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Taiwan contemplating Haiti debt relief decision

ROC Central News Agency

2010/01/20 19:01:04
Taipei, Jan. 20 (CNA) Taiwan is still studying how to offer its Caribbean ally Haiti debt relief or cancellation and will keep sending medical teams to help the quake-ravaged country, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) spokesman said Wednesday.

The ministry is studying whether and how to offer debt consolidation, debt relief or debt cancellation to Haiti, but has not come up with any timetable, said MOFA spokesman James Chang.

President Ma Ying-jeou responded a day earlier to a call from the Paris Club to all Haiti's creditors to forgive its debts following a magnitude-7 earthquake that devastated the country last week, asking MOFA to study how to help Haiti.

However, he noted that the creditors of debts Haiti owes to Taiwan are local banks rather than the government.

The Paris Club is an informal group of financial officials from 19 of the world's richest countries that provides financial services to indebted countries and their creditors. Debtors are often recommended by the International Monetary Fund after alternative solutions have failed.

A report from British newspaper the Guardian commented that Taiwan and Venezuela -- Haiti's main bilateral creditors -- have come under "intensifying pressure" to cancel the impoverished country's debts.

The magazine Foreign Policy and the Guardian both reported on their Web sites that Haiti owes US$167 million to Venezuela and US$91 million to Taiwan. The MOFA declined to confirm either report.

The Paris Club said Haiti's public external debt totaled US$1.885 billion at the end of September 2008.

Observers said Taiwan's national credit is so high that it has to carefully contemplate debt relief to foreign countries. They also mentioned a possible domino effect, fearing that other debtors of Taiwan will request debt relief if Taiwan agrees to offer debt relief to Haiti.

The Economist magazine has estimated that Taiwan's national debt is expected to reach US$137.4 billion, equivalent to 39 percent of its gross national product, in 2010, and the Ministry of Finance estimated last September that the national debt will surpass US$43.9 billion in 2010.

Meanwhile, Taiwan will keep sending teams to help with post-disaster work, Chang said. At present, there are two local medical teams -- a 33-member team from the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China and a 60-member team from the Taiwanroot Medical Peace Corps -- in Haiti.

A team of 16 members from Taiwan's International Health Action and the Ministry of National Defense is also scheduled to leave for Haiti Jan. 26.

The non-profit International Cooperation and Development Fund will also send a medical team Feb. 6, Chang went on.

Meanwhile, a search and rescue team that rescued two men in Haiti is scheduled to arrive home in Taipei Jan.

22.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has sent a letter praising Taiwan's relief efforts, saying that the teams "have been doing a great job, " Chang said.

(By Chris Wang) ENDITEM/J



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