STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS
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Mr. BIDEN. Mr. President, in our search for ways to eliminate the crushing poverty that afflicts billions of people around the world, experience has taught us to be humble. There is no single policy or program that can deal with the underlying causes and symptoms of poverty.
But as the Hippocratic Oath reminds us, in the search for cures, ``First, do no harm.''
Right now, the burden of debt owed by the poorest nations of the world to the richest does harm not only to them, but to us.
In our new global environment, countries whose peoples live in abject poverty are not just a moral challenge to those of us who are blessed with affluence.
They can threaten the entire edifice of political and economic stability.
New technologies that have brought so much good to the world have shrunk the gaps in time and distance that once allowed us the luxury of inattention.
Now the very symbols of the technological superiority of our age, from the cell phone to the internet to jet airliners, have been transformed into weapons in the hands of those who are the declared enemies of our way of life.
They allow stateless actors to reach out from the shadows, from weak and failed states, to attack us here at home.
Poverty-stricken states are fertile ground for drug production and trafficking, feeding our own drug problems here.
With the scourge of AIDS and other diseases loose in the world, we cannot afford the existence of more states that cannot feed, house, educate, or innoculate their citizens.
For all of these reasons, we ignore the poverty that plagues other nations at our own peril.
That is why we need the legislation I am introducing today, with Senators DEWINE, FEINGOLD, LUGAR, and OBAMA, the Multilateral Debt Relief Act of 2005.
This legislation takes a first step in addressing that poverty it relieves the poorest nations of the world, specifically those who qualify for the Heavily Indebted Poor Country initiative of over a billion dollars a year in debt service payments that they are obliged to send the World Bank, the IMF, and the African Development Bank.
Since I worked with the President Clinton on the Enhanced HIPC initiative in 1999, we have searched for a workable definition of ``sustainable debt'' an amount that would not cripple a country's ability to take care of its own citizens and achieve economic growth.
In the end, it became clear that definition would continue to elude us. Whatever the best use of the limited resources of the poorest nation may be, sending checks to the multilateral banks established by the richest nations of the world is nowhere near the top of the list.
With the strong leadership of Prime Minister Blair, who will preside over the upcoming G8 Summit in July, we have cut the Gordian Knot of debt owed by the poorest nations of the world.
The announcement of the G8 Finance Ministers earlier this month on 100 percent debt relief cuts through years of debate and opens the way for a fresh start.
One hundred percent debt relief for those countries who meet the HIPC qualifications gets that debt out of the way of the many tasks before those countries in their search for economic growth.
None of our own foreign assistance programs will work to their best advantage if we send that assistance into nations who will turn around and send some of their money right back here to Washington, to the World Bank, to the IMF.
We must remember that this is indeed only the first step on a long path. With the funds this legislation will authorize, a burden of debt will be lifted, but we will still need to promote health, education, and other pillars of economic development.
We will need a more creative approach to trade with the poorest nations, who represent no economic threat, except for the threat that comes from their poverty itself. We have nothing to fear from a world in which fewer people wake up hungry, sick, and uneducated.
But with as much as $40 billion in outstanding debt stock owed by 18 countries to be removed from the books right away, our efforts in those areas have a greater chance to succeed. Up to $56 billion will be forgiven under this plan, once all 38 eligible countries are fully qualified.
I am pleased to note that this is a bipartisan initiative, one I share with Senators DEWINE, FEINGOLD, LUGAR, and OBAMA, an effort that began with the Clinton Administration and has progressed to this historic agreement under President Bush.
This legislation authorizes the funds needed for our share of the debt relief. It provides for further relief for other countries as they become eligible.
It lifts not only a debt burden from poor countries, but a moral obligation from our shoulders.
The poverty reduction it will promote will help millions around the globe and contribute materially to a more stable and secure world.
I urge my colleagues to join us in supporting it.