Grenada Reaches Debt Deal as Caribbean Mired in Debt Problems

Grenada Could Influence Global Debt Negotiations

Grenada agreed to a debt plan with its Caribbean island investors that will result in a 50% reduction in the value of existing Grenada investment bonds. The deal offers investors a portion of future revenues from a government program designed to attract foreign investment. Although the deal addresses about $262 million in debt, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reports that Grenada's total debt tops $907 million. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, nearly 40% of Grenada's population lives below the poverty line.

"Grenada's debt deal is a significant step in the right direction," said Reverend Sean Doggett, a spokesperson for the local Catholic Diocese and a founding member of Grenada's Jubilee Committee. Because of the correlation of debt levels to high poverty rates, Grenada's Jubilee Committee was organized by the Conference of Churches in Grenada to influence debt negotiations between investors, the IMF and the government of Grenada. "The Conference of Churches in Grenada continues to engage in this process and work with its partners in the region."

Other Caribbean islands are also dealing with unsustainable debts or attempting to renegotiate their debt levels. These islands include Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Dominica and Jamaica. Jubilee USA supported Grenada's Jubilee Committee and last year religious leaders across the small islands formed the Caribbean Debt Network (CDN) to join debt negotiations on all islands facing crisis.

Due to the involvement of Grenada's Jubilee Committee and the Conference of Churches, Grenada's debt negotiations over the last two years with the IMF and with bond investors included provisions to protect the poor and stem austerity policies. Legislation to ensure budget transparency and responsible borrowing are moving forward on the island. A homegrown plan to curb corporate and professional tax avoidance was designed to protect public sector jobs. Additionally, those close to the negotiations say new investment bonds will include a "hurricane" clause as much of the island's economic woes are traced to a 2004 hurricane.

"Grenada is still dealing with high debt burdens," noted Eric LeCompte, the Executive Director of the anti-poverty group Jubilee USA. "This debt deal is a step forward as we work for more comprehensive solutions in the region."

Through various United Nations processes, including the Financing for Development process, Jubilee USA and Caribbean Ambassadors have argued for the establishment of a comprehensive and transparent global bankruptcy process to resolve the regional crisis.


Dwell Time...A Conversation With Eric Foner

"The meaning of "interdependence" requires a concept of dependency, "white"depends on the definition of black, and the meaning of "freedom" on the definition of unfreedom", writes Eric Foner in his introduction to his, The Story of American Freedom. "No study of a subject as complex and multifaceted as freedom", he continues, "can claim to be definitive." And it's his exploration of freedom, that delicate balance of its themes and vivid disassociations which run continuously through his writings.

Vanuatu Owes Millions in Debt, Struggles to Recover from Monster Cyclone; Religious Coalition Calls for Debt Relief

The religious anti-poverty organization Jubilee USA Network is calling on international lenders to grant debt relief to Vanuatu. In mid-March, Cyclone Pam struck the string of small Pacific islands with winds up to 165 miles per hour. The category 5 storm destroyed or damaged nearly every building in the capital city and wiped out crops across the country. The United Nations warns that entire islands are facing imminent starvation and its President says the "monster" storm undid the nation's recent economic development. Vanuatu owes approximately $84 million to international lenders, including nearly $10 million to the World Bank.

"The World Bank and other international lenders can reduce Vanuatu's debt," said Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA Network's Executive Director. "Vanuatu's people will need every single dollar they can get to rebuild."

Jubilee USA recently led a successful campaign to win debt relief for Ebola-impacted countries. In February, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced $100 million in debt relief for Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The IMF offered debt relief by creating the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCR) to offer grant-like financing and debt relief to countries impacted by health crises and natural disasters. Although Vanuatu does not owe money to the IMF, the country cannot access grant financing from the trust because the country narrowly misses the income criteria for CCR relief. Thirty-eight of the world's poorest countries are eligible, but only two small-island nations currently fit the criteria of the special fund. Many small island states are heavily indebted and particularly vulnerable to strong storms.

"Small islands sit at the intersection of climate change, poverty and debt," noted LeCompte. "The World Bank needs to offer debt relief."

Vanuatu struggled with poverty before the storm hit and is ranked 131st out of 187 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. The storm decimated the island's infrastructure. Aid workers report that desperate residents are drinking sea water and food supplies are running low. The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says 82,000 children are in need of aid and the country's remote location is making international relief efforts more difficult. UNICEF says those children are located on 22 different islands.

"Vanuatu's recovery is crippled by high debt burdens," said LeCompte who serves on United Nations finance expert groups. "The world can't turn a blind eye to the stark reality on the ground. A sustained recovery must include debt relief."

Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of more than 75 US organizations and 400 faith communities working with 50 Jubilee global partners. Jubilee's mission is to build an economy that serves, protects and promotes the participation of the most vulnerable. Jubilee USA has won critical global financial reforms and more than $130 billion in debt relief to benefit the world's poorest people.

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 Clear and convincing evidence of a secret, mini holocaust under authority of law sweeps over the world at the direction of the most hideous of our species:

New petition for Albert Woodfox launched today by Amnesty International; Please sign!

 We are excited to announce that Amnesty International has started a new petition in support of Albert Woodfox's February 6 bail request that he filed in response to the favorable Fifth Circuit Court ruling on February 3. The full text of an email sent out today by Amnesty, describing the campaign, is featured below.  

Please take action now!

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