by Andrew Hanauer
(This article was published at Tikkun Daily on February 6, 2014)
Last month marked the fourth anniversary of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, an event CBS News labeled the “worst natural disaster in the history of the Western hemisphere.” The extent of the devastation is well chronicled at this point, as is the fact that Haiti was hardly a prosperous nation before the ground shook in 2010. After the quake, aid money and help of all kinds flowed in to the country from caring people and institutions around the world.
But even as money flowed in, other money flowed out. At the time of the earthquake, Haiti owed roughly one billion dollars to international creditors despite having just received roughly an equivalent amount in debt relief prior to the quake. This meant that in the aftermath of the earthquake, Haiti was sending money in debt payments each month that could have been spent rebuilding the country, providing clean water, and mitigating the cholera epidemic that followed soon after. Today, a sadly similar situation has presented itself in the Philippines, which has now sent almost $2 billion in debt payments to creditors in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Much of the Philippines’ debt is derived from the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos regime, which spent borrowed funds on repressive instruments of the state, a nuclear power plant built on an earthquake fault at the foot of a volcano that did not produce a single unit of energy for the country, and, of course, on a spectacular collection of shoes.