Finance ministers from the G20 group of major economies agreed temporary debt relief on Wednesday (April 15) to help indebted nations, mostly in sub Saharan Africa, tackle the coronavirus crisis.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) SAUDI ARABIA FINANCE MINISTER MOHAMMED AL-JADAAN, SAYING: "Our actions today include a G20 initiative to suspend debt service payments for the poorest countries.
All bilateral official creditors will participate in this initiative." Announced by this year's G20 host Saudi Arabia, the measures are expected to free up more than $20 billion to be spent on improving health systems and fighting the pandemic.
The debt standstill offer, to freeze principal repayments and interest payments from May 1 to the end of the year, is open to the world's poorest and least developed countries, as defined by the World Bank and the United Nations.
More than half of them are in sub-Saharan Africa - which is expected to take a disproportionate battering from the financial turmoil unleashed by the new coronavirus, hit by the double punch of the pandemic and plummeting oil and commodities prices.
The International Monetary Fund says the region's GDP is expected to contract by 1.6% this year - its worst performance on record - though may rebound in 2021.
However, for now the IMF is not endorsing the kind of broader relief and debt cancellation that African finance ministers, and organisations like Oxfam International, are calling for.
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