Fiscal space for development concept

Are we trading away fiscal space for development?

By Devika Dutt, Lecturer in Development Economics at King’s College, London and Kevin P. Gallagher, Director of the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, and Professor of Global Development Policy at Boston University

Developing nations need to mobilise an additional USD 1 trillion per year to meet their shared 2023 development and climate goals, but the need to invest comes precisely at a time when developing countries lack the fiscal space to do so.

What has been driving debt distress and how can governments and international institutions adapt to help?

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Debt relief in developing countries

It is time to give highly indebted countries a fresh start

By Rachid Bouhia, Economist, and Patrick Kacmarczyk, Consultant, UNCTAD[1]

Fast deterioration of financial conditions in the Global South

Sustained investments are a prerequisite for attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without stable financial conditions, however, these investments are not possible. Roller coaster capital markets prevent investors in the real economy from predicting their rate of return, leaving only financial speculators in the game.   

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Why today’s debt crisis requires a different kind of thinking

By David McNair, Executive Director for Global Policy at The ONE Campaign and Non-Resident Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Daouda Sembene, CGD Distinguished Nonresident Fellow and AfriCatalyst CEO

African countries have more than doubled their debt stocks in the last decade. In an era of historically low interest rates that made sense, given the continent’s massive infrastructure needs, high security spending and rising social expenditure driven by a rapidly growing population. But that era is now over. 

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Why Multilateral Development Banks Must Step Up on Debt Relief

By Rishikesh Ram Bhandary, PhD, Assistant Director of the Global Economic Governance Initiative at the Boston University Global Development Policy Center and Sara Jane Ahmed is the founder of the Financial Futures Center and Finance Advisor to the V20 Group of Finance Ministers

With a third of Pakistan under water, millions displaced and commodities like cotton at the heart of Pakistan’s economy destroyed, the existential impact of climate change on vulnerable economies could not be clearer.

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Greening international debt data

By Rachid Bouhia, Economist in UNCTAD’s Division for Globalization and Development Strategies

The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated alarming debt levels in developing countries. By the time COVID-19 emerged, public debt in developing countries had increased steadily since 2013, in a context of more recurrent external shocks and rising fragilities in their debt positions, including those related to climate change. By the end of 2019, their total public debt – external and domestic – stood at 59% of combined GDP, the second-highest level on record (Figure 1). On a more positive note, there had also been a notable increase in the diversity and quantity of climate-related financial instruments at the national and regional levels. Information on the nature and scale of these initiatives is today critical to our understanding of – and policy response to – debt statistics.

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irut, Lebanon - August 2020: Beirut Port destroyed following explosive blasts. Photo: Shutterstock

Lebanon’s path back from the brink of collapse

By Dr. Nasser Saidi, Economist and former Minister of Economy and Industry of Lebanon

Since October 2019, Lebanon has been in the throes of a historically unprecedented economic and financial meltdown, simultaneously facing a humanitarian crisis, a debt crisis, a banking crisis, a currency crisis, and a balance of payments crisis. The numbers are staggering. Real GDP has declined for the fourth consecutive year by a cumulative 45% since 2018 making it the second most severe financial crisis in history. The Lira has lost 90% of its value, annual inflation is running at 150% and an 80% de facto haircut has been imposed on deposits.

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It’s time to move beyond a debt moratorium and finance productive capacities in least developed countries

By Paul Akiwumi, Director, Division for Africa, LDCs and Special Programmes, UNCTAD

According to recent UNCTAD analysis, most LDCs will likely take several years to recover the level of GDP per capita they had in 2019, and compared to developed countries, which may experience a short V-shaped recovery, the median LDC would take roughly three years to climb back to pre-COVID-19 levels of output per capita. Moreover, extreme poverty in LDCs is projected to rise to 35%, equivalent to 32 million people, due to the pandemic.

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The debt burden: why ex-post intervention shouldn’t be the default option

By Rodrigo Olivares-Caminal, Professor of Banking and Finance Law at the Centre for Commercial Law Studies, Queen Mary University of London, and Paola Subacchi, Professor of International Economics, Global Policy Institute, Queen Mary University of London

The financial response to the COVID-19 crisis has driven debt building at an unprecedented speed, which has increased the risk of debt distress and the odds of a new debt crisis cycle. Emerging markets and developing economies are most at risk. When the COVID-19 crisis began in February 2020, it demanded extraordinary policy measures to protect lives and provide support to those who had lost their livelihoods. The public debt vulnerabilities for many countries, especially the poorest ones, were already significant at that time, but the subsequent collapse of many economic activities exacerbated the situation. As of 30 April 2021, 29 countries were at high risk of debt distress, and 7 low-income countries had already succumbed to it. Somalia, for example, is currently in debt distress and needs to secure relief to restore debt sustainability.

Emerging markets and developing economies are most at risk because of their exposure to international capital flows and the fact that portions of their debt are issued in hard currencies, namely the US dollar. This leaves them vulnerable to changes in US monetary policy, and so to sudden outflows when risk aversion and international financial volatility are high. Some countries have learned lessons from previous debt crisis cycles – as is evident, for example, in the development of local-currency securities markets which mitigate the risk of foreign-currency borrowing – but such resilience is patchy and far from being systemic.

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Time to accelerate debt relief to finance Africa’s recovery

By Marin Fouéré, Policy Analyst, OECD Development Centre and Daniele Fattibene, Research Fellow at Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI)

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on African economies, home to the fastest growing population in the world. The burden of the crisis adds to the fact that Africa’s per capita real GDP growth over the period 2009-2019 was 1.3% per year, which is half the global average of 2.5%.

Ahead of tomorrow’s Summit on Financing African Economies, gathering African and other world leaders and international organisations, President Emmanuel Macron called for a New Deal for financing Africa’s sustainable recovery through profoundly innovative solutions.

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Significant but insufficient progress in financial support for developing countries

By José Antonio Ocampo, Professor at Columbia University and former UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs and Finance Minister of Colombia

Recent events and particularly last week’s meeting of the Bretton Woods institutions have generated significant advances in international financial co-operation, particularly in support of developing countries. The latter is crucial, as a large number of low and middle-income countries continue to be severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis while the economic recovery underway is very uneven, as underscored by the IMF in its World Economic Outlook.

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