Coronavirus: 36 countries applied for debt relief, says Saudi G20 secretariat

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The Saudi Arabian G20 secretariat said on Thursday that 36 countries applied for suspension of official bilateral debt payments to assist them in their fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact.

“The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) has received 36 applications in the first month of implementation. The initiative could provide around $14bn in immediate and critical liquidity relief by official bilateral creditors alone for the poorest nations in 2020,” the Saudi G20 secretariat said in a statement after the “G20 International Financial Architecture Working Group” meeting.

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The G20, Group of 20 major economies, with Saudi Arabia holding its Presidency currently, had agreed on the debt relief initiative on April 15, “to ensure those nations are supported in full capacity to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and alleviate their economic pressure.”

Saudi G20 Presidency Policy Lead of the International Financial Architecture Working Group, Bandr Alhomaly, said the liquidity relief “would help vulnerable countries strengthen their fight against the pandemic,” and added that the estimated $14 billion could increase if additional creditors, including multilateral development banks and private sector creditors, joined the initiative.

The Saudi G20 Presidency also joined on Thursday a UN event titled “Financing for Development in the Era of COVID-19 and Beyond,” to discuss global liquidity and financial stability, debt vulnerability, private sector creditors engagement, external finance and remittances for inclusive growth, and illicit financial flows.

The Kingdom’s Minister of Finance, Mohammed al-Jadaan, said: “As the president of the G20 in 2020, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia immediately took concrete steps to drive and coordinate international response, with the aim of developing collective actions to address the global challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Saudi Arabia, in its capacity as holder of the G20 Presidency, had pledged in mid-April $500 million to international organizations to support the global efforts in combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The Kingdom also called on all countries and international organizations to take part in the global efforts to close the required financing gap in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, which is estimated to be over $8 billion according to the Global Preparedness Monitoring Board (GPMB).

Al-Jadaan said: “It is important that we continue to work together to overcome this crisis and promote and sustain a successful global economic recovery, including by developing concrete solutions to advance financing for development in the era of COVID-19 and beyond, focusing on people, their health, and their prosperity.”

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