WASHINGTON (April 16, 1999) -- A new Clinton Administration proposal for relieving the debt burden of some of the world's poorest countries sparked optimism with two U.S. Bishops recognized for their leadership in international affairs.
Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick, who chairs the Bishops' International Policy Committee, and Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, who is Chairman of the Board of Catholic Relief Services, hailed a new proposal by President Clinton, saying "high-level U.S. leadership is essential to achieve a resolution of this urgent problem."
"The proposal has opened the possibility for more generous debt relief on a more timely basis than that provided under existing U.S. or international policy," the two prelates said. "We applaud the fact that, in several respects, the President's initiative appears to go further than the recent proposals of other creditor governments such as Germany and the United Kingdom."
While the new proposal is currently short on details, the Bishops said they are concerned by a suggestion that much of the additional debt relief will go only to those countries judged to have "exceptionally" strong economic reform programs. They said that condition should be interpreted broadly to allow more countries to receive an "additional $70 billion in debt relief from all creditors more quickly, a prospect held out by the Administration."
The two Bishops said they were especially pleased that the President's initiative seems to move Administration policy in the direction of legislation recently introduced in Congress. The introduction of the "Debt Relief for Poverty Reduction Act," HR 1095, was actively promoted by the USCC and CRS.
"We encourage the Clinton Administration to move in the direction of HR 1095 as it defines the details of it's proposal," they said.
"Each day, poor countries are repaying foreign debts at the price of lost health, education, and productive opportunities for their most impoverished and vulnerable citizens," the Bishops said. "The U.S. Catholic Conference and Catholic Relief Services are committed to building broad support for comprehensive debt relief among the U.S. public and with the U.S. Congress."