Pak among 54 countries need ‘immediate debt relief’: UN

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Report says serious debt crisis unfolding across developing countries

Cascading global crises have left 54 countries, home to more than half of the world’s poorest people, in dire need of debt relief, the Unied Nations said on Tuesday.

In a new report, the United Nations Development Programme warned that dozens of developing nations were facing a rapidly deepening debt crisis and that “the risks of inaction are dire.”

UNDP said without immediate relief, at least 54 countries would see rising poverty levels, and “desperately needed investments in climate adaptation and mitigation will not happen”.

That was worrisome since the affected countries were “among the most climate-vulnerable in the world”.

The agency’s report, published ahead of meetings of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and also of G20 finance ministers in Washington, highlighted the need for swift action.

But despite repeated warnings, “little has happened so far, and the risks have been growing,” UNDP chief Achim Steiner told reporters in Geneva.

“That crisis is intensifying and threatening to spill over into an entrenched development crisis across dozens of countries across the world.”

The poor, indebted countries are facing converging economic pressures and many find it impossible to pay back their debt or access new financing. “Market conditions are shifting rapidly as a synchronised fiscal and monetary contraction and low growth are fuelling volatility around the globe,” UNDP said.

The UN agency said debt troubles had been brewing in many of the affected countries long before the Covid-19 pandemic hit. “The rapid build-up in debt over the past decade has been consistently underestimated,” it said.

The freeze on debt repayment during the Covid crisis to lighten their burden has expired and negotiations under the G20 Common Framework created during the pandemic to help heavily-indebted countries find a path to restructure their obligations has been moving at a snail’s pace.

According to available data, 46 of the 54 countries had amassed public debt totalling $782 billion in 2020, the report said. Argentina, Ukraine and Venezuela alone account for more than a third of that amount.

 

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