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U.N. chief to push G20 to extend, expand debt service suspension

Michelle Nichols
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during interview with Reuters at U.N. headquarters in New York
FILE PHOTO: United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during interview with Reuters at U.N. headquarters in New York

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will next week push the leaders of the Group of 20 rich nations and big emerging powers to further extend and expand debt service suspension to help developing and middle-income economies recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

Guterres, addressing a virtual annual ministerial meeting of the Group of 77 developing countries plus China, said on Thursday "many developing countries are suffering from severe liquidity crises related to skyrocketing debt" and the scope of the G20 Debt Service Suspension Initiative "must be expanded to all developing and middle-income countries that are in need."

He also said he would continue to advocate for more resources to be given to the International Monetary Fund "to be put at the disposal of developing countries, through the allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDR) and a voluntary reallocation of existing Special Drawing Rights."

IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva first proposed a general allocation of new SDRs, a move that could boost members' currency reserves by hundreds of billions of dollars, at the start of the pandemic, but Washington has blocked the move.

The IMF last did this during the 2009 financial crisis when President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat, was vice president, and some member countries hope he will be more open to doing so again this time.

Guterres is also pushing for $35 billion to fund a global COVID-19 vaccine plan, known as the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator and its COVAX facility, which is led by the World Health Organization and the GAVI vaccine alliance.

It aims to deliver 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021, 245 million treatments and 500 million coronavirus tests.

"This has not been a good year for multilateralism and international cooperation," Guterres said. "The world has not seen the unity and solidarity needed ... I hope [2021] will be the year in which we reverse these trends."

The G20 leaders' summit is due to be held virtually on Nov. 21-22.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Aurora Ellis)