Haiti from 16 million dollars a year in 2005 to 40 million dollars in 2009. France\’s Human Rights Secretary Rama Yade told the meeting that President Nicolas Sarkozy has made helping Haiti "a priority."

IMF managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn noted that Haiti was "on track to receive almost one billion US dollars in debt relief from the IMF and other multilateral and official creditors by the end of June 2009."

That would lead to annual debt service savings of between 35 and 40 million dollars that would free up resources for spending on poverty reduction and growth stimulus, he said.

"We therefore strongly support the (Haitian) authorities\’ request for an additional 125 million dollars in budget support for this year," Strauss-Kahn said.

Haiti first qualified for interim debt relief in November 2006 under HIPC, a joint World Bank and IMF initiative.

Delegates recognized Haitis efforts to maintain economic stability, while Haiti vowed to provide regular, detailed information of its budget process and how it implements the aid program.

The IDB did not provide a breakdown of Haiti aid by each participating country.
 

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