International actors have criticized decisions by the Trump administration to reject the Paris Climate Accord, abandon the Trans Pacific Partnership, and withdraw from a United Nations declaration intended to protect the rights of migrants. However, there is one international body, the Paris Club, whose members may be rooting for the United States to leave. That’s because, in the absence of congressional action, continued US membership in the Paris Club could impair the economic prospects of some of the poorest countries in the world.
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With last week’s decision by the Trump Administration to extend the review period for permanent removal of long-standing sanctions on Sudan, the debate over the nature of future US engagement with Sudan will continue. As this month’s report of the Atlantic Council’s Sudan Task Force points out, US support for debt relief will be high on the Sudanese government’s agenda; such relief would unlock international financing that supports economic development and poverty reduction. What the report does not mention is that such relief would likely require significant new funds being appropriated by Congress.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank's (AIIB) second loan to Tajikistan in the space of a year raises questions about lending on “hard terms” to poor countries. In its eagerness to meet the investment needs of Asian countries, is the AIIB going to get burned by lending at non-concessional rates to poor countries? Or, if a country becomes unable to pay all its bills, will it treat the AIIB as a preferred creditor and prioritize debt service payments over the needs of the poor?
My earlier post on congressional funding for multilateral institutions betrayed little optimism about the Senate’s willingness to restore devastating funding cuts imposed by the House of Representatives. I had no idea.
The newly released Senate funding levels are just barely an improvement over the House’s draconian cuts, slashing the president’s multilateral budget in half. When cuts of 50 percent mark an improvement, you know you’re in trouble.
This is a joint post with Benjamin Leo.
A special new lending facility was announced in July 2009 with the objective of providing up to $17 billion in new loans through 2014 and, to entice cash-strapped borrowers, the lender is waiving interest payments for the first two years. This may sound like dangerous new short-term teaser offers for sub-prime borrowers. But this isn’t coming from Countrywide Financial. It actually is a new IMF facility for low-income countries, including some of heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) who are just barely coming out of the last debt crisis.
The stated objectives of the new IMF facility are laudable: to offset the effects of the global economic crisis by boosting international reserves and supporting adjustment policies. And yes, the overall terms are more concessional than past IMF loans. Nonetheless, the net impact on national debt levels may be significant. And it was just four years ago that the IMF committed to cancel roughly $6 billion in bad loans to many of these very same countries.
In a huge step forward, this week Liberia slashed its foreign debt by buying back $1.2 billion in commercial debt -- about one-quarter of its foreign debt -- from its private foreign creditors, including banks, hedge funds, and other “distressed debt” investment funds.
Whatever happened to debt relief for the world's poorest countries? It's back.