July 13, 2020 / 2:16 AM / 22 days ago

Business, labour groups urge G20 to extend, expand debt freeze for poorer countries

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The International Chamber of Commerce, a global trade union and civil society groups urged the Group of 20 major economies to extend and expand a freeze in debt service payments to help not just the poorest, but also middle-income countries, weather the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout.

The ICC, International Trade Union Confederation, and Global Citizen, a group pushing to end extreme poverty by 2030, also called on G20 finance ministers, who will meet online on July 18, to take additional steps to boost the participation of private creditors, who have been slow to engage.

In an open letter to be published Monday, the groups said further steps were needed since the global economy was facing an even deeper downturn than projected in April, when the G20 and Paris Club of creditors announced a freeze in debt service payments for the world’s 73 poorest countries through year-end.

Top global finance officials last week said debt restructuring may be needed on a country-by-country basis to help heavily indebted countries hit hard by the outbreak.

So far, 41 countries have applied for relief from debt servicing under the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), and the Paris Club has signed agreements with 20 countries ranging from Ivory Coast to Ethiopia and Pakistan.

But many countries not eligible for the moratorium are also at risk of debt distress given the shocks caused by the novel coronavirus outbreak, the group said.

They urged the major economies to boost contributions to enable the International Monetary Fund to continue providing debt service relief to its poorest members through April 2022, and to create similar instruments at regional multilateral development banks.

They also supported a request by debtor nations, which called for the creation of voluntary central credit facilities that would serve as senior debt instruments. These facilities would collect all interest and principal payments, with equal treatment of creditors in the form of proportional interest in the facility.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Aurora Ellis

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