The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) joins other religious and development groups in their call for âdebt relief for hurricane-battered Caribbean islands. In a letter to the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the USCCB wrote, "Natural disasters in countries with extremely at-risk economies, like Antigua and Barbuda and others in the Caribbean, can wreak catastrophic and paralyzing impacts on their prospects for further developmentâincluding their ability to service their debt responsibly."â The letter echoed calls from Caribbean Catholic Bishops to temporarily stop debt payments so that troubled islands can recover.
"No island should be making debt payments until they can recover, whether we are talking about US territories like Puerto Rico or âcountries like Dominica," noted Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the USCCB and Bishop Oscar CantÃº, Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace for USCCB, sent the letter to the IMF just after Bishop Gabriel Malzaire, Bishop of Roseau and President of the Antilles Episcopal Conference did the same. Malzaire sent the letter after Hurricane Irma tore through the Caribbean, but before Hurricane Marie struck his home island of Dominica.
"Sadly, since multiple hurricanes have ravaged the Caribbean, there are many islands in need of immediate aid. Delaying debt payments is one of the fastest ways to move money into recovery and reconstruction efforts," noted LeCompte who serves on UN expert working groupâs that focus on financial crisis.
Every street and every town in Dominica, home to roughly 73,000 people, was affected according to the island's Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit who lost his own home. Dominica's government says the island is currently without running water and electricity. Power outages are occurring across hurricane-struck islands. The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are struggling to regain power. âPuerto Rico's power company stated that it could take 4 to 6 months to get power fully back in the US territory.
"The US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico need to âfocus on the emergency needs of their people, not debt payments," said LeCompte. "Congress, creditors and the territory governments all have a responsibility to free the US citizens on the islands of debt as they recover from these hurricanes."