IMF chief worried about middle-income countries, urges expanded definition of ‘vulnerable’

The head of the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said she would discuss with IMF members whether they back offering low- and no-interestMfinancing to middle-income countries hit hard by the pandemic, not just the poorest countries. Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said she was concerned about tourism-dependent and other middle-income countries that had weaker fundamentals and high-debt levels, even before the pandemic, and generally backed adoption of a broader definition of what makes a country “vulnerable”. The IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust can currently only lend to the poorest countries, which limits the ability of developing countries with higher income levels to get low- or zero-interest loans from the IMF. The United Nations and other institutions have urged the Group of 20 major economies to expand a freeze in payments on official bilateral debt and a new common framework for debt treatments to include such countries, many of which have been hit hard by the pandemic and its economic fallout. G20 finance officials on Wednesday backed a $650 billion expansion of the IMF’s emergency reserves, or Special Drawing Rights, which richer IMF members will be able to loan to the IMF’s PRGT to help the poorest countries. Georgieva said the IMF expected to finish work on a formal proposal for the $650 billion SDR allocation by mid-June, and was also working on ways for IMF members to lend their reserves to help poor countries. She said it was “realistic” that members could access the expanded reserves by mid-August, but declined to estimate how many SDRs would likely be shared by richer countries. While IMF members can already lend excess SDRs to the IMF’s PRGT facility, there is no formal IMF mechanism in place to facilitate loans to help middle-income countries. Georgieva said the issue was raised during Wednesday’s G20 meeting, noting a call by Mexico and Argentina for greater debt relief for middle-income countries.

IMF chief worried about middle-income countries, urges expanded definition of ‘vulnerable’
The head of the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday said she would discuss with IMF members whether they back offering low- and no-interestMfinancing to middle-income countries hit hard by the pandemic, not just the poorest countries. Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said she was concerned about tourism-dependent and other middle-income countries that had weaker fundamentals and high-debt levels, even before the pandemic, and generally backed adoption of a broader definition of what makes a country “vulnerable”. The IMF’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust can currently only lend to the poorest countries, which limits the ability of developing countries with higher income levels to get low- or zero-interest loans from the IMF. The United Nations and other institutions have urged the Group of 20 major economies to expand a freeze in payments on official bilateral debt and a new common framework for debt treatments to include such countries, many of which have been hit hard by the pandemic and its economic fallout. G20 finance officials on Wednesday backed a $650 billion expansion of the IMF’s emergency reserves, or Special Drawing Rights, which richer IMF members will be able to loan to the IMF’s PRGT to help the poorest countries. Georgieva said the IMF expected to finish work on a formal proposal for the $650 billion SDR allocation by mid-June, and was also working on ways for IMF members to lend their reserves to help poor countries. She said it was “realistic” that members could access the expanded reserves by mid-August, but declined to estimate how many SDRs would likely be shared by richer countries. While IMF members can already lend excess SDRs to the IMF’s PRGT facility, there is no formal IMF mechanism in place to facilitate loans to help middle-income countries. Georgieva said the issue was raised during Wednesday’s G20 meeting, noting a call by Mexico and Argentina for greater debt relief for middle-income countries.