WASHINGTON – On Monday the heads of the IMF and World Bank stated support for debt relief for very poor countries as the coronavirus spreads. African Finance Ministers called for suspension of debt payments to free up $44 billion to fight Covid-19. Ecuador’s Congress also demanded its government stop paying debt.
“Countries need to prioritize fighting Covid-19 and billions can be freed up right away by halting debt payments,” stated Eric LeCompte who leads the development group Jubilee USA and serves on United Nations debt expert groups. “Both among lenders and borrowers, we see growing calls to stop paying debt to save lives during the pandemic.”
At G20 Finance Minister and Central Bank meetings on Monday, World Bank President David Malpass encouraged world leaders to allow very poor countries to stop paying debt. At the same meeting, the IMF’s leader, Kristalina Georgieva noted the replenishing of funds in an IMF debt relief and aid mechanism that was used during the 2014 Ebola epidemic that struck 3 African countries.
“The IMF and World Bank calls for debt relief are critical in order to immediately strengthen health systems in the developing world,” stated LeCompte. “In order to support all countries who need help and stop a global financial crisis we will need to broaden debt relief efforts, raise aid monies and move forward agreements that can stabilize the economy.”
The letter urges expanded debt relief and aid to bolster health-care for developing countries impacted by the coronavirus. Additional letter recommendations include debt payment moratoriums, improved debt restructuring, encouraging public budget approval processes for countries and raising revenue by curbing corruption, tax evasion and tax avoidance.