China’s participation in SL debt restructure augurs well for its interest
China is a “very important” creditor of Sri Lanka and it would likely be in the interest of both countries if China participated in Sri Lanka’s debt restructuring process, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said recently.
Yellen said she would urge other members of the Group of 20 major economies to put pressure on China to be more cooperative in long-stalled efforts to restructure the debts of countries in debt distress, including Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka owes at least $5 billion to China although some estimates put it at almost twice that amount.
India has also lent it $3.8 billion and Japan is owed at least $3.5 billion, according to the International Monetary Fund, with another $1 billion due to other rich countries.
“Sri Lanka is clearly unable to repay that debt, and it’s my hope that China will be willing to work with Sri Lanka to restructure the debt,” Yellen told a news conference on the sidelines of a meeting of G20 finance officials on the Indonesian island of Bali.
Sri Lanka defaulted on its $51 billion of international debt in May after years of heavy borrowing and tax cuts by the government, plus the damaging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
Yellen singled out China for failing to cooperate in efforts to provide debt relief under the Common Framework adopted by G20 members and the Paris Club of official creditors in October 2020 to help heavily indebted low-income countries weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
Three countries – Zambia, Ethiopia and Chad – have applied for help under the framework, but those efforts have stalled, largely due to foot-dragging by China, now the world’s largest sovereign creditor, and private sector creditors.
“More needs to be done to help the most vulnerable, and this is a key message from the US at these G20 meetings,” Yellen told reporters, citing the deteriorating global economic conditions that have pushed many developing countries into graver economic straits since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“A key objective of this trip is to push G20 creditors, including China, to finalize debt restructurings for developing countries now facing debt distress,” she said.
Yellen told reporters earlier this week that it was “quite frustrating” that China was not stepping up on the debt issues, and said Chinese leaders need to better coordinate among various Chinese lenders to developing economies.
Washington would also provide a grant of $70 million to the International Monetary Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust to further enable the IMF to continue making zero-interest loans to the world’s poorest economies, Yellen said