As G7 leaders continue to meet in Taormina, Italy, relief groups like Oxfam International are intensifying calls for aid monies to address famine. Twenty million people are suffering the affects of famine and the UN calls for $6.3 billion in aid. While the G7 discusses the crisis, a religious development group says debt relief and promoting transparency could be important aspects of dealing with the crisis in both the short and long term.
“We all have a moral responsibility to stop starvation, no one should die of hunger," said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. LeCompte's organization won debt relief for the three countries impacted by the Ebola crisis to provide financing for health care. “President Trump and the G7 must provide the moral leadership to stop people dying from hunger. They have a lot of tools at their disposal.”
The UN declared South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen as famine-affected countries. Somalia has debt from loans borrowed decades ago that has ballooned to a debt burden of over $5 billion. A large portion of that debt is held by G7 countries.
“The G7 should again turn to debt relief to provide monies to deal with hunger and malnutrition,” continued LeCompte, who advises UN groups, religious leaders, and government officials on resolving financial crises. “Somalia is a country that benefits from debt relief."
Famine-affected countries are also losing substantial monies to tax evasion and corruption. Global Financial Integrity reports that Yemen is losing roughly $307mn and Nigeria is losing more than $17mn annually to these "illicit financial flows".
“Tackling corruption and tax evasion is critical for poor countries to harness revenue to deal with crisis and find a path to growth,” expressed LeCompte.
World leaders head to Taormina, Italy for the G7 Summit. The May 26-27 gathering includes Heads of State from United States, Japan, Canada, Italy, United Kingdom, France and Germany. "Building the Foundations of Renewed Trust" is this year's theme. G7 observers wonder if agreement can be found in their annual joint communiqué.
"We have new G7 leaders and the question on everyone's mind is whether or not there will be agreement to continue to combat climate change," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development coalition Jubilee USA. "European leaders and Pope Francis are encouraging President Trump to not turn away from commitments to protect our planet and people."
The G7 meets in Italy just after the United Nations Financing for Development Forum concludes in New York. During the UN development gathering the US spokesperson noted the super power could be reevaluating it's position on the climate agreement reached in Paris.
The G7 agenda is set to discuss "economic, environmental and social sustainability and the reduction of inequalities." New leaders on the scene this year include's Britain's Theresa May, France's Emmanuel Macron, Italy's Paolo Gentiloni and U.S. President Donald Trump.
"Inequality and concerns about financial crisis continue to be important focuses for these meetings," stated LeCompte, who has monitored the meetings for most of the last decade. "We hope to see progress on anti-corruption and transparency efforts."
Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently featured in Financial Express Bangledesh speaking on the United Nations Financing for Development Forum. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.
UN Forum Focuses on Financing for Development Goals
"...'Two years ago, world leaders made promises through the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to build a more responsible global financial system,' notes Eric LeCompte who helped negotiate the outcomes and gave remarks during the closing sessions.
He leads the religious development group Jubilee USA. According to him, 'We must follow through on the commitments we made together in Addis Ababa.'"
Read more here.
President Trump and Pope Francis will meet in the Vatican's Papal Palace on Wednesday, May 24 at 8:30 AM Rome Time and 2:30 AM EST. This is the first time the US President and the leader of the global Catholic Church will meet.
Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA, releases the following statement:
"The only way we can understand this meeting is that we have two world leaders with very different world views. President Trump wants deregulation for economic growth in America and Pope Francis wants greater financial transparency to protect the poor and to protect jobs for working people all around the world.
"No matter what issues Pope Francis and President Trump discuss behind closed doors, they are focusing on economic issues and how those issues impact all of us.
"One of the things that the Holy Father and President Trump have in common is that on almost any issue they each speak about, they frame it in terms of economic impacts.
"Pope Francis and President Trump held several positions in common when Trump was running for president. They were both critical of predatory hedge funds and of trade negotiations that left poor and working people behind."
United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed and the IMF's Christine Lagarde join world leaders for the Financing for Development (FfD) Forum at UN Headquarters. The meetings come almost two years after the Addis Ababa FfD Summit to implement the global SDGs or Sustainable Development Goals
"Two years ago, world leaders made promises through the Addis Ababa Action Agenda to build a more responsible global financial system," notes Eric LeCompte who helped negotiate the outcomes and gave remarks during the closing sessions. LeCompte leads the religious development group Jubilee USA. "We must follow through on the commitments we made together in Addis Ababa."
The agreement in Addis Ababa two years ago expressed concern about predatory financial actors or so-called "vulture" funds. Commitments were made to promote responsible lending and borrowing and curb tax evasion and corruption.
"The developing world loses more than a trillion dollars a year due to irresponsible lending, tax evasion and corruption," said LeCompte, "The success of these efforts at the United Nations will be judged on what practical ways we can move an agenda forward that supports the developing world to harness these revenues."
Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently featured in Telesur speaking on Puerto Rico. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.
Puerto Rico Begins Bankruptcy Process in Face of Massive Debt
“'The government of Puerto Rico complied with PROMESA and put in place a fiscal plan that cuts monies to the University of Puerto Rico, further cuts healthcare access to vital services, cuts pensions and freezes and reduces public sector salaries' LeCompte continued.
Although LeCompte acknowledged that 'the problem will get worse before it gets better,' he was optimistic that the Title III procedures will provide needed debt relief and lead to economic recovery.
'In the coming years, Puerto Rico will still have a lot of obstacles to overcome but if this process is done right, Puerto Rico will have a clear path for recovery and economic growth,' LeCompte added"
Read more here.
Puerto Rico religious leaders sent a letter to Judge Laura Taylor Swain as she presides over the first bankruptcy proceeding in San Juan to restructure more than $70 billion in debt.
“We are grateful you are here and we hold you in prayer as you arbitrate this crisis impacting nearly 60% of our children who live in poverty,” write San Juan's Catholic Archbishop González and Reverend Heriberto Martínez, the Evangelical head of the Puerto Rico Bible Society. "You are in our prayers as you take on this important task to help restructure our debt, prevent austerity and protect our people."
The Title lll bankruptcy process was signed into law last summer by President Obama as a part of the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA).
“Puerto Rico has a comprehensive bankruptcy process that can restructure all of the debt and protect essential services,” noted Eric LeCompte the Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. LeCompte is in San Juan today to observe the proceeding and he helped create the PROMESA legislation. “Congress designed this process to ensure that Puerto Rico could emerge from debt crises and not be held hostage by predatory vulture funds who prevented Argentina from restructuring their debt.”
A small group of "holdout" investors prevented Argentina from returning to the markets for nearly 15 years. LeCompte argues that the Puerto Rico process could be a model for both states and countries who need to work their way out of financial crisis.
"It is important that the venue for this trial is here in Puerto Rico, Nuestra Patria. Our people who are most affected by this crisis need to be able to monitor these proceedings,” said the religious leaders in their letter to the judge. “We hope you will be able to hear their stories and their struggles.”
Link to religious leader’s letter in English and en español.
Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of Jubilee USA was recently featured in CBC speaking on Puerto Rico. Read excerpt below and follow link to full article.
Puerto Rico in Uncharted Waters as Historic Bankruptcy Process Begins
By: Steven D'Souza
"'This process does not allow for holdouts. It does not allow for predatory actors, and it forces everyone to be working through the same process to take a similar haircut,' he said.
'The reality is things are still going to be very hard for the people of Puerto Rico, but it's very likely they're going to get the debt relief they need, and it's going to be an unprecedented amount of debt relief.'"
Read more here.
Puerto Rico bankruptcy proceedings to restructure an over $70 billion debt begin on Wednesday in San Juan. The Title III debt restructuring process was created as a part of debt crisis legislation that was signed into law last summer.
"This is a historic process," notes Eric LeCompte, the Executive Director of Jubilee USA who is in San Juan to monitor the process. "The legislation and process is unique among bankruptcy processes because it can restructure all of Puerto Rico's debt and ensures that all creditors participate in the process."
LeCompte monitored the case involving Argentina versus NML Capital and organized nearly 80 development and religious organizations to file an Amicus Brief to the Supreme Court in 2014. Because Argentina was required to pay a small group of "holdout" creditors, the country was not able restructure all of its debt or return to the international capital markets for almost 15 years. LeCompte worked with Congressional leadership to create and pass legislation that would prevent so-called "vulture" funds from taking advantage of Puerto Rico as they did to Argentina. The Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) was designed to prevent predatory and "holdout" behavior.
"Puerto Rico's bankruptcy process could be a model for better, more comprehensive bankruptcy processes for states and other countries," explained LeCompte who advised the United Nations General Assembly on the creation of a global bankruptcy process. "Current debt restructuring processes available for U.S. states and countries can not restructure all of their debt, but the process for Puerto Rico can."
Overseeing the hearings is Judge Laura Taylor Swain of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. The process will likely last a year and a half or more.
"In the coming years, Puerto Rico will still have a lot of obstacles to overcome but if this process is done right, Puerto Rico will have a clear path for recovery and economic growth," says LeCompte.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) escaped a May 11th deadline for Congress to void a rule designed to give prepaid card users similar protections as debit card users. Congress could have used the Congressional Review Act or CRA to remove the "Prepaid Account Rule" as they did earlier this year to void other transparency rules. The Prepaid Account Rule will go into effect later in the year.
"Vulnerable consumers need to be protected from fraud, hidden fees and predatory actors," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. "Any interruption to this rule would pose a loss for all consumers, let alone poor communities."
The CFPB announced the new rule in 2016 to protect consumers from fraud and to improve transparency. The rule is expected to go into effect starting October 2017.
"The fact that this rule is going forward is a victory for transparency and responsible lending," said LeCompte.
Puerto Ricans from across the United States and the Caribbean island are meeting in New York City to discuss the island's economic crisis. The "Diaspora Summit II" is organized by Centro, a center for Puerto Rican studies based at Hunter College. The two-day event comes days ahead of the island's first scheduled bankruptcy proceeding.
"We've seen action on Puerto Rico because of the strong voice of the Puerto Rican community.” stated Eric LeCompte Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. LeCompte is addressing the summit on the Puerto Rico bankruptcy process and economic crisis. “We are grateful to Dr. Edwin Meléndez and the team at Centro for convening and informing the Puerto Rican community at such a critical time."
US District Judge Laura Taylor Swain will preside over Puerto Rico's debt proceedings and scheduled an initial hearing in San Juan for Wednesday, May 17.
"Puerto Rico will not see economic growth until the island sees significant debt relief," noted LeCompte who will attend the opening of bankruptcy proceedings in Puerto Rico next week. LeCompte testified to Congress on the structure of the island's bankruptcy process and testified to the oversight board to activate the process. "Puerto Rico's bankruptcy process is a model for addressing financial crisis all around our world."
Event details about the Diaspora Summit II can be found here.