Religious Development Group, Focused on Pandemic Response, Releases Statement

Washington, DC – On Friday, October 29th, Pope Francis and President Biden meet at the Vatican (Holy See). The meeting focuses on pandemic response, climate issues and poverty. Biden is in Rome for a weekend meeting of G20 heads of state, before heading to Glasgow for a UN-convened summit on climate. 

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of religious development organization Jubilee USA Network advises the Vatican and United Nations on pandemic response. He has worked with the IMF, White House, Treasury and G20 on economic, health and climate pandemic responses since March of 2020. LeCompte releases the following statement on the Pope Francis-Biden meeting: 

"Francis and Biden are the two most important voices on the need for a robust pandemic response that protects our planet and addresses poverty.

"From a moral perspective, Francis has made the environment and the poor the central concerns of his papacy. From a political perspective, Biden is pushing world leaders to address climate change, poverty and vaccine distribution.

"It's not a coincidence this historic meeting comes right before the G20 Summit where world leaders will make decisions on pandemic response, climate change and economic aid for developing countries. 

"While Pope's meet with every US President, this is only the second time that the President is Catholic.

"The Holy Father and Biden are presenting a united vision for what the Church calls a global society devoted to building the common good."

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National Catholic Reporter Mentions Eric LeCompte Event at St. John's University

The National Catholic Reporter mentioned Eric LeCompte's discussion about labor, religion, politics and public engagement at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Read the excerpt below or read the full article here.

Links: Latino voters in Virginia; Missouri's MAGA warrior; flying on French-fry fuel

Several on-campus institutes at St. John's University in Collegeville, Minnesota, hosted a discussion about labor, religion, politics and public engagement last week, featuring Eric LeCompte, executive director at Jubilee USA, and Damon Silvers, assistant to the president and special counsel at the AFL-CIO. Worth taking the time to watch. Their reflections on the devastation in Puerto Rico after the twin hurricanes of 2017 are moving — and more than moving, they are poignant.

Read more here.

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Georgetown University's Berkley Center Mentions Eric LeCompte on Unequal Global Pandemic Recovery

Eric LeCompte was mentioned by Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs on the G20's opportunity to mend divides between rich and poor countries exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read the excerpt below or read the full article here.

Is This a Kairos Moment for the G20 to Address Inequalities?

Divergent paths and inequalities are a stark reality that mark the COVID-19 era. The global emergencies affect different individuals very differently. Everyone shares in uncertainties, well aware of deaths, illness, and economic disruptions, but some have actually seen their wealth increase and savored time for reflection and new ventures. For others, however, grief, hunger, and disrupted relationships dominate life. The situation for nations also ranges widely. All face setbacks and need to adjust hopes and plans, but many are looking catastrophe in the face, with decades of progress wiped out.

Deep economic and financial crises for states are the most immediate challenge for the G20 summit, and attention was called particularly to Africa and to especially vulnerable communities. An invited panelist, Eric LeCompte, Jubilee USA, could not participate in person but the discussion highlighted that faith-linked network’s active and continuing engagement with the G20 process and leaders on precisely these challenges.

Read more here.

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Crux Features Jubilee USA and LATINDADD on the Atlas of Vulnerability

Jubilee USA was featured in a Crux article on its Atlas of Vulnerability, launched with the Latin American Network on Debt, Development and Rights (LATINDADD). Read an excerpt below and read the full article here.

New ‘Atlas of Vulnerability’ show where help is most needed post-COVID

Just in time for the convening of world leaders at the G20 Summit in Rome, two advocacy organizations on Oct. 25 launched a database that illuminates existing vulnerabilities and growing challenges developing nations face due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Formally known as Atlas of Vulnerability: Developing Countries and the Pandemic (vulnerabilityatlas.org), the database features 24 Latin American and Caribbean countries that Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, argues need more support, resources and aid then they’ve received so far through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Releasing it now, he hopes, portrays that reality to G20 leaders as they come together this week.

“These are really unfortunate, really challenging findings that we hope motivate world leaders to act,” LeCompte told Crux. “This data is going to make it possible for world leaders to see that these developing middle income countries need to be included in aid and financing, and need to be included in more vaccine distribution policies.”

Read more here.

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Puerto Rico Votes to Bring 4-Year Bankruptcy to an End

Settlement Poised for Judge's Confirmation

Washington DC – Puerto Rico’s Senate and House passed a deal that settles $35 billion in Puerto Rico debt and will save the island two-thirds in debt payments.

"Puerto Rico voted to end the bankruptcy process that the island has gone through for four years," stated Eric LeCompte, the Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network. LeCompte worked with Puerto Rico religious leaders on solving the island's debt crisis since 2015. "With natural disasters, high child poverty rates and uncertain economic forecasts, we are concerned that Puerto Rico will be able to make the debt payments."

Bondholders receive $7 billion in cash and other benefits.

"We are worried that Puerto Rico may need to restructure its debt in a few years," shared LeCompte.

Judge Laura Taylor Swain, overseeing Puerto Rico’s 4-year bankruptcy process, ordered a mediation to settle remaining differences between the legislation and Puerto Rico's federally installed Financial Oversight and Management Board. Differences remain over pension issues in the debt deal.

The judge could confirm the agreement on November 8th.

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El Independiente covers Jubilee USA and Latindadd's Pandemic Vulnerability Map

El Independiente covers Jubilee USA Network and Latindadd's Pandemic Vulnerability Map and quotes Eric LeCompte and Aldo Caliari on the pandemic's effects in the Caribbean and Latin America. Read an excerpt below and the full article here

Inequality and low income: the main vulnerabilities of Paraguay

In a study carried out by the Latin American Network for Economic and Social Justice (Latindadd), Paraguay's main vulnerabilities were detected as low social coverage, unequal access to new technologies, low hospital capacity, a weak anti-money laundering system, and low population income.

The so-called “Vulnerability Map” analyzes the conditions in 24 countries in the region and takes into account 12 dimensions, among which the fiscal situation, public debt, health system, employment, poverty and inequality stand out.

Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, said, "this 'Vulnerability Map' shows that a simple focus on historical median income levels leaves us all in the dark."

"Dependence on tourism activity — which the pandemic decimated — pre-existing levels of poverty and inequality, large informal sectors, and narrow tax bases are some of the factors that explain why the pandemic affected developing countries the most. We hope that presenting the data in this way provides a clearer picture of the challenges in developing countries,” explained LeCompte.

In turn, Aldo Caliari, Director of Policy at Jubilee USA, stated that "we need more action by rich countries so that developing countries can face the global crisis."

Read more here

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Prensa Latina quotes Eric LeCompte and Aldo Caliari on the effects of COVID-19 in the Caribbean and Latin America

Eric LeCompte and Aldo Caliari were quoted in an article by Prensa Latina discussing the vulnerability of Latin America and the Caribbean to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read an excerpt below and read the full article here

Latin America and the Caribbean, the region most affected by Covid-19

Today, the region of Latin America and the Caribbean is the most affected in the world by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a report by two non-governmental organizations.

The executive director of Jubilee USA, Eric LeCompte, pointed out that the pandemic affected Latin America and the Caribbean more due to factors such as dependence on tourism, pre-existing levels of poverty and inequality, large informal sectors and narrow tax bases. 

Le Compte warned that only countries categorized by the World Bank as being low-income can access emergency debt relief and other measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

For Latindadd and Jubilee, that approach may dangerously underestimate how middle-income countries are suffering from damage caused by the pandemic. "We need more action from rich countries so that developing countries can face the crisis," said Jubilee USA Policy Director Aldo Caliari.

Read more here

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Latin America and Caribbean Face Greater Pandemic Vulnerabilities According to New Research Map

Washington DC — A new online map highlights vulnerabilities that countries face in Latin America and the Caribbean. Jubilee USA Network and LATINDADD, two groups working on pandemic response, published the new online database detailing growing challenges faced by developing countries due to the pandemic.  

"Our new database and map is a resource for world leaders to make decisions on the growing health and economic challenges that countries face because of the pandemic," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of one of the groups that created the research map, Jubilee USA Network. "This information can help the G20 and IMF make decisions with real data that shows the pandemic impacted the income of countries in sectors like tourism," continued LeCompte. "We can see that developing countries had challenges before the coronavirus that made the pandemic worse."

The Atlas of Vulnerability highlights limitations developing countries face in responding to the pandemic. The research and map focus on 24 Latin America and Caribbean countries. 

"Our map brings together the whole range of economic, social and climate weaknesses that cripple pandemic response in developing countries.” said Patricia Miranda, Global Advocacy Director of LATINDADD. “The result of the research overcomes artificial categories of developing low- or middle-income countries. In Latin America, middle-income countries are the majority and were left out by global recovery policies."

Currently, only countries categorized by the World Bank as low-income can access emergency debt payment relief and other pandemic relief measures. The two groups argue that this approach may dangerously underestimate how middle-income countries are suffering pandemic damage.

The map includes data from 12 vulnerability dimensions: external sector, fiscal sector, private sector, health system preparedness, education, employment/social security, food/nutrition, climate, gender, poverty, inequality and physiological conditions. 

The online interface allows the viewer to see up to 55 indicators, find the top five vulnerability factors, pull up historical performance and compare with benchmarks from developed economies for each country. 

Some key data findings the map shows include:

  • For more than half of the countries, tourism dependence is higher than the world average.
  • Regional governments paid an interest rate 7.5% higher than that paid by the U.S. to borrow from international markets.
  • Tax revenue as a share of the economy is below the average in industrialized countries, except in one country. In 6 countries, it is less than half the average. 
  • In most countries, the number of people who died in the first year of the pandemic is more than 10% higher than the previous five year average, with four countries exceeding 55%. The average across Latin America is 2.7 times higher than in OECD countries.
  • Five countries have COVID-19 vaccination rates under 5% and only three countries reached more than 40%.
  • In more than half of the surveyed countries, less than 12% of the population can access any type of social safety net program, and it is only above 40% in one country.
  • More than 75% of countries show less climate response capacity than the global average.
  • More than 20% of people live in poverty in all but two of the countries, and poverty rates rose in all countries during the pandemic.

"The pandemic exacerbated developing countries’ vulnerabilities and we suffer the impacts now. If global policies don’t take them into account, recovery will take longer for our countries and our people, where women and girls bear the highest burden,” said Veronica Serafini, LATINDADD’s Gender and Macroeconomics Officer.

Developing country pandemic response is on the agenda for G20 leaders when they meet in Rome at the end of October.

“The hope is that presenting the data in this way will provide a clearer picture of the challenges in developing countries,” shared Aldo Caliari, Jubilee USA's senior policy director. “We need more action from wealthy countries so developing countries can confront the global crisis.”

On Wednesday, Jubilee USA and LATINDADD host a virtual event to present and provide a short tutorial on the map as well as discuss its findings with the UN Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean, the International Labor Organization, and Climate Service Center of Germany. 

Explore the Atlas of Vulnerability: Developing Countries and the Pandemic here.

Read selected findings from the Atlas of Vulnerability here.

Read the full brief "Atlas of Vulnerability: The Pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean" here.

Register for the map launch and virtual tutorial on October 27, 2021, 10:00 AM ET here.

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World Leaders and Development Banks Coordinate Investments to Fight Pandemic, Poverty and Climate Change

Washington DC – Heads of state, finance ministers and 450 public banks conclude two days of meetings for the second “Finance in Common Summit” in Rome. The summit focuses on agricultural development and previous commitments on COVID recovery, development and climate policies.

“The summit convenes world leaders and banks to align $2.3 trillion, or ten percent of all global investments in common development goals,” noted Eric LeCompte, a United Nations finance expert and Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA Network. “Coordinating lending and aid can help developing countries respond to the worsening health and economic crises spurred by the pandemic.” 

Increasing agriculture investments, as millions face starvation and food shortages, is a central theme of the summit. Ahead of a November conference on climate, banks assess their contributions on climate policies.  

“Development banks must make the case that they can increase financing for poor countries by accepting donations from wealthy countries,” shared LeCompte. “In August, wealthy countries received $400 billion of an emergency IMF currency that can be shared with development banks for pandemic and climate response efforts.”

The IMF created $650 billion of emergency currency, or Special Drawing Rights, to help countries respond to the pandemic. The G20 and IMF are working on processes for wealthy countries to disburse some of their currency holdings to poor countries.

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The Bond Buyer References Eric LeCompte on the Future of Puerto Rico's Debt

The Bond Buyer referenced Eric LeCompte in an article on the future of Puerto Rico's debt following House Bill 1003, a new bond restructuring which is likely to pass through Congress next week. Read an excerpt below and the full article here. 

Questions remain about Puerto Rico deal's viability

When observers were asked if Puerto Rico would be able to afford the deal in the long term, most expressed skepticism. “Strategically speaking, it is a smart move from the [board],” said Fernós Sagebien. “This places the entire burden on the Puerto Rico’s two branches of government [executive and legislative] responsible for the budget as they are now forced to identify nonexistent free cash flow in order for Office of Management and Budget to honor the full pension expenditure.

He said the deal was not affordable and “I don’t believe any of the three parties (Federal Oversight and Management Board, executive branch, and legislative branch) involved care. They all know time is of the essence and we are running out ... they have proven unfit to serve. The citizens of Puerto Rico feel like this is like in Evolutionary Game Theory’s ‘Red Queen's race’: ‘constantly running but remaining in the same spot.’”

Marxuach said the feasibility of the deal could be measured using economic development tools or simply through examining whether it would prevent hunger, provide a good education, decent healthcare, and a reasonable livelihood for the elderly.

“I fear though that Judge Taylor Swain has a strong incentive to approve a plan, any plan,regardless of whether or not it is the best plan for Puerto Rico and the current circumstances,” Marxuach said. “She was appointed to this job by Chief Justice [John Roberts, Jr.] so it is in her professional interests to confirm a plan and put an end to this long process. The risk is that a whole generation of Puerto Ricans would be paying the price of living with a ‘good enough’ plan for decades to come.”

Jubilee USA Network Executive Director Eric LeCompte said, “If not enough debt was cut and revenue plans fail, Puerto Rico will likely default again in a few years. Growth assumptions seem unrealistic, austerity slows growth and Medicare and other federal monies are not certain."

Read more here. 

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Reuters Cites Eric LeCompte on Global Pandemic Response

Reuters quoted Eric LeCompte in an article discussing the top concerns for policymakers at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund annual meetings. Read an excerpt below and the full article here.

Analysis: Supply chains, inflation cloud vaccine, debt woes at IMF-World Bank meetings

By David Lawder and Andrea Shalal

Supply chain woes and growing inflation concerns pushed aside a widening gap in COVID-19 vaccinations and mounting debt problems for developing countries as the top concerns for global policymakers at International Monetary Fund and World Bank annual meetings this week.

Relatively little new progress was made on increasing vaccine supplies to developing countries, although officials highlighted an increasing divergence between rich and poor countries as a growing financial and economic risk.

The focus on the normalization pains that wealthier economies are experiencing and a World Bank data-rigging scandal that had clouded the future of IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva proved a disappointment for anti-poverty groups.

"Given how the pandemic is becoming worse in most of the world's countries, I'm concerned by the lack of action at the meetings on vaccine distribution, debt relief and general pandemic response," said Eric LeCompte, executive director of the Jubilee USA Network, a religious development group.

Read more here.

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IMF and World Bank Annual Meetings Conclude

Faith Communities around the Country and World call for a COVID Response that Prioritizes the Poor and the Planet

Washington DC – World leaders met for annual IMF, World Bank and G20 meetings. The IMF lowered economic growth projections for all countries, and downgraded United States growth projections for 2021.

"World leaders agree that low vaccination rates in developing countries lead to more COVID variants and economic challenge for all countries,” noted Eric LeCompte who heads the religious development coalition Jubilee USA Network. “The IMF and G20 failed to offer a plan to get vaccinations and sufficient aid to developing countries. The crisis will worsen unless we get this done quickly."

The IMF shared that less than 4% of the population in low-income countries is vaccinated.

In August, the IMF created $650 billion in emergency currency for pandemic response which could help with vaccination distribution. G20 finance ministers are working on ways for wealthy countries to transfer their emergency currency or Special Drawing Rights to poor countries. Wealthy countries hold more than $400 billion in pandemic response funds.

“Wealthy countries should donate, rather than loan, their emergency currency reserves that they cannot use to developing countries,” stated LeCompte. “We support plans for a new IMF fund that can provide long-term loans to middle-income countries, which have been left out of the pandemic response to date.” 

Resiliency and Sustainability Trust can support a number of efforts including combating climate change.

"World leaders were clear at the IMF and G20 meetings that climate change will continue to cause significant economic shocks for countries," stated LeCompte.

The G20 pledged to do more on debt relief through the Common Framework it launched last year in response to the pandemic. The IMF announced an extension of debt payment relief for 24 countries through January 10, 2022. Additional relief may be extended to April 13, 2022, if the IMF's Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust has resources. 

“Debt grew dramatically during the crisis and too many countries are not bringing in enough revenue to combat the pandemic,” added LeCompte. “Developing countries are concerned about their debt and coronavirus recovery as the G20 debt suspension ends and central banks are beginning to consider rate increases.”

Organized by Jubilee USA Network this weekend, more than a hundred organizations and faith communities are organizing G20 petition drives, hosting educational events and dedicating worship services for “Jubilee Weekend: A COVID Response that Shares Medicine, Ends Poverty and Protects our Planet.” Faith communities from Kentucky to Colorado and California to Georgia are calling on the G20 and IMF to provide additional aid and debt cancellation for developing countries to prevent future crises and protect people and planet. Around the world, the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development (Jubilee Asia Pacific) convened 100 plus global organizations to host actions and events through the end of October.

“The coronavirus already wiped out a decade of development, throwing millions of people into poverty,” stated LeCompte. “Faith and anti-poverty organizations are calling on world leaders to take immediate action on a pandemic response plan that increases aid and support for vulnerable countries.”

Read the list of groups and faith communities participating in "Jubilee Weekend: A COVID Response that Shares Medicine, Ends Poverty and Protects our Planet," here.

Read Jubilee USA's press statement on the IMF and World Bank Development Committee Communiqué here.

Read Jubilee USA's press statement on the International Monetary and Financial Committee Communiqué here.

Read Jubilee USA's press release on the IMF's World Economic Outlook and Global Financial Stability reports here

Read Jubilee USA's press statement on the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting here

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