entlhiidmsth

UNSUSTAINABLE and ILLEGITIMATE DEBT

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Warning of greater fiscal risk amid the multiple crises, experts and debt justice campaigners called attention to rising public debt from private creditors and discussed ways to address this in a webinar organized by APMDD last June 21. 

The discussion, Public burden, private gain: Sovereign debt “relief” from private lenders, took place against a backdrop of swiftly and massively accumulating public debt. World Bank debt statistics show that low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) incurred  $8.6 trillion of external debts as of end 2020, of which $3.4 trillion of are public and publicly-guaranteed long-term debts.

In her opening remarks, APMDD’s Mae Buenaventura said that, “An increasing portion of these debts are owed to private creditors whose shares in public external debt have steadily increased over the years – from 38% in 2000, 45% in 2010 and 60% in 2019.”

World Bank data also reveals that 63% of LMICs’ long-term public external debts are owed to private creditors, mostly in the form of bonds. In South Asia, their share is 38% while in East Asia and the Pacific region (excluding high income countries), it is a staggering 73%.

Global Policy Forum’s Bodo Ellmers explained the beginnings of this trend. “Private lending became such an important source of finance for governments in the Global South in recent years because of much liquidity on financial markets flowing mostly from richer countries, from developed countries to developing countries. Developing country governments hence had no problems in accessibility to financial markets and took out loans at higher costs. However this will entirely change now because of the massive liquidity squeeze on financial markets.” Buenaventura further noted that the share of private lenders has now overtaken official creditors in many countries, especially in middle-income countries where commercial banks and debt securities markets have been tapped to finance public spending. Official creditors—which include bilateral and multilateral lenders—offer some (not all) concessional loans which carry lower interest rates and longer payment terms than commercial loans.

Indebted countries commonly borrow fresh loans to service interest and principal payments falling due. Ellmers warned that the increase of interest rates in several central banks have an enormous impact on the debt service costs and on the conditions to which countries can access private debt.

Privately-held sovereign debts have largely been untouched by the failed Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and the succeeding Common Framework by the G20 with support from the most influential Northern nations and leading multilateral financial institutions. They proved ineffective in bringing private lenders to restructure public debts in any significant terms that will enable Southern borrowers grappling with health and economic crises. 

Tim Jones of Debt Justice (UK) spoke on attempts by Southern nations seeking debt relief from private lenders. He said that while there are definitely challenges to restructuring and defaulting on debt, it is in the interests of private creditors to “make these challenges appear overly complex and insurmountable so that governments do not initiate restructuring and continue servicing debts until they pay in full where the creditors make most of the profit.”

In Argentina’s case, Patricia Miranda of Red Latinoamaricana por Justicia Economica y Social  or Latindadd shared that, “The negotiation process was very difficult and was probably more in the favor of the creditors…[this] only reflects the urgent need of having a fair, timely, binding, independent and comprehensive debt restructuring process.” 

One of the difficulties of governments in restructuring debts from private creditors is that they  have to deal with multiple parties – none of whom are bound  by any rules, standards or authoritative bodies to renegotiate with their borrowers.  

Iolanda Fresnillo of the European Network on Debt and Development pointed out the “...need to challenge the narrative that the objective of any country should be maintaining and keeping market access… development shouldn’t also be dependent on whether a country has access to financial markets.” She added that “structural reforms should be pushed for as well as rules-based transparent framework in the debt restructuring process with strengthened citizens’ participation as oversight.” 

Pooja Rangaprasad from the Society for International Development emphasized the importance of pushing for a system-wide reform that will be supportive of the South in tackling private creditors. One of the ways is by urging the United Nations to finally convene the 4th Financing for Development Conference. 

“There is a lack of representation of the Global South in decision-making on debt sustainability assessments, debt data and policy lending and restructuring and debt statistics… The core challenge that really needs to be addressed is the need for a multilateral legal framework in [the] UN and for developing countries to be coordinated to protect their collective interests,” Rangaprasad concluded.

##

 

Watch the recording of the webinar here:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

G7 Statement Header 2022

This year’s G7 Summit is again approaching in a world that has seen little progressive change but has instead fallen deeper into debt bondage, inequality and impoverishment under a neoliberal system led and maintained by the richest countries. Bearing the heaviest yoke of debt burdens are the billions of people in the global south who have experienced the greatest threat to their survival and human rights during the COVID-19 pandemic. They remain in the grip of the multiple crises of health, economic recession, and intensifying climate change. These crises worsen under the weight of the accumulation and servicing of unsustainable and illegitimate debts, as well as fiscal consolidation under IMF loans. This has in turn led to worsening inequality, particularly among women, minorities, refugees and other marginalized groups.

 

The G7, with the support of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and private lenders, have persisted in pushing their debt “relief” measures – with dire consequences – and now promise “enhancements” in the face of failure. Many countries in the global south that entered the pandemic with existing high levels of debt are now deeper in debt than before as a consequence of both fiscal stimulus response measures to the pandemic and a low interest rate in a global context. This has fueled excessive lending and borrowing. As we warned, the inadequate, piecemeal, temporary and debt-creating responses of the G7/G20 solutions have missed the mark and only made conditions worse. They have shown, once more, their inadequacy in enforcing the participation of private lenders, to which global south countries have become heavily exposed. They have proven once again to be false solutions that are only eroding more livelihoods, deepening inequality, exacerbating the climate crisis, and threatening more lives, particularly in the wake of the current food and fuel price inflation shock.

 

Totally ignored is a major call from the global debt justice movement for the unconditional cancellation of public external debt payments by all lenders – bilateral, multilateral and private – for all countries in need for at least the next four years as an immediate step, and a clear program towards the unconditional cancellation of outstanding debt. No heed has been paid to the decades-long call by debt justice movements to establish a transparent and binding multilateral framework for debt crisis resolution that addresses unsustainable and illegitimate debt and provides systematic, timely and fair restructuring of sovereign debt, including debt cancellation, in a process convening all creditors.

 

Much of this debt is unsustainable and illegitimate. Loan conditionalities of austerity have contributed to the vulnerabilities of the global south to multiple crises that continue to plunge peoples into greater deprivation. Yet, payments for these debts continue to be claimed, without the benefit of any audit or review as to their questionable nature and terms. There also appears to be little serious concern for increasingly catastrophic climate change risks, and no regard for the scale and gravity of COVID-19’s adverse impacts on peoples’ health and lives, livelihoods and incomes, and the overall enjoyment of human rights. It is increasingly clear that the financial priorities of creditors supersede the human rights of people and nations across the global south.

 

We stress anew the urgency of canceling unsustainable and illegitimate debts to free up resources for immediate needs – for vital and universal healthcare, social protection, and other essential services and rights; to secure the safety and well-being of people and communities; to provide economic and structural assistance to affected, vulnerable and marginalized individuals, families and communities; to undertake urgent climate action, and build economies that are equitable, that uphold human rights, promote gender, race and ecological justice, and are climate resilient and compatible with the health of the planet.

 

Funds freed from debt cancellation should not be counted as part of fulfilling the obligation of global north and G7 countries to deliver climate finance for the global south. The refusal of global north leaders to meet their full obligations is costing the global south dearly in terms of urgently needed adaptation programs, coverage of climate-related loss and damage, ecological restoration, and the rapid and just transition out of fossil fuel energy systems. Meanwhile, more loans are being pushed forward as climate finance and there is a persistence in fossil fuel lending, plunging the global south deeper into debt, and exacerbating the climate crisis. The G7 and G20 are peddling more inadequate and/or false solutions such as debt-for-climate swaps which, at best, have brought meager relief, and at worst, legitimized dubious and harmful loans and brought in costly terms and conditionalities.

 

With stronger voices and an ever-growing reach, we reiterate our demands for debt justice:

● for immediate debt cancellation to enable people to deal with the multiple crises; to that end the G7 countries should enact national laws that make it mandatory for private creditors to participate in debt relief;

● for an end to the exploitation of peoples and destruction of the environment through lending;

● for the immediate delivery of new, additional and non-debt creating climate finance for adaptation, mitigation and loss and damage, far beyond the unmet $100 billion/year pledge, that adequately meets the needs of the global south;

● for stopping over-reliance on borrowing by supporting structural transformation across the globalsouth towards economic diversification and policy autonomy; and

● for systemic changes in financial and economic systems to stop the accumulation of unsustainable and illegitimate debt, to offer fair and comprehensive solutions to debt crises, and to build more equitable, just and post-carbon societies.

 

 

Join the Days of Action in the lead-up to and during the G7 Summit, from 24 - 28 June!

(More details to follow.)

 

Signatories

Regional/International Organizations/Networks

350.org

Turkey

Arab Watch Coalition

Middle East North Africa (MENA) Region

Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development

Asia Region

Europe solidaire sans frontières (ESSF)

France

European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad)

Europe

Fight Inequality Alliance

Global

Focus on the Global South

Thailand

Global Alliance for Tax Justice

France

Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP)

Global

LDC Watch

Nepal

Migrant Forum in Asia

Philippines

Red Latinoamericana por Justicia Económica y Social (LATINDADD)

Peru

Southern African People's Solidarity Network (SAPSN)

SADC Region

Transnational Institute

Netherlands

Women's International Peace Centre

Uganda

 

Organizations

Diálogo 2000 - Jubileo Sur Argentina

Argentina

Bangladesh Nari Progati Sangha (BNPS)

Bangladesh

COAST Foundation

Bangladesh

Equity and Justice Working Group Bangladesh [EquityBD]

Bangladesh

Voices for Interactive Choice and Empowerment (VOICE)

Bangladesh

Global Social Justice

Belgium

Association au Secours des Filles Mères (ASFM )

Cameroun

Women Engage for a Common Future

Colombia

Association Jeunes Agriculteurs (AJA)

Côte d'Ivoire

Cadre d'Appui à l'Innovation et à l'Entrepreneuriat Social et Solidaire (CAPI-ESS)

Côte d'Ivoire

Plateforme Française Dette et Développement

France

erlassjahr.de - Entwicklung braucht Entschuldung (Jubilee Germany)

Germany

Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Fiscales (Icefi)

Guatemala

Asociación Mujeres Emprendedoras de Alta Verapaz MEAV

Guatemala

Association For Promotion Sustainable Development

India

Centre for Budget and Policy Studies

India

Environics Trust

India

Fight Inequality Alliance, India

India

Himalaya Niti Abhiyan

India

Nadi Ghati Morcha - India

India

National Hawker Federation

India

Programme on Women's Economic Social and Cultural Rights (PWESCR)

India

Koalisi Rakyat Untuk Kak Atas Air (KRuHA)

Indonesia

Perkumpulan INISIATIF - Indonesia

Indonesia

University Student Chamber International (UNISC International)

Japan

Hope for Kenya Slum Adolescents Initiative

Kenya

Women's Rights and Empowerment Partnership in Africa (WREPA)

Kenya

Sustainable Rural Community Development Organisation

Malawi

Réseau CADTM Afrique

Mali

Equidad de Género: Ciudadanía, Trabajo y Familia

Mexico

All Nepal Peasants Federation

Nepal

Human Rights Alliance

Nepal

Humanitarian Accountability Monitoring Initiative (HAMI)

Nepal

INHURED International

Nepal

National Campaign for Sustainable Development Nepal

Nepal

Rural Reconstruction Nepal (RRN)

Nepal

South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)

Nepal

South Asia Tax and Fiscal Justice Alliance (SATaFJA)

Nepal

Red Nicaragüense de Comercio Comunitario (RENICC)

Nicaragua

Debt Justice Norway

Norway

Crofter Foundation

Pakistan

Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum

Pakistan

Freedom from Debt Coalition

Philippines

WomanHealth Philippines

Philippines

Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE)

Uganda

Bretton Woods Project

United Kingdom

Debt Justice UK

United Kingdom

Fresh Eyes

United Kingdom

Global Justice Now

United Kingdom

Jubilee Scotland

United Kingdom

Sisters of Charity Federation

United States

ActionAid Zambia

Zambia

 

Individuals

Lucilene Morandi

Brazil

Bodo Ellmers

Germany

Ausi Kibowa

Uganda

Corazon Valdez Fabros

Philippines

Messan Kounagbe

Bénin   

 

Translations: 

pdf2022 G7 Summit Statement (English)

pdf2022 G7 Summit Statement (Arabic)

pdf2022 G7 Summit Statement (French)

pdf2022 G7 Summit Statement (German)

pdf2022 G7 Summit Statement (Spanish)

 

   
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Asia Debt Monitor is an e-publication of the Asian Peoples' Movement on Debt and Development.

The full APMDD Asia Debt Monitor Issue #1 can also be downloaded pdfhere

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Header

 

Another meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank has come and gone, and with predictable responses to the multiple crises of economic recession, public health and climate change – limited in scope and scale, short-term and even more debt-creating. Conditions have grown more severe as the Ukraine-Russia conflict rages, on top of unpredictable COVID-19 surges and intensifying climate change. More than half of the world’s countries are struggling in the deepening abyss of debt. But all these find no resonance in the outcomes of the IMF and World Bank Spring Meetings whose “Way Forward” leads us farther down a path of greater debt accumulation, heavier debt service burdens for the global South, and a certain future of stark impoverishment and inequality.  

The IMF unveiled its Managing Director’s “Global Policy Agenda 2022” while the World Bank presented a roadmap for the next 15 months. As expected, there are no bold and ambitious debt solutions from these leading international financial institutions that claim commitments to alleviate poverty and support developing countries on the way to recovery. The World Bank announced $170 billion in crisis response financing to be rolled out in 15 months, targeting to commit $50 million within the next three months. Much of this is expected to be loans though, just like the $200-billion COVID-19 crisis response from 2020-2022, of which only $23 billion of the $73 billion that went to IDA were in the form of grants. Many South countries that are already deep in record-breaking levels of public debt will continue to be locked in debt service at a time when public funds are urgently needed for peoples’ needs.     

The IMF - World Bank persists in their support of false solutions, notably the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) through the Common Framework, which have proven too inadequate, temporary, and short-sighted to address the systemic nature of the debt crisis. Total deferrals granted to 43 participating countries reached only $12.7 billion, a paltry sum compared to at least $3 trillion estimated by the UN to help developing countries. With no extension for the DSSI beyond 2021, low-income countries now bear the full brunt of debt servicing in 2022, while middle-income countries that were ignored despite facing equally difficult circumstances, face even heavier burdens due to massive borrowings incurred in the last two years.  

Meanwhile, the IMF-WB have conveniently excused themselves from joining these schemes, choosing instead to peddle more loans to crisis-ridden countries with limited options and ensure continued debt payments. The IMF has even profited amid the pandemic by continuing to levy surcharges on heavy borrowers, who are also those countries in desperate straits. This has become the Fund’s biggest revenue source, amounting to an estimated  $4 billion by end-2022.

Also evading responsibility for the massive accumulation of debt are private creditors – commercial banks and holders of government-issued bonds – to whom over 80% of public external debt is owed by governments.  Sri Lanka is a case in point, with an $11.8 billion debt bill accumulated from sovereign bonds, or 36.4% of its external debt. Asset managers BlackRock Inc. (US) and Ashmore Group Plc. (UK) count among Sri Lanka’s biggest sources of foreign funding.

Much praise is accorded the IMF for setting up the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST), a new loan-based facility aimed at addressing longer-term structural challenges and macroeconomic risks, such as climate change and pandemics, by channeling the Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) contributed by rich countries to those where needs are greatest. But this lofty aim is undermined by unfair distribution, determined by the proportion of countries’ quota shares in the Fund. Thus, from the $650 billion SDR allocation that the IMF made available in 2021, only US$275 billion was received by developing countries, and of which $21 billion went to low-income countries.  The IMF targeted to raise SDR12.6 billion from SDR “rechanneling” for Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust in 2021, but it has only received SDR7.3 billion pledges to date. This was also the case with the Fund’s Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust that targeted SDR1 billion from donations of wealthier countries but only mobilized SDR0.6 billion to date. 

Further, the Fund will require concurrent enrollment in a financing or non-financing IMF-supported program, which leaves out climate-threatened countries in Asia such as Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. For RST-eligible countries, they remain subject to fiscal consolidation or austerity measures that are typically embedded as loan conditionalities in IMF lending programs. In the first year of the pandemic, the IMF promoted austerity in 85% of its financing response; eventually,  fiscal consolidation became requisite in 87% of IMF programs negotiated with developing countries from March 2021-2022.  These entail cutting public expenditures and handing over vital essential services to private investors, to the detriment of the poor and low-income, women in the informal sector and ordinary wage earners, among others. They also include increasing regressive taxes and capping the public wage bill, which shifts the weight of resource mobilization on the mass of ordinary working people.  

The IMF’s recognition of climate change as a significant factor in unsustainable debt and the WB’s  declared alignment of its funding with the Paris Agreement ring hollow in the face of continued infusions of multilateral public money into fossil fuels. The IFIs have remained silent on the demand for investigating and canceling the public debt that financed fossil fuel projects, even as they also acknowledge these as harmful to people and planet. These public debts were incurred in the name of the people, but caused the violation of many human rights and the very right to life, the massive destruction of land, food and  water resources, erosion of local livelihoods, and the further exacerbation of climate change and its impacts. 

From 1947 to 2020, the bank’s main institutions for loans and development financing disbursed and committed $1.2 trillion worth of principal value of loans, equity, guarantees and grants. One-third or $367 billion of funds disbursed or committed by the the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA) went to energy projects of which $237 billion went to fossil fuel projects while $31 billion went to other  harmful projects, such as large hydro dams and geothermal. Even after the Paris Agreement was signed, at least US$ 20.6 billion in oil and gas projects from 2016 to 2021.  

To the IMF and the World Bank, as well as world leaders, national governments, financial institutions, public and private, we reiterate calls of global civil society for urgent, just, ambitious action, in compliance of their obligations and responsibilities, and commit to the following: 

  1. Unconditional cancellation of unsustainable and illegitimate debt by multilateral, bilateral and private lenders.

  2. Recognition of the sovereign right of peoples to use resources freed from debt to address immediate needs, for vital and universal healthcare, social protection, and other essential services and rights.

  3. Support for efforts to undertake national debt audits (government audits and independent citizens' audits) to critically and comprehensively examine public debt, and thoroughly review changes in lending, borrowing and payment policies; and respect the decisions reached by these processes.

  4. Support for the call to establish a fair, transparent, binding and multilateral framework for debt crisis resolution, under the auspices of the UN to and not in lender-dominated arenas, that addresses unsustainable and illegitimate debt.

  5. Support, rather than obstruct, a thorough-going national and global review and changes in lending, borrowing and payment policies and practices aimed at preventing the re-accumulation of unsustainable and illegitimate debt, strengthening democratic institutions and processes, and upholding human rights and peoples' self- determination.

  6. Recognize and support the primacy of human rights  and the corresponding obligations of the States, the international community and private actors, including the extraterritorial responsibility of each State for the actions and impacts of corporations, speculators and investors under its jurisdiction.

  7. Pay reparations for the damages caused to countries, peoples and nature, due to the contracting, use and payment of unsustainable and illegitimate debts and the conditions imposed to guarantee their collection.  

 

Asian Peoples’ Movement on Debt and Development

April 26, 2022 

 

pdfDownload the PDF file of the statement here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

“There is broad recognition in the international community that fiscal responses to the multiple crises have been far from adequate and largely, in the form of loans. International financial institutions warn of debt distress among developing countries and yet act in a manner that is making the situation worse.” 

Lidy Nacpil, APMDD Coordinator, spoke on this issue at the virtual Civil Society Policy Forum of the IMF and World Bank in a session entitled “National and Global Debt Mechanisms, Towards Long Term Sustainability in a Post COVID-19 Recovery” held last April 14. She was joined by other co-organizers LATINDADD, EURODAD, AFRODAD and Jubilee USA who also gave inputs during the event.

Moderators Iolanda Fresnillo of Eurodad and Eric LeCompte of Jubilee USA laid out the context of unprecedented debt levels in the wake of the economic shock of COVID-19 . Threats to achieving shared climate and development goals have grown more acute. These include the failure of debt relief initiatives to help countries achieve sustainable debt levels at the same time that climate finance commitments continue to fall short. Opportunities abound to secure green and inclusive rebuilding in every region and nation, but the challenges are significant, and time is running out.

Nacpil pressed lenders to be more consistent in words and deeds, citing their avowed policy shift away from fossil fuels, and yet failing to provide more grants for renewable energy. She pointed out that , even with this policy shift and so-called “retirement mechanisms” underway, there is no clarity on whether the loans incurred by Southern governments for these fossil fuel projects will be cancelled. Unless cancelled, they remain as debt burdens for the people.     

Patricia Miranda, Global Advocacy Director of the Latin American Network for Economic and Social Justice (LATINDADD) raised concern over the exclusion of Middle-Income Countries (MICs) in debt relief, the failure to compel the participation of private creditors, the persistence of austerity measures as loan conditionalities and the steep rise in domestic debt.

She noted that lenders left out MICs in the Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) despite rapid debt accumulation and a disproportionate share of worsening socio-economic and human conditions among the global regions. Championed by the G7, G20 and IFIs in response to the pandemic, the deferral of debt payments expired in December 2021 after only a year and a half of implementation and involved only a handful of developing countries.  

Miranda also pointed out that many MICs have overwhelmingly sourced public debts from private creditors and domestic sources. Private lenders are not compelled to join the debt relief efforts. Domestic debt levels, which she noted have surpassed external debts, is not included in the IFIs’ debt sustainability framework even as it carries its own set of fiscal risks.

On the Paris Club’s Common Framework for Debt Treatments Beyond DSSI, she critiqued both design and implementation. “If it’s a ‘common framework’, then rules must apply to all [including private lenders],” said Miranda. She added that this is better assured through a sovereign debt workout mechanism under the auspices of the United Nations where the costs of debt-related instability are both shared by borrowers and lenders.

Addressing the need not only for global mechanisms, Iolanda enjoined the panelists to share on national initiatives that could serve to counter measures adopted in international financial centers which affect developing countries, but are without benefit of scrutiny by citizens.

Screen Shot 2022 04 20 at 11.16.39 AM

Jason Braganza, Executive Director of the African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD), shared his organization’s experiences on domestic financial architecture reforms, including promotion of local arbitration mechanisms and provisions for automatic debt cancellation in extreme circumstances. He said that these also promote the empowerment of the judiciary and the legislature.

The above civil society panelists’ responses largely addressed the inputs of Diego Rivetti, Senior Debt Specialist at the World Bank and Martin Cerisola, Assistant Director at the IMF Strategy, Policy and Review Department. Both speakers reiterated, among others, the IFIs’ support for the Common Framework. They recognized the slow progress in getting more borrowing countries on board but noted that this may be due to factors outside of the CF. They did not counter the risk of rising domestic debt as a significant factor that should be included in the debt sustainability framework but explained that country authorities have been able to create domestic debt markets and are reluctant to change jurisdiction. 

To the criticism raised on austerity measures, their response was a reiteration of the need to put policies in place for reducing public expenditures and increasing taxes as part of reforms towards better fiscal management and planning.