The US International Development Finance Corporation has become a Rorschach test for the policy community: when they look at it, everyone sees something different.
CGD Policy Blogs
The Biden administration and the Congress rightly went big in the recently passed American Rescue Plan at a time of tremendous need. The package was appropriately focused on the domestic side, but it did not neglect the rest of the world. One might reasonably ask then why $1 billion or $2 billion could not have been included for fighting the poverty, food insecurity, and health crises driven by the pandemic. That would have amounted 0.05 to 0.1 percent of the total package. And it would have been multiplied many times over in additional poverty reduction dollars, because that it was the MDB model does.
Last week DFC announced that it signed a framework agreement with the government of Ecuador to refinance up to $3.5 billion of the country’s external debt to China. In exchange, according to reporting by the Financial Times, the Ecuadorian government will commit to exclude Chinese companies from its telecom networks.
Let’s unpack our arguments for why a debt standstill would be the wrong move for IDA at this point in time.
In retrospect, the scale up in MDB financing during the 2008-2010 crisis, though significant, now looks conservative as we consider the potential scale of damage from the current COVID-19 pandemic. To put the question bluntly, if the human and economic devastation follows a worst-case scenario, just how much could the MDBs do to respond? We attempt to answer that question by assessing the legal, rather than prudential, constraints on MDB lending.