The Conference of Churches Grenada has presented Government with nine recommendations that it believe can create a framework for restructuring the island’s debt as Government embark on initiatives aimed at re-organizing the nation’s public debt with creditors.
The recommendations were the outcome of a three day workshop on “Debt Relief in the Caribbean: a Grenada Perspective,” organized by the CCG in which the main facilitator was Jurgen Kaiser, coordinator and research fellow at the German Debt Network.
The participants, at the workshop which was held at the National Stadium took as the basis of their involvement the biblical concept of “jubilee” (Leviticus 25:1-7),with its prescription of debt forgiveness, and the social teaching of the Catholic Church.
A statement from the CCG said that a clear and frank presentation of Grenada’s debt situation was made by Advisor to the Minister of Finance, Dr. Patrick Antoine and Minister for Trade, Economic Planning and Co-operatives while Minister Oliver Joseph gave a policy approach to resolving the debt situation.
The participants which also comprised delegates from the from other OECS members states, in particular Dominica, St Lucia, and St Vincent and The Grenadines, acknowledged that the successive Grenada governments would have accepted those loans in their efforts at socio-economic development.
“Through energetic deliberations, the participants concluded that while the obligation to repay loans must be acknowledged, the governments of small nations are not helpless at the mercy of their creditors,” said the statement which said that the participants came to an in-depth understanding of the role of debt and the impact unsustainable debt has on vulnerable nations such as Grenada.
During the opening ceremony Minister Joseph challenged the participants to come up with recommendations to government, and by Friday morning which was the last day of the workshop, a number of recommendations arising from the discussions of the previous two days had been formulated and were formally presented to the minister.
Included in the recommendations from the CCG is the need for the Dr Keith Mitchell administration to seek the involvement of an independent and impartial expert to assess Grenada’s debt relief and parliamentary approval for the debt restructuring process.
The nine recommendations are:
A comprehensive process to restructuring the national debt — An endorsement of the proposal of government for a comprehensive process or approach to restructuring the debt.
Independent assessment — That the Government of Grenada seeks the involvement of an independent and impartial expert to assess Grenada’s need for debt relief.
Parliamentary approval — That Government table a proposed framework for the debt restructuring process for discussion by, and approval of both houses of parliament.
Sustainability of debt level — That the existing benchmark as set by the The Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) or the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative be a guide as to Grenada’s sustainable debt level. That the government seeks the cancellation of debts that exceed this limit.
Safety Cushion — That given the exceptional vulnerability of the islands to natural disasters and external shocks, debt relief should go beyond that mandated by the sustainability level referred to above.
Independent Mediation Process — That the government invite all creditors to a debt conference in Grenada facilitated by a prominent high level mediator.
Debt Relief—Benefit the Poor — That debt relief should go towards socio-economic development with a preferential option for the poor.
International Support — That government seek political and financial support from sympathetic governments such as Norway and Germany, and international organizations such as UNCTAD, in support for its renegotiation strategy. We offer our support in that process through our international contacts.
Governance — That the legal and administrative structures be strengthened to ensure greater accountability and transparency, in the management of public expenditure. That the 2007 national, social and economic development plan be re-visited and updated in consultation with civil society as a framework for ongoing development and debt management. That consultation through the Social Partners meetings continues
Another outcome of the workshop was the creation of a regional network of “jubilee advocates” whose task will be to raise awareness about the Jubilee message with a view of having it become fundamental to negotiations with creditors.
The activity marks a significant milestone for the CCG which sees its role as presenting a biblical perspective on social issues and raising its voice on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society.