U.S. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today voted in favor of H.R. 2634, the Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation Act.  The bill will build on past success in relieving 30 poor countries of roughly $80 billion dollars of debt since 1996.  Debt relief for the world’s poorest countries is one of the most important ways we can help the developing world and reduce extreme poverty in the areas of most dire need.  The bill passed by a vote of 285 – 132.

“Rising food prices highlight how essential it is for our country to take a lead in the fight against extreme poverty around the world.  Debt relief programs are some of our most effective measures to aid poor nations in getting back on their feet.  While faced with stifling debt payments, it is nearly impossible for heavily indebted countries to make progress on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, general health care, education, and poverty reduction. This bill directs the Administration to seek an agreement with the World Bank, IMF and the Paris Club to expand debt relief to up to 24 additional impoverished countries,” Smith said.

H.R. 2634 would require countries meet certain criteria before qualifying for debt relief, which relate to:

*          human rights,

*          public financial management,

*          budget transparency, and

*          open and fair elections.

The bill requires savings from debt relief to be used toward a wide variety poverty reduction activities.  For example, Uganda used its $57.9 million in savings from debt relief in 2006 to invest in energy and water infrastructure, primary education, malaria control, and health care.    

Smith is a senior member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and is the sponsor of H.R. 1302, the Global Poverty Act, which would require the Administration craft a comprehensive strategy to reduce global poverty.

The Senate must now consider H.R. 2634 before the President can sign it into law.