April 18, 2002
The Honorable Rick Santorum
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
I wish to express my appreciation and strong support for the new debt relief proposed in the "Debt Relief Enhancement Act of 2002" which is being introduced today in the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has long been a leading advocate of debt relief for poor countries. We actively supported the adoption of the heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) initiative which is providing substantial benefits to countries committed to using debt relief for poverty reduction. The almost $800 million which the Congress has provided for this program has made the crucial difference in its success.
A number of countries have received deep debt relief under the HIPC program. Many of the beneficiary countries, however, have been left with debt burdens that continue to absorb resources badly needed for investments in health care, education and other basic needs. We are thus very pleased to see this new initiative which, when enacted, would represent an important advance beyond existing debt relief efforts. We note that it will greatly reduce the disparity among countries in the share of their revenues that must be expended for debt service.
Moreover, by providing substantial additional relief to countries suffering public health crises, the new proposal recognizes the desperate need to maximize the resources available to address the scourge of HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases.
As the Catholic bishops noted in our recent pastoral statement concerning September 11, the events that day have made ever more clear that the intolerable extremes of misery and the growing gulf between the "haves" and the "have-nots" that characterize much of today's world breed hostility that provides fertile ground for terrorism. One of the elements that must be involved in our effort to overcome this hostility is a comprehensive development agenda, including substantially increased foreign aid and continuing efforts to relieve the crushing debt of poor countries.
The President's recent announcement of a proposed major increase in U.S. development aid for poor countries represents a most important step towards reversing the decline in US aid for poor countries in recent years. The proposals for new debt relief in bills introduced today in the Senate and House represent a welcome, highly significant complement to the President's proposal and offer new hope for a better future for millions of the world's poor. We urge their adoption.
Bernard Cardinal Law
Archbishop of Boston
Chairman, International Policy Committee