Caribbean island debt ‘should be suspended’ for Irma recovery

12 Sep 17

A campaigning group is calling for debt payments to Caribbean islands hit by Hurricane Irma to be suspended until the nations recover.

The Jubilee USA Network has sent letters to the IMF, World Bank, Congress and the White House to suspend debt payments from islands, such as Antigua and Barbuda, so they can use the money to recover.

“The island of Barbuda was hit hard and 1,400 people are homeless,” Jubilee USA Network executive director Eric LeCompte said a statement published last week.

“The country of Antigua and Barbuda and other severely impacted islands should stop paying debt until they rebuild and recover.”

Antigua and Barbuda was scheduled to make a debt payment of $3m to the IMF at the end of last week.

LeCompte told PF that the country’s government estimate the recovery and rebuilding to cost $150m.

“Delaying payments to the IMF, which total more than $10m‎ in the coming year for the country, will go a long way. This is in the IMF's power and can go a long way to getting some interest free financing for the country,” he said. 

The Jubilee USA Network wrote a letter to IMF managing director Christine Lagarde that “a debt moratorium could immediately be put into rebuilding Barbuda where almost the entire population is homeless”.

The organisation also said it encouraged the use of grants, rather than loans, for the recovery aid of the islands.

 “The White House and Congress must continue to make grants available to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

“Similarly, the IMF and World Bank should make grants available to other islands and nations affects,” LeCompte said.

Antigua and Barbuda was the first nation struck by hurricane Irma last week Wednesday.

Prime minister Gaston Browne said more than 90% of buildings on Barbuda island had been damaged, leaving about 50% of the population homeless.

The Caribbean islands of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Barthélemy, Saint Martin and the British and US Virgin Islands were severely impacted by Hurricane Irma.

On September 7, US ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Linda Taglialatela issued a disaster declaration for Antigua and Barbuda.

The European Union has released €2m in humanitarian aid to affected islands in the Caribbean. It plans to give further assistance for reconstruction on a long-term basis.

Commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis management Christos Stylianides said: “Let me make it clear that any country in the region can request our help through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

“We stand ready to provide any further assistance to the affected countries.”

The UK government has pledged to match public donations to the British Red Cross to help those effected by the hurricane, up to £3m.

This was in addition sending £32m emergency aid to its overseas territories and providing extra emergency support, such as 'shelter kits'.

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