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World Bank mulls trimming poor countries’ debt

The World Bank has said that it is looking at ways to reduce the amount of debt owed by poor nations – rather than simply delaying payments — to attract more investors in the wake of the global coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic and recession. The bank’s President, Mr. David Malpass, who disclosed this yesterday in a Bloomberg Television interview, said the coming months and the annual meetings of the Bretton Woods institutions- the World Bank and International Monetary Fund(IMF)- in October would be a good period to take action on the matter. Malpass said he also saw an opportunity to extend relief under the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) that started in May into 2021, an option that he believes will have support from the Group of Seven and Group of 20 leading economies. “The next step is harder — agreement to actually do haircuts or writedowns.

But that has happened in the past; for example in the 1980s in the Latin debt crisis, it got to the point of haircuts, but it took so long that the countries were in deep, deep trouble by the time that happened. So one of the things we’re trying to do is accelerate that so you can get to a good outcome sooner,” he said.

With the global economy still reeling from the impact of the pandemic, leading to calls for additional relief for poor nations, the G-20 said at a July meeting that it will decide on extending the current debt-payment suspension closer to the end of the year. Analysts point out that even with the G-20’s April agreement to waive bilateral debt payments from vulnerable countries, the cost of servicing obligations crowds out health and social expenses.

 

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