Kyrgyzstan has asked China for debt relief as it struggles with the economic shocks of the coronavirus pandemic.
President Sooronbai Jeenbekov’s office said on April 14 he had asked Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during a phone call to consider “easing and prolonging payments on Kyrgyzstan’s external debt to China.”
The request was made “considering the negative impact of the infection on the macroeconomic situation.”
Jeenbekov and Xi agreed that China would send medical specialists to help Kyrgyzstan battle the coronavirus, but a statement by Jeenbekov’s office did not say how Xi responded to the request for debt relief.
The two leaders also discussed the resumption of trade at their shared border, the statement said.
The Export-Import Bank of China (Eximbank) owns more than two-fifths of Kyrgyzstan’s nearly $4 billion foreign debt and has financed major transport and energy projects in the country.
Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek, and other large cities have been under a lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus since last month when cases began to emerge in the country. The number of cases reached 430 with five deaths as of April 14, according to a database maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
Kyrgyzstan was the first country to receive emergency funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to help it cope with the outbreak. The IMF said at the time its board has approved an emergency $120.9 million disbursement to Kyrgyzstan.
Kristalina Georgieva, the IMF managing director, said in a statement at the time that the “COVID-19 pandemic has been hitting the Kyrgyz economy very hard and created an urgent balance-of-payments need.”