The debt burden of least developed countries rose to $ 744bn in 2019 , the World Bank said on Monday .
It disclosed this in its report titled ‘Debt burden of least developed countries continues to climb to a record $ 744 bn in 2019’.
In response to an urgent need for greater debt transparency , the bank said the latest edition of the International Debt Statistics report provided more detailed and more disaggregated data on external debt than ever before in its nearly 70 -year history.
It said this included breakdowns of what each borrowing country owed to official and private creditors in each creditor country , and the expected month- by- month debt – service payments owed to them through 2021.
Before the onset of the COVID -19 pandemic, rising public debt levels were already a cause for concern , particularly in many of the world ’s poorest countries as discussed in its Four Waves of Debt report published in December 2019, it stated.
Responding to a call from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, it said the G 20 endorsed the Debt Service Suspension Initiative in April 2020 to help up to 73 of the poorest countries manage the impact of the COVID -19 pandemic.
The World Bank stated, “According to the 2021 IDS report, the total external debt of DSSI-eligible countries climbed 9 .5 per cent to a record $ 744 bn in 2019 from the previous year highlighting an urgent need for creditors and borrowers alike to collaborate to stave off the growing risk of sovereign -debt crises triggered by the COVID -19 pandemic.
“ The pace of debt accumulation for these countries was nearly twice the rate of other low – and middle – income countries in 2019.”
It said the debt stock of DSSI- eligible countries to official bilateral creditors, composed by mostly G -20 countries, reached $ 178 bn in 2019 and accounted for 17 per cent of long -term net debt flows to low – and middle – income countries.
Within the G -20 creditor group there had been some important shifts characterised by a marked increase in lending by G -20 member countries that were themselves middle – income countries , it stated.
For example, it said, China, by far the largest creditor, had seen its share of the combined debt owed to G -20 countries rise from 45 per cent in 2013 to 63 per cent at end -2019.
Over the same period, the share of Japan, the second largest G -20 creditor, had remained broadly the same at 15 per cent, it stated.