President Obama on April 26 signed into law a bill calling for the United States to take the lead in forgiving debt owed to international lenders by earthquake-ravaged Haiti.
The bill urges major multinational institutions to cancel all debt owed to them by Haiti and recommends that all aid to the country for the next five years be provided in the form of grants rather than loans.
“The President’s signature on this bill is further indication of the United States’ support for the people of Haiti,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who sponsored the House version of the bill, said in a statement. “I authored this legislation because Haiti’s immense debt burden would have severely impeded the country’s recovery efforts.”
The bill was approved in the House on April 14 and passed the Senate earlier in April.
Under the measure, the Treasury Department is required to instruct U.S. executives at the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other institutions to use the force and influential power of the United States to cancel Haiti’s debt.
The bill calls for Haiti to receive aid in the form of grants until Feb. 1, 2015. Following that date, multilateral development institutions may resume aid in the form of new loans.
The Treasury said at the beginning of March that Haiti owed $828 million to several international institutions, according to the Associated Press. Since then, one of those institutions, the Inter-American Development Bank, said it would forgive give the $447 million Haiti owed it, and convert remaining undistributed loans into grants.
Other organizations, including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, have also begun to make moves to relieve Haitian debt, the AP reported.