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China Agreed to Restructure Low Income Countries’ Debts

China has recently reached agreements with a number of low-income countries that applied for debt restructuring to assist these countries in fighting the epidemic. Analyses show that China holds the large debts of many low-income countries. Therefore, this agreement is significant.

The Financial Times reported that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that China has reached an agreement with half of the 20 low-income countries that have requested debt restructuring. The Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) of G20 countries leads the negotiation framework for this agreement.

The DSSI was launched in April this year to help some low-income countries to focus on responding to the health and economic crisis that the COVID-19 epidemic caused. Eligible countries can freeze the repayment of bilateral loans until the end of this year. This is the first time that China has participated in a multilateral debt relief initiative. The agreement between China and Angola is critical.

In the past 20 years, among the African countries, Angola has been the largest recipient of loans from China, receiving about one third of China’s total loans to the continent. According to data from the World Bank, Angola’s loan payable of approximately US$2.6 billion may be suspended in 2020, accounting for 3.1 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). The Central Bank of Angola said that the country’s total outstanding external government debt approximates US$49 billion, of which China is owed 45 percent.

As the COVID-19 disease has caused severe damage to developing countries, more countries may request debt restructuring in the future. Redd Intelligence’s senior analyst Mark Bohlund said that, under the DSSI framework, “much of the burden falls primarily on China.”

Analysts pointed out that tracking the progress of DSSI negotiations in the past has not been easy. In particular, it is because China provides a large proportion of the loans and often does not fully disclose information. At present, China’s state-owned export credit agency, the Export-Import Bank of China, has issued most of China’s loans, but some also come from the state-owned China Development Bank.

Source: Central News Agency, September 2, 2020