The group of 20 nations, which represent the world’s largest economies, have agreed to extend debt suspension for an additional six months to support the most vulnerable countries in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The G-20 says the extension will provide continued relief for the $ 14 billion in debt payments that would have come by the end of the year otherwise. Wednesday’s decision gives developing countries until the end of June 2021 to focus spending on health care and emergency incentive programs rather than debt repayments.
The G-20 announcement was first made on Twitter during a meeting of group finance ministers and central bank governors and was later confirmed at a press conference. Virtual discussions are being held earlier this week with meetings of the International Monetary Fund with 189 nations and the World Bank, which are also being conducted virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
International aid groups expressed frustration that no more debt relief was offered by extending the moratorium on debt payments for a full year or forgiving part of the debt than simply suspending payments.
This pandemic has set a clear and unfair double standard: The richest countries in the world play by one set of rules, and the poorest worlds by another, said David McNair, executive director of global policy at ONE, an international group of aid.
G20 officials argued that the relief being offered is helping 46 of the 73 eligible countries, with ongoing efforts to expand.
Some critics have also complained that China opposed parts of the debt relief plans that have been advanced.
It is unfortunate that the urgent need for wider debt relief for poor countries is diminishing by the apparent disregard of China, which has become a major creditor, said Eswar Prasad, a professor of economics at Cornell University, and a former head of the IMF China division. . China has proven a reluctant participant in multilateral debt relief efforts, putting its narrow economic and geopolitical interests ahead of a collective approach to easing the burden on poor countries.
We still need to do more, admitted Mohammed al-Jadaan, Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, this year’s chairman of the G-20, at a news conference after Wednesday’s meeting. We need to ensure that these nations are fully supported in their efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. We have agreed to extend the debt service suspension initiative by six months.
Al-Jadaan said there would be further discussions during the April meetings to decide whether the suspension should be extended for another six months. He stressed that the pandemic has threatened the fiscal stability of many countries, especially the poorest ones.
Al-Jadaan said another meeting of virtual finance ministers was scheduled for next month, ahead of the leaders’ summit on November 21-22, and that he would aim to agree on a framework that goes beyond the current debt suspension initiative. He gave no details.
Transparency International, Amnesty International and a group of groups called CIVICUS had written to the G-20 finance ministers before their meeting to warn that the world is facing a crisis different from any in the last century and the debt suspension is just a first step. Although the global economy has begun a gradual recovery with the reopening of businesses and borders, the recovery has been severely uneven.
The groups urged G-20 nations to suspend debt payments at least until 2021, saying many of the poorest countries are spending even more on debt payments than on life-saving utilities. Some countries, such as Pakistan, have called for a complete cancellation of debt payments.
Oxfam International said it believes the six-month extension was the minimum the G-20 could do.
Failure to cancel debt payments will only delay the debt tsunami that will engulf many of the world’s poorest countries, leaving them unable to afford investments in much-needed healthcare and social security networks, he said. Jaime Atienza, an Oxfam official who manages debt policy.
Oxfam and other groups are urging private lenders and investment funds to make similar concessions to poorer countries by suspending their debt repayments.
The G-20, in a final communiqué, also urged private lenders to join its debt suspension initiative.
We are disappointed by the lack of progress of private creditors’ participation in debt relief and strongly encourage them to participate on comparable terms when required by eligible countries, she said.
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