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G20 finance officials set November 13 meeting to finalize debt framework - sources

10/29/2020 | 02:44pm EST
FILE PHOTO: A man stands next to a board with the G20 Meeting of Finance Ministers logo in Buenos Aires

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Group of 20 finance officials will meet virtually on Nov. 13 to finalize a common framework for addressing the mounting debt problems of low-income countries rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic, sources familiar with the plans said on Thursday.

The extraordinary meeting comes amid growing concerns that the pandemic has exacerbated problems for the poorest countries that had already been in or at risk of debt distress before the pandemic hit.

World Bank chief economist Carmen Reinhart told an event on Wednesday that G20 countries should "be bold" and move quickly to reduce the debts of heavily indebted countries or risk a "lost decade" in terms of global development.

G20 finance ministers and central bankers met on Oct. 14 to extend their Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI), which allows the poorest countries to suspend debt payments to official bilateral creditors, until mid-2021.

They also agreed in principle on a "Common Framework" to deal on a case-by-case basis with the rising number of low-income countries facing debt distress, but said that measure still needed to be endorsed by the countries.

One of the sources said China in particular had asked for more time to win approval for the common framework.

G20 leaders are due to meet for an online summit later next month.

On Wednesday, Reinhart said there were still big differences among G20 leaders about the need to actually reduce - not just postpone - the debts of low-income countries. She said China, a major creditor for poor countries, was still unwilling to accept the prospect of debt write-offs.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Chizu Nomiyama)

By Andrea Shalal

Reuters 2020
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