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Becky Bowers
By Becky Bowers December 26, 2012

Obama funds debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries

It was an easy promise to make: fully fund debt relief programs for poor countries started under two previous presidents.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden were "committed to living up to the promise" of those pledges, according their 2008 campaign.

And the quick answer is, yes, Obama has met that promise, said Tom Hart, U.S. executive director for the One Campaign, which advocates for policies to address global poverty.

A debt relief program for "heavily indebted poor countries," or HIPC, was launched in 1996 under President Bill Clinton by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Donor nations including the United States supplemented that effort in 2005, under President George W. Bush, with the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative.

Obama just had to fund payments to the World Bank's International Development Association and the African Development Fund, and the United States would keep its word.

"What he committed to was no different than what his predecessors did," said Ben Leo, who helped negotiate the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative and now works as global policy director for the One Campaign.

Obama's budgets have requested the full amount required for those payments, Hart said, though Congress hasn't always delivered. For example, the State Department's fiscal year 2012 budget requested $1.4 billion for the IDA. Still, lawmakers have approved payments big enough to cover debt relief, Hart said.

Obama and Biden didn't exactly step out on a limb when the promised to fully fund debt relief for heavily indebted poor countries. But debt relief experts say they've followed through, making this a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

Email interview with Tom Hart, U.S. executive director, One Campaign, Dec. 19, 2012

Interview with Ben Leo, global policy director, One Campaign, Dec. 21, 2012

Interview with Larry Nowels, consultant on foreign assistance, Dec. 20, 2012

One Campaign, "Debt Cancellation," accessed Dec. 26, 2012

International Monetary Fund, "Debt Relief Under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative," Sept. 30, 2012

International Development Association, World Bank's Fund for the Poorest, October 2012 (PDF)

World Bank, International Development Association, "What is IDA?" accessed Dec. 20, 2012

State Department, Executive Budget Summary, Function 150 & Other International Programs, Fiscal Year 2012

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson August 11, 2011

Gathering to discuss the issue is planned for later this year

During the presidential campaign, Barack Obama promised to work for "100 percent debt cancellation for the world's heavily-indebted poor countries.”

This is an ambitious promise, but there is evidence that the issue remains on the table within the administration.

Jubilee USA Network -- an alliance of more than 75 religious denominations and human rights, environmental, labor and community groups working on behalf of debt cancellation in Asia, Africa and Latin America -- told PolitiFact that it is currently working with the administration to set a date for a meeting about this promise in the fall.

"There will be a meeting with the administration this fall, but there is not a confirmed date or attendee list as of yet,” said Jennifer Tong, the group"s communications and development coordinator. "Most likely our partner organizations will be there as well.”

A planned meeting hardly equals a Promise Kept, but it demonstrates that the issue isn"t dead. So we"ll keep this promise at In the Works.

Our Sources

Interview with Jennifer Tong, communications and development coordinator for Jubilee USA Network, Aug. 11, 2011

By Catharine Richert January 12, 2010

A bill would expand the countries eligible for debt cancellation

On the campaign trail, Barack Obama promised to eliminate debt for the poorest countries.
A bill in introduced in Congress on Dec. 16, 2009, gets the process started.
The legislation would expand the list of countries eligible for debt relief from 40 to about 60 -- the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries that Obama mentioned in his promise. The bill would also reform policies of international financial institutions. For example, it would require greater transparency at the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Also, it would direct the Government Accountability Office to audit lending practices by those institutions in specific countries.
Because a bill has been introduced that would help Obama accomplish his goal of eliminating debt for poor countries, we'll move this promise to In the Works.

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