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Use debt relief for emergency support, say Church leaders

Present at the Jubilee Caribbean Conference were Rev Vonnie James (from left), Dr John Lewis, Jurgen Kaiser (Jubilee Germany), Pastor Joachim Phillip, Bishop Cuthbert Edwards, Archbishop Robert Rivas and Fr Sean Doggett

GRENADA

Jubilee Grenada and Jubilee Caribbean have appealed to the governments of the Caribbean and international financial institutions to establish debt relief as an instrument for emergency support and reconstruction ahead of the onset of the next hurricane season.

The group of Christian leaders from Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, and St Vincent and the Grenadines met March 5, at St Martin’s Retreat Centre, Grenada to discuss possible preemptive action and to propose the need for a just and structured approach to disaster relief to international bodies, governments and lending agencies.

Jubilee Caribbean issued a release stating “Our own heads of State and Government must unite and collectively demand the creation of an efficient debt-relief option ahead of the next hurricane season through all available means….

The IMF must use its rule-setting power to endorse a full debt moratorium once a hurricane or any other serious disaster brings destruction beyond a pre-defined level and make sure that a serious debt restructuring of all external commitments shall be possible under due consideration of its peoples’ human rights.”

The Christian leaders believed that the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank and the Caribbean Development Bank must act as supporters of a comprehensive debt restructuring process once it is needed.

Signatories from Caribbean Church leaders included Chair of Jubilee Grenada, Presbyterian minister Rev Dr Osbert James; Archbishop Jason Gordon of Port of Spain and Apostolic Administrator of Bridgetown, Barbados; Rev Joachim Phillip, Alliance of Evangelical Churches, Grenada; Bishops Gabriel Malzaire of Roseau, Dominica; Gerard County of Kingstown, St Vincent and the Grenadines; Clyde Harvey of St George’s-in-Grenada; Archbishop Robert Rivas of Castries, St Lucia; and Fr John Persaud, General Secretary, Antilles Episcopal Conference.

Jubilee Caribbean and Jubilee Grenada are part of the global Jubilee movement that promotes the biblical concept of ‘jubilee’ which includes the periodic cancellation of debt and an end to the cycle of poverty caused by indebtedness.

The statement was also supported and endorsed by Jurgen Kaiser, Jubilee Germany; Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA and Sarah-Jayne Clifton, Jubilee UK.

Jubilee Caribbean acknowledged that the 2017 hurricane season has been one of the most devastating in the history of the Caribbean, affecting the Eastern Caribbean islands, Barbuda and Dominica, taking lives and wreaking destruction totalling more than twice the annual GDP.

The movement said that they urgently need a tailored Heavily Indebted Caribbean Countries Initiative which will combine immediate relief and an efficient form of debt restructuring.

Debt relief has been provided before to countries in need e.g. through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPCI) under the World Bank/IMF leadership or the IMF’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT) after the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Through these initiatives, beneficiaries have been given the opportunity of a fresh start and found a way out of their debt traps.

“There is no reason why our people in the Caribbean, in contrast, should have to slide deeper and deeper into their debt traps after each hurricane season,” they said.