As Coronavirus Spreads, IMF Cancels 6 Months of Debt for Poorest Countries

Washington DC -  The board of the International Monetary Fund approved $500 million through the IMF Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust to cancel 6 months of debt service for Afghanistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Congo, D.R., The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Tajikistan, Togo and Yemen.

Eric LeCompte the Executive Director of Jubilee USA Network and a United Nations Finance Expert, releases the following statement on the announcement:

"This is an incredibly positive step. These countries need to bolster their health systems right away and cancellation of debt for 6 months will help these countries.

"Many of these countries have less than 50 critical care unit beds per country.

"All of the countries could benefit from more than just a 6-month debt cancellation. As the poorest countries in the world, they really need full cancellation.

"While we encourage more countries to donate money to this IMF trust, the IMF also needs to use its own resources.

"When this trust was used previously, the IMF sold gold in its reserve. Currently, there is $140 billion in this reserve and even selling ten billion could get us closer for debt cancellation for these countries and others.

"We worked on this mechanism since 2010 and every time it's been used, it's been critical for protecting some of the world's poorest people.

"What strikes me most is that the four countries who previously received grants and debt relief from this trust are benefiting from it again. Haiti, Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia are again receiving this critical relief and this says something about lending and the fragility of some of the world's poorest countries. Out of this current crisis we need to find ways to move these countries out of poverty and on a permanent path to prosperity."

Read the IMF's Release on the Debt Relief here

Read Jubilee USA's March 23rd letter to IMF on a health and economic COVID-19 plan  here

Read Jubilee USA's April 1st letter to the IMF on reserve gold funds here

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Eric LeCompte Quoted in Reuters on IMF Chief's Leadership

Thomson Reuters, Yahoo!News and thousands of other outlets included Eric LeCompte's thoughts on IMF Chief Kristalina Georgieva's leadership as the Fund responds to the coronavirus and its effects. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story. 

'Force of nature' Georgieva leads IMF through coronavirus storm

Her connections to another powerful global force, the Vatican, helped her defuse a looming crisis with Argentina after the 2019 election of a government that campaigned against the IMF. Georgieva and Argentine Finance Minister Martin Guzman paved the way for better relations during a during a February conference hosted by Pope Francis, according to Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, a nonprofit financial reform organization, who also attended.

"It's a blessing that we have someone with a development background at the helm of the IMF. I believe that's why we're seeing quick movement on some fairly bold proposals to save us from a financial crisis or another Great Depression," he said.

When G20 finance officials refused to classify the coronavirus outbreak as a major risk factor in February, Georgieva published the IMF's own, dire, outlook.

Read more here

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Reuters Quotes Eric LeCompte on IMF Debt Relief

Reuters quoted Eric LeCompte on the IMF announcement of debt relief for poor countries affected by the coronavirus. The story was covered in thousands of outlets around the world, including PBS, Voice of America, MarketWatch and WTOP news. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story. 

IMF to provide debt relief to help 25 countries deal with pandemic

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Eric LeCompte's Thoughts in New York Times on IMF Debt Freeze

The New York Times featured the IMF's decision to halt debt payments for 25 poor countries affected by the coronavirus. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story. 

IMF Cancels Debt Payments for 6 Months for 25 Poor Nations

Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, an alliance of more than 75 U.S. organizations and 700 faith communities working for debt relief, called the IMF announcement “an incredibly positive step.”

“Many of these countries have less than 50 critical care unit beds per country,” LeCompte said in a statement. “These countries need to bolster their health systems right away and cancellation of debt for six months will help these countries.”

But LeCompte said more needs to be done.

“As the poorest countries in the world, they really need full cancellation” of their debts, he said.

Read more here.

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Eric LeCompte Quoted by Common Dreams on Coronavirus Relief

Common Dreams quoted Eric LeCompte on the call for debt relief in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story. 

Ilhan Omar Joins Global Call for Debt Relief as Coronavirus Threatens to Push Developing Nations 'Over the Edge'

Last week, Bishop David J. Malloy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Eric LeCompte of the interfaith Jubilee USA Network called on U.S. President Donald Trump to lead the G20 in granting developing nations debt relief so they can better respond to the healthcare and economic consequences of the ongoing pandemic.

"As the G20 considers a suspension of debt payments from the 76 poorest countries in the world, the United States can lead the world, again, in calling on wealthy countries, the G20, the IMF and World Bank, to suspend debt payments for developing countries," wrote Malloy and LeCompte. "Suspending debt payments, with no interest, can immediately allow countries to access funds to bolster their health systems and support needed stimulus packages in the developing world—allowing these countries to provide for their own health, safety, and security."

Read more here
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Between the Lines Interviews Eric LeCompte on Debt Freezes from IMF and G20

Between the lines interviewed Eric LeCompte on the IMF and G20 decisions to halt debt payments for some poor countries affected by the coronavirus. Read an summary below, and click here for the full story. 

Amid Pandemic IMF & G20 Called on to Cancel Poorest Nations’ Unsustainable Debt

Eric LeCompte discusses plans he’s proposed to Pope Francis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and G20 group of nations re: the COVID-19 pandemic and the urgent need to cancel debt payments for the 76 poorest countries in the world and provide aid for countries that need it.

Listen to full interview here

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The Nation Covers Jubilee, Catholic Bishops Call for Debt Relief

The Nation featured Eric LeCompte's thoughts and a joint letter from Jubilee USA and the US Conference of Catholic Bishops to President Trump urging the Administration to use debt relief as a response to the coronavirus crisis for the poorest countries. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story. 

A ‘Jubilee’ Cancellation of Debt Is Vital to Fighting the Coronavirus

There are similar concerns for a number of developing nations in Africa, as Jubilee USA’s Director Eric LeCompte explains: “Developing countries are unprepared to deal with the economic and health impacts of the coronavirus. Most of Africa only has about 50 critical care beds per country. Without action, tens of thousands of people will die because they can’t access life saving health services.”

In an urgent April 8 letter to President Trump, LeCompte, and Bishop David J. Malloy, the chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, pleaded with the president to put the United States on the right side of this fight when the G20 nations consult over the next week:

As the G20 considers a suspension of debt payments from the 76 poorest countries in the world, the United States can lead the world, again, in calling on wealthy countries, the G20, the IMF and World Bank, to suspend debt payments for developing countries. Suspending debt payments, with no interest, can immediately allow countries to access funds to bolster their health systems and support needed stimulus packages in the developing world—allowing these countries to provide for their own health safety and security.

Read more here
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COVID IMF, G20, White House Decision on Our Survival

Friends,

Our urgent coronavirus campaigns to bolster healthcare in the developing world and protect all of us from financial crisis are moving forward urgently. In recent weeks, we've won several campaigns to cancel some debts and deliver grants for the 29 poorest countries to improve health services. We won commitments from the IMF to increase resources for all countries in need so they can increase social protections and keep paying workers.

Now, the White House, IMF and G20 are working through this Easter weekend and will announce decisions next week about canceling debt payments for the 76 poorest countries in the world and providing aid for countries that need it.

Yesterday the head of the International Monetary Fund said the current economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus is on par with the Great Depression. Please sign our petition to the IMF and G20, urging financial crisis protections that are critical for our survival in both the developed and developing world.

In early February, Jubilee's Executive Director, Eric LeCompte, travelled to Rome for an intimate meeting with Pope Francis, the head of the IMF, a dozen finance ministers and world leaders. The meeting focused on Jubilee's concern of a pending financial crisis. At the early February meeting, we began planning for the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Jubilee USA sent an urgent joint letter to the White House:


"As the G20 considers a suspension of debt payments from the 76 poorest countries in the world, the United States can lead the world, again, in calling on wealthy countries, the G20, the IMF and World Bank, to suspend debt payments for developing countries," wrote Bishop David J. Malloy on behalf of the US Catholic Bishops along with Jubilee's Eric LeCompte. "Suspending debt payments, with no interest, can immediately allow countries to access funds to bolster their health systems and support needed stimulus packages in the developing world—allowing these countries to provide for their own health, safety and security."


This letter was covered by hundreds of newspapers around the world, your local communities and wire services like Reuters and the Catholic News Service.

Since this letter was sent, national Jubilee USA partner organizations and faith communities are preparing another White House, G20 and IMF letter on protecting the vulnerable and stopping financial crisis ahead of next week's decisions. This new letter is already signed by the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Methodist Church, Oxfam America, Church World Service and synagogues, dioceses and churches from North Carolina to Indiana to Puerto Rico to Montana.

With our global Jubilee partners, we organized a statement calling for debt cancellation with 200 development groups from around the world. We supported 165 world leaders, former Presidents and Prime minsters to urge the G20 to cancel debt and save lives. Now, we need you to sign our IMF petition before they make decisions next week.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development last week called for a trillion dollars of debt to be cancelled in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. All of Africa's finance ministers joined our call. Our friends - a coalition of 200 US Africa policy groups - the Advocacy Network for Africa Forum is calling for a Jubilee! 

Just moments ago - the International Chamber of Commerce, the institutional representative of over 45 million businesses and the International Trade Union Confederation just asked the IMF and Finance Ministers to cancel debt so countries don't have to deny their people health services.

On Tuesday, groups representing "Jubilee" organizations around the world wrote the heads of the Fund and the World Bank to press broader aid and debt relief efforts. The letter was sent from the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development, the European Network on Debt and Development, Jubilee UK, Jubilee Germany, the Latin American Network on Debt and Development and Rights, Oxfam International, the French Catholic - La Plateforme Française Dette & Développement, the Society for International Development and Jubilee USA Network.

As hundreds of Jubilee USA congregations and organizers mobilize petition drives and actions across the United States, please sign our IMF petition. The IMF, G20 and White House will announce the next round of decisions on our Jubilee campaigns before next Thursday.

As many of us reflect on Good Friday and wrestle with the coronavirus, we feel sadness and loss. We feel anxiety. Many of us in the US and around our world are suffering. As we reflect, let us take a moment to prayerfully act - our survival around the world depends on it.

Best, 

Kate

Kate Zeller
Campaigns Director

P.s. Please make a donation to Jubilee today. All donations for Jubilee USA Network are doubled today and will immediately support our coronavirus campaigns.

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Reuters, The New York Times Cover Jubilee Call for Debt Cancellation

Reuters and the New York Times covered Jubilee USA Network, global business leaders and civil society groups call for debt cancellation in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story. 

Global business, workers, civil society join call for debt relief for poorer nations

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Chamber of Commerce on Friday joined a global trade union and a major civil society group to urge immediate debt relief for the world’s poorest countries to help them fight the coronavirus pandemic and mitigate its economic impact.

In an open letter to finance ministers, the groups also urged countries to contribute to the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust, an International Monetary Fund instrument that provides debt service relief to its poorest members.

The ICC, the International Trade Union Confederation and Global Citizen, a group pushing to end extreme poverty by 2030, warned that failure to address the debt and financing needs of developing countries could trigger a series of debt defaults that would have devastating and wide-ranging consequences.

“We are concerned that a failure to immediately address the debt and financing needs of developing countries during this unprecedented crisis will result in large-scale loss of lives and livelihoods — potentially resulting in a fundamental collapse of social and economic systems,” the groups wrote.

The letter reflects increasing support for a push by the World Bank and IMF for official bilateral creditors to temporarily suspend debt payments for the poorest countries, which will be hit hardest by the pandemic.

Details of the IMF-World Bank proposal are still being finalized ahead of debate by finance officials at the virtual Spring Meetings of the Fund and the Bank next week.

On Friday, the Institution of International Finance, which includes over 450 banks, hedge funds and other financial firms, also backed the call. Other backers include the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Jubilee USA Network alliance of faith groups.
Read more here
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The New York Times, Reuters, Others Cite Eric LeCompte on New IMF Panel

The New York Times, Reuters, The Express Tribune and others cited Eric LeCompte on IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva's new advisory panel on the coronavirus pandemic. Read an excerpt below, and click here for the full story. 

IMF's Georgieva creates external advisory panel on pandemic

Eric LeCompte, executive director of Jubilee USA Network, a non-profit alliance of religious, development and advocacy groups, said Georgieva’s creation of the panel reflected her desire to “tear down barriers” and spark more dialogue.

“This shows a different way of doing business,” he said. “While this is an informal group, it’s significant that someone from civil society is able to offer input.”

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