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Borrowing is a critical source of financing for human and physical investment. Yet for developing countries borrowing presents unique financial challenges the investment it supports often has diffuse and long-term benefits. Going into the COVID-19 crisis, a growing number of developing countries were facing difficulties in managing their debt, which have been aggravated in the wake of the pandemic.
In this body of work, CGD experts address the following questions: How should borrowing be used to overcome the immediate crisis and relaunch a sustainable and resilient recovery? Can debt relief provide a short-term palliative? For how long? When should longer-term debt restructuring be considered? How can the global community deal help developing countries deal with private sector debt? What is the role of “new” official creditors that were not part of previous debt relief initiatives?
Despite the success of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) in reducing the debt burdens of low-income countries, at least eleven Sub-Saharan African countries are currently in, or face a high risk of, debt distress. A few of those currently at risk include countries that have been excluded from traditional debt relief frameworks. For countries outside the HIPC process, this paper lays out the (formidable) steps for retroactive HIPC inclusion, concluding with lessons for countries seeking exceptional debt relief treatment.
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 week, Chad became the 36th poor country to benefit from the world’s collective response to the debt crises of the 1980s and 1990s. It took years to reach this point, but in the end, Chad received over one billion dollars in irrevocable debt relief under the Heavily Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) Initiative.
Since beginning the process of reengagement with Myanmar in the last year, many lenders to the country have cut or refinanced its debt. David Roodman finds that the debt relief, by most standards, has been overly quick and large. While the regime that racked up the debt may have been odious, the current regime, he says, does not mark enough of a break from the old to warrant odious debt cancellation. Roodman says more refinancing, contingent on further reforms, instead of cancellation may have been more appropriate.
In the last few days, a delicate dance of reconciliation between Myanmar and its estranged foreign creditors reached its final measures. At the Club de Paris---the collective negotiating forum for creditor governments such as Japan and the United States---a press release just announced a debt deal with the poor and long-isolated Asian nation. The creditors committed to what is by Paris Club standards an exceptionally generous deal: cancelling half the debt in arrears---Myanmar defaulted in 1998---and instituting a 15-year repayment schedule for the remainder, including a 7-year grace period. Because the interest rates on most of these the loans are low, typically about 1%, this stretching out of repayment further reduces the debt's economic cost ("net present value" or NPV). Overall, the NPV will fall 60%. Meanwhile the World Bank and Asian Development Bank made their first loans to Myanmar in more than 20 years, in the process erasing their own arrears issues with the country.
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?
When the world’s finance ministers and central bank governors assemble in Washington later this month. they would do well to focus on another looming debt crisis that could hit some of the poorest countries in the world, many of whom are also struggling with problems of conflict and fragility and none of which has the institutional capacity to cope with a major debt crisis without lasting damage to their already-challenged development prospects.
The world is in the throes of a health, economic, and social crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Slower global growth has significantly worsened the economic prospects for all countries, including the poorest ones. Low-income countries (LICs) are also finding it more difficult to service their external debt as well as to access private capital—concessional and non-concessional
Zimbabwe faces a daunting array of obstacles to full economic recovery, including a crippling external debt burden. Todd Moss and Benjamin Leo urge that the current government must address the legacy of debt arrears and manage external debt in order to generate opportunities for reconstruction and growth.
In this essay, CGD senior fellow Steve Radelet describes Liberia's debt situation and the key issues in moving forward on debt relief with the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank and bilateral creditors. He explains why it is important for Liberia's recovery that the international community act quickly and outlines the key steps necessary for Liberia to achieve a debt deal before the end of 2007.