G20 agrees to temporary debt standstill for poorest countries

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The Group of 20 nations announced support on Wednesday for a temporary halt to debt payments by the world's poorest nations as they struggle to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

"We support a time-bound suspension of debt service payments for the poorest countries that request forbearance," the G20 finance ministers and central bankers said in a communique following their virtual meeting. "All bilateral official creditors will participate in this initiative."

The group, which brings together the world's largest economies, also called on private creditors, working through the Institute of International Finance, to participate in the initiative that extends to the world's 76 poorest countries.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank had been calling on the governments to provide six months of debt relief to the countries most in need, and finance ministers from the Group of Seven advanced economies agreed to do so on Tuesday providing the G20, including China and Russia, was in favour.

"This is a powerful, fast-acting initiative that will do much to safeguard the lives and livelihoods of millions of the most vulnerable people," the leaders of the IMF and World Bank said in a joint statement.

The IMF on Monday approved a six month standstill on debt payments from 25 nations, mostly in Africa.

The G20 officials also reiterated their commitment to deploy "available tools" to deal with the health and economic crisis caused by Covid-19.

"Our efforts must continue and be amplified," the communique said.

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