China must participate ‘fully’ in debt relief for poor nations: World Bank

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WASHIGNTON: World Bank President David Malpass on Tuesday (Jan 11) urged China, a major creditor of poor countries, to participate fully in debt relief efforts.

“Many countries are now facing record levels of external and domestic debt as interest rate hikes begin,” the head of the Washington-based development lender said on a conference call.

About 60 percent of low-income countries are “at high risk” of debt distress, while emerging markets “are struggling as well,” he said.

“In 2022 alone… countries will have to pay around $35 billion in debt service to their official bilateral and private sector creditors, with over 40 percent of that due to China,” Malpass said.

“It’s crucial that China participates fully in international debt relief efforts,” he said, adding that the private sector and commercial creditors must take part as well.

Malpass called for accelerating the implementation of the “common framework” for debt restructuring, which was agreed upon by the G20 group of nations, including member China, in November 2020.

The “common framework” provides debt relief or even cancellation to countries that request it, and succeeds the Debt Service Suspension Initiative, which the G20 created at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to give poor countries a moratorium on debt service payments until the end of 2020 – though they extended it through last year.