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World Bank seeks improved debt transparency

Citing the large number of lowincome countries that have not published any sovereign debt data for more than two years, as well as the huge discrepancies that exist in publicly available estimates of debt, the World Bank has called for more debt transparency in developing economies. The bank, which stated this in a blog post published in its latest newsletter, argued that enormous uncertainty about nations’ debts should not be acceptable in today’s environment, given that “more than half of all low-income countries are already in debt distress or at high risk of it.”

It further stated that debt in low-and middleincome economies has climbed to levels without precedent in modern times, adding that “significant investment will be needed to sustain economic growth in the aftermath of Covid-19.” As the Bretton Woods institution put it, “the evidence is clear: Greater debt transparency allows governments to make informed decisions about future borrowing and reduces its cost in the long run.

“Accurate and comprehensive debt records also benefit creditors. It allows them to fully assess whether a country’s debt is sustainable. It enables them to price debt instruments more accurately. If facilitates faster and more efficient debt restructurings faster. Debt transparency also makes it easier for citizens to hold governments accountable for the debt they take on.” Stressing that “developing economies have much to gain by improving debt transparency,” the World Bank advised that they should “make the needed investments in capacity and systems to produce accurate debt data.”

The bank, however, noted that debt transparency was not merely about data. “It also entails transparency of borrowing operations : data may exist, but they may reflect opaque, illegitimate, or unreasonably costly borrowing practices,” the .ultilateral lender pointed out. According to the bank, “countries should address the operational constraints limiting the regular publication of comprehensive debt reports. An annual debt publication should include core public and publicly guaranteed debt statistics at the general government level, including information on contracted individual debt instruments. The publication should provide a definition of public debt in line with international standards.”

 

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