WASHINGTON, United States, Tuesday September 12, 2017 – A senior official from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has all but poured cold water on suggestions that Barbuda should be granted temporary relief from paying its debt to the Washington-based financial body.
Barbuda, which was ravaged by Hurricane Irma a week ago, currently owes the IMF an estimated $3 million debt. Jubilee USA, an interfaith group, has written to the Fund’s Managing Director Christine Lagarde requesting that payment be put on hold until the island can recover.
“On behalf of Jubilee USA’s nearly 700 national and local faith institutions, we invite the IMF to implemented an immediate moratorium on debt repayments for countries severely impacted by the Category 5 storm until they have rebuilt and recovered,” President Eric LeCompte wrote.
In a similar call last Thursday, Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Church of the Diocese of Georgetown, Guyana argued that Barbuda and other Caribbean countries affected by Irma would not be able to meet their commitments to the lending agency, and the IMF should consider debt relief.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne has declared Barbuda “uninhabitable” with an estimated 95 per cent of its structures damaged in the system. He estimated that the rebuilding process could cost as much as $150 million.
However, the IMF’s special representative to the United Nations, Christopher Lane, challenged the idea of a moratorium during a briefing titled, ‘Sovereign Debt Restructuring: Further Improvements on Market Based approaches’.
“Our general view is that we’d rather put new money in than to have that moratoria,” he said, adding that IMF “borrows money from members who lend, so we’d have to get agreement from the lending parties”.
“For example, we might borrow money from the United States and loan that to Antigua. If we don’t get paid back on time, we’d have to make an arrangement with the source of the funds themselves….We’re like a bank. We borrow and lend,” he said.