US, IMF push for debt relief to help crisis-hit Sudan

The US Treasury held a round table with 20 countries to advance Sudan’s efforts to secure relief on $50 billion in foreign debt.
Wednesday 14/04/2021
Sudanese Minister of Finance Gibril Ibrahim speaks during a press conference in the capital Khartoum. (AFP)
Sudanese Minister of Finance Gibril Ibrahim speaks during a press conference in the capital Khartoum. (AFP)

WASHINGTON – The United States and the IMF on Monday urged other governments to join in the effort to provide debt relief to crisis-hit Sudan.

The US Treasury held a round table with 20 countries to advance Sudan’s efforts to secure relief on $50 billion in foreign debt under the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative, created by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Treasury official Andy Baukol highlighted “the progress Sudan’s civilian-led transitional government has made in implementing macroeconomic reforms,” according to a Treasury readout of the meeting.

He called on the countries to “fully support Sudan in its efforts to reach the first phase of the HIPC process by mid-2021, and urged all IMF members to support expeditious clearance of Sudan’s IMF arrears.”

IMF First Deputy Managing Director Geoffrey Okamoto told reporters Monday that the fund is actively working to find more help for the African nation.

In order to qualify for relief, countries must establish a six-month track record under a “staff monitored programme,” according to the IMF.

The fund is “encouraged by the steps the Sudanese themselves have taken over the past few months to meet the benchmarks,” Okamoto said.

He said he and IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva spent time at last week’s meetings of the fund membership and “made a strong pitch to all who could listen… to help close the remaining financing gap.”

“We’re optimistic that there’s support out there for Sudan to cross the finish line,” he said.

But “we have a little more work to do in terms of raising the requisite financial resources to get us there.”

Gebril Ibrahim, Sudan’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, attended the round table along with representatives of the IMF, World Bank, African Development Bank, and Paris Club of official creditors, Treasury said, without specifying which countries were involved.

In late March, Washington approved more than $1 billion bridge financing to Sudan to help clear arrears at the World Bank to allow the country to qualify for the HIPC initiative.

Sudan Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, a British-educated economist, has been seeking ways to end conflicts and rebuild economic opportunities as Sudan turns the page on decades of pariah status under strongman Omar al-Bashir, who was toppled in April 2019.