Former emerging world finance chiefs call for debt reworks to enable climate spending

By Thomson Reuters Jun 5, 2024 | 8:20 AM

By Libby George

LONDON (Reuters) – A group of prominent former emerging market finance chiefs is pressing global leaders to incorporate external shocks and climate change into debt sustainability calculations, according to a letter published on Wednesday.

The signatories, former central bankers and finance ministers mostly from emerging economies from India to Argentina, also called for debt relief to enable struggling emerging economies to meet climate investment targets.

“Every civilization faces what seems to be an impossible hurdle that threatens its existence,” Patrick Njoroge, former governor of Kenya’s central bank, said in the letter.

“We face such a moment, given the global debt crisis and the limited space for the required investments in climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals.”

The World Bank has warned that high borrowing costs and slowing growth have sparked a “silent debt crisis” that has thrown climate, health and education spending goals into question across the developing world.

The 21 signatories included Nigeria’s Lamido Sanusi, Colombia’s Jose Antonio Ocampo, Pakistan’s Reza Baqir, Argentina’s Martin Guzman and South Africa’s Tito Mboweni.

Zambia this week became the first poor nation to emerge from debt default under a rubric designed by the G20 dubbed the Common Framework.

But some have said the debt relief – estimated to have reduced Zambia’s debt by some $900 million and spread future payments over a much longer time frame – was insufficient.

The letter is asking for the Common Framework to give countries fair, comparable debt relief from all creditors, with the relief sufficient to allow countries to meet climate and investment spending needs.

The International Monetary Fund is also in the midst of a years-long revamp of the way it calculates debt sustainability analyses – figures that form the baseline to determining how much debt relief lenders must give to defaulted countries.

These have been criticised in recent months and years by some investors and experts.

The Debt Relief for Green and Inclusive Recovery Project (DRGR), which organized the letter, released a study earlier this year that found emerging countries will pay a record $400 billion to service external debt in 2024.

It said 47 of them cannot spend the money they need for climate adaptation and sustainable development without risking default in the next five years.

“It is time for G20 leaders to spearhead comprehensive debt relief and mobilize new financing to uphold sustainable development and climate objectives,” Wednesday’s letter read.

(Reporting by Libby George; Editing by Jan Harvey)